BRIAN LAMB, HOST, C-SPAN: Martha Raddatz, your daughter, Greta Bradlee, back on the 6th of February of this year wrote in the middle of an essay about you. ”Why do people like my mom, Bob and Doug do what they do? They certainly don‘t have to go to these battle zones. Why do they take those risks?”
Kind of tell us about who Greta is and then why was she writing this?
MARTHA RADDATZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Greta is my wonderful 25-year-old daughter, who started law school this fall. And she was writing – she was working at UC Berkley. And after Bob Woodruff and my colleague Doug Vogt, the cameraman who was with Bob Woodruff also a colleague, who I worked with a lot, were injured. Greta was asked by the college to write something because they were aware that I went to Iraq frequently.
And she wrote this and she didn‘t talk to me a lot about it. Way to go right for the heart, though, there, Brian. And, first of all, when I read it, I mean, you can imagine how I felt about it. It‘s a very moving article. It‘s very beautifully written.
And it‘s one of those things that Greta and I – I have two children. My son is almost 15. And you don‘t really talk a lot to your kids about how dangerous it is. You try not to talk about how dangerous it is. Greta, probably more than her brother, is well aware how dangerous it is. But she‘s always been very supportive.
We have sort of this thing where she‘ll say – and after she wrote this article, I‘ve – been a couple of times since she wrote that article. But that really hit home for her, all of us. It hit home for me. With Bob injured and Doug injured, that was just one of the worst mornings I can remember.
And for my own children to be upset – and at the beginning of the article Greta talks about me crying. I‘m not a big weeper. And so, she knew that it was very bad. And it was very hard. But Greta and my whole family have always been very supportive, but it‘s one of those things you don‘t really talk about the details. You just say, ”OK, mom, let me know when you‘re there. Let me know when you‘re back.”
I think kids – Greta‘s been around this a lot. And I always tell the story of when I first went into Sarajevo and – back in the days when you couldn‘t call instantly when you got some place and I had been out of touch for 48 hours. And Greta was 14 at the time. And I kept thinking, ”She‘s going to be so terrified and I haven‘t called for 48 hours.” And I call her up and she said, ”Mom, thank God you called. I‘m thinking of dropping Latin.” OK, she‘s not really that worried about me. She‘s worried about her own life. But I think as they get older, obviously they understand their risks and they understand what you‘re doing.
But she‘s proud. I‘m proud of her for writing what she wrote. She‘s been around – as the article says, she‘s been around members of the service a lot. I think that‘s important.
My family – I took them to Bethesda Naval Hospital on Christmas Eve. I went the year before. I didn‘t know whether it would be appropriate to bring the rest of my family and my kids. And the retired general I was with said, ”Yes, bring them. Please bring them.” And it was great for my kids.
It was very hard. It was very hard because there are some terrible injuries up there. And I think – again, it was, I think, particularly difficult for my son. Someone said to me later, ”So I guess he won‘t be joining the Marine Corps.” But they were great. And Greta talked to them. My son talked to them. You get used to sort of seeing these injuries. And seeing how the Marines were handling them was so moving and so incredible. I thought it was a great experience for my kids, and Greta writes about that as well.
LAMB: Now, I have to go back and ask you again the question your daughter asked. Why do they take those risks?
RADDATZ: I think it‘s one of those things. To me – and I was thinking this morning that I am now going into the fourth year of traveling to Iraq. And I think, to me, it is such an important story. And I actually consider myself careful, that I am not one who goes out and takes unnecessary risks. I think Iraq is also the worst – the most dangerous war zone you can imagine that anyone can get hurt.
But I do it because it‘s so important to me to tell that story. My family knows it‘s so important for me to tell those stories.
I have almost always embedded with U.S. troops. And I think day after day that members of the service go out there and take these risks is so much more important than what I – the minimal risk I take, considering I can leave and I go in for a short period of time and I come back out.
But this is a war America‘s involved with. We‘ve got 138,000 service members over there right now. And I just think it‘s something we can‘t forget.
I always find myself coming back – and there are a couple of days of transition where if I‘m sitting in a restaurant and I hear people talking about the traffic in the morning or how hard it was to get this restaurant reservation, where I just have to grip the sides of the chair and say, ”Come on you guys have got to remember how important this is and that we‘ve got our young men and women over there taking these great risks.” And it‘s a complicated story and it has changed through the years.
I also go over there because I feel like I have such an institutional memory, that I‘ve been going for so long from – I wasn‘t in on the initial invasion, but I – when it switched to an insurgency, certainly just before that, I‘ve been following it. And I feel often that I‘m like the visiting relative. They can‘t see whether their own child has grown, but the visiting relative can come in and say, ”Look, Bobby‘s grown,” or, ”Look, things aren‘t going so well over here. Things are going pretty well over here.”
I try to avoid kind of gut reactions because I don‘t think that‘s fair. I don‘t think it‘s fair, in a sense, to go in and say, ”Well, that was bad and that was bad,” so it‘s all bad. But the last couple of times I‘ve been I have to say I‘ve followed my gut a bit more than I have in the past, that there‘s so many small anecdotal things that build up to one sort of conclusion that it‘s hard not to do that.
LAMB: The last – in doing research, I‘ve found that you‘d been there 11 times. Has that changed?
RADDATZ: No, 11. Eleven. I was there about three or four weeks ago. It was the eleventh time.
LAMB: All for ABC News?
RADDATZ: All for ABC News. And ABC News has been great. And I think I drive ABC crazy because I‘m now covering the White House, but I still – it‘s such an issue with the president. It‘s the number one issue with the president. It‘s the number one issue with the country. It will probably decide elections midterm and beyond, that I think it‘s important to continue to cover that. So, I nag and nag and nag until they let me go again.
LAMB: What was – what‘s the most dangerous trip you made? And why?
RADDATZ: Well, I actually think this last time that I was there three or four weeks ago was probably the most dangerous. And I have to say it‘s the first time that I‘ve gotten a pit in my stomach.
And we went to Ramadi. And Ramadi is the Wild West. It‘s out of control. And it‘s the first time – and I was traveling with the general, which means you have some seriously heavy security.
Before you go out they give you these briefs about – they‘re basically safety briefs and what to expect. And the list of dangers out there was so incredible. Look out because the IEDs that they‘re building now, the improvised explosive devices, are – they‘re full of fuel now to cause more burns. The road that we went down three soldiers that very morning had been killed by a bomb.
And they also told us when we went to the government center, which is, as I said, a government of one, the governor, because everyone else is too scared to go to work, that when you get out of the Humvees don‘t pause, run. Go into the buildings as fast as you can or go here as fast as you can. So, that was pretty unnerving.
There were some trips with the Marines with a small platoon a couple years ago just outside of Fallujah, where there was a rocket attack and mortars near us. And it‘s always that moment you wonder how you‘ll handle it. And we were with such a great group. I mean, the Marine – the platoon leader was so professional and terrific and just said, ”OK, go over here. Do that. Do that.” It – I remember feeling pretty calm about the whole thing.
LAMB: When you travel how many people are with you?
RADDATZ: Well, I – in the past when I was covering the Pentagon, my wonderful producer, Ely Brown, was with me all the time. And she‘s terrific, and a photographer. So, it‘s usually three of us. Sometimes if we go certain places it‘s just me and a photographs, and Ely will help out on the other end.
LAMB: You started as an NPR Pentagon correspondent what year?
RADDATZ: I started in ‘93.
LAMB: Why did you even have an interest in it?
RADDATZ: I‘m not sure, to tell you the truth. I‘m not sure why I did it that moment. But the moment I started I thought the military is such that it is an amazing small look at all of society. You have a completely diverse group of people. You have them all together going into conflict or planning conflicts. You have cultural stories. You have – I mean, don‘t ask, don‘t tell is one of the first stories I covered. I mean, who would think you would be covering that when you‘re covering the military.
And I was completely engrossed by military history. One of the first things I did when I started covering the Pentagon was, first of all, meet as many smart people in the military as I possibly could. And there‘s just some wonderful deep thinkers.
I remember going over to the War College and sitting in on classes and just being completely engrossed in the strategy of war, in the history of war, in the tactics of war. It just completely engrossed me for a long time. It still does. I still read military history. I still love it. I‘m still obsessed by that.
LAMB: Salt Lake City birth town?
RADDATZ: I grew up a Protestant girl in Salt Lake City. I actually was born in Idaho Falls and we moved – my dad died before my third birthday and we ended moving to Salt Lake City.
LAMB: What was the family like? What did your dad do? What did your mom do?
RADDATZ: My dad – I‘m not sure exactly what my dad did. My dad had, I think, actually some sort of public relations job with General Electric. And he was based in Richland, Washington for a while. And when he died – and he died very young, at 42. And he had actually worked near the nuclear facility in Richland and got leukemia and then later died – he died of a heart attack at 42 that doctors have told me probably had something to do with the leukemia.
And so, then my mother was left with two kids – I have a sister – and worked as a secretary her whole life. So – and took us to the library a lot, which was a great thing.
LAMB: Why did she – why do you think she did that?
RADDATZ: I think she liked to read and she wanted her children to like to read. And I think that reading, to me, was the greatest thing in my life. I mean, I think that transports you to a different world, which from a very early age I think I wanted to do. And I remember reading lots of biographies, lots of history, lots of anything I could get my hands on. But I remember those trips to the library every Saturday morning, which were great.
LAMB: Did you do college?
RADDATZ: I did college. And I‘m sorry to say that I‘m a college dropout. I‘m such a terrible example for young people. I always get in this situation where I‘m speaking to groups at graduate schools and they‘ll say, ”How do I follow in your footsteps as a graduate student?” So, I say, ”It‘s too late for you. You would have had to drop out of college and drink beer and play pool or something.”
But I think I dropped out – I dropped out of college my last year in college and I think it as sort of – I was sort of a jerk about things, I guess, and I thought, ”Who needs this? I want to do something else.”
I regret it in some senses. I‘m happy that I was able to get my education elsewhere in terms of life, but I think it‘s a really dumb thing to do.
LAMB: Where did you go?
RADDATZ: I went to the University of Utah. It was pretty much my only opportunity out there.
LAMB: And eventually, though, you left and you …
RADDATZ: I moved to Boston. I moved to Boston in my 20s. I loved Boston. I just instantly fell in love with Boston.
And I felt like – and I often see – Brian Williams from NBC I actually ran into him the other day covering the president in New Orleans. And Brian when he was at local television in New York and I was in local television in Boston, we traveled to the Soviet Union together. And we were both saying how those years when you‘re young and you‘re just starting out everything‘s so much more memorable. Everything seems like that‘s where you grew up.
And I feel like I really grew up in Boston. I was there 12 years. I knew the city. I worked for the local – I worked for the ABC affiliate in Boston and loved it. And it was a great place to cover news.
And I don‘t think – I worked for a terrific station. It was the ABC affiliate, as I said. And we did a lot of international travel. And I think that‘s probably what started me on all this. I mean, we did – I covered campaigns, but I covered – it was overseas a lot. It was pretty manageable. I had a young child, but I could sort of choose times when I could travel, so I did it. And just a terrific way to try to balance my mothering and my career.
LAMB: When did you marry?
RADDATZ: I married when I was 26 years old. Greta‘s dad, which now seems – now that my daughter‘s 25, seems way too young to get married. And I had a child almost right away.
LAMB: And your husband is?
RADDATZ: That‘s my first – my husband now is Tom Gjelten who‘s at NPR.
LAMB: And did you …
RADDATZ: He‘s a wonderful step dad.
LAMB: Did you meet at NPR?
RADDATZ: Yes, we did. We did.
LAMB: And how long have you been married?
RADDATZ: We‘ve been married almost 10 years.
LAMB: What‘s it like having dinner table conversations everyday with another journalist?
RADDATZ: I think it‘s – I mean, it‘s funny because mostly it‘s overtaken by events of the day with children and with other things. Tom and I both covered the Pentagon for a while. And I think I am about a bazillion times more competitive than Tom is. So, it was sometimes a little uncomfortable. I mean, he‘s so mellow and whatever and I‘m secretive in calling my people and making sure he doesn‘t know who I‘m calling and things like that. But he was great about that and he isn‘t covering the Pentagon anymore. In fact, he was on book leave for about two-and-a-half years and is just back there now.
LAMB: You have a book coming out next year in March, the title of which is, ”The Long Road Home.” Putnam?
RADDATZ: Putnam. Putnam Publishing.
LAMB: What is it?
RADDATZ: ”A Story of War and Family,” is the subtitle. And this was one of those things that I just turned in the manuscript and – which I thought I can never ever get this done. I signed a contract with Putnam in – at the end of August. I never took a leave of absence from ABC.
This was a story that I started covering in 2004. It‘s a battle that took place on April 4, 2004, to me the day the war really changed. And I was in Iraq that summer and I was sitting around dinner with a bunch of senior officers. And one of them, General Jack Keane, who‘s retired, who‘s an ABC consultant, had just been briefed on this battle of April 4th. And he started telling me about it. And he said, ”This is just an amazing story.” And I said, ”Boy, I‘d love to do a Nightline on that,” but I was leaving in two days. And they said, ”We‘ll help you out.”
So, I got to – they flew me to Sadr City the next day. They had these soldiers lined up who had been in this battle. I didn‘t know that much about it. I knew eight soldiers had died, 60 were wounded. I sat down with these soldiers and it was one of the most incredible stories I‘ve ever heard.
And it was a time I thought, OK, this is not policy. This is not the administration. This is these human beings who have been in this horrendous battle.
And there was one in particular. There was this staff sergeant named Robert Miltenberger (ph), who was sitting over in the side and kind of grumpy. And I thought, ”This is the last thing this guy wants to do is talk to me.” And they brought over Sergeant Miltenberger (ph) and he sat down. And I asked him one question about this and he burst into tears and talked about how he‘d had one hand on a sucking chest wound in one soldier. They were in back of the open truck, that he had the knee on the leg of another one. One of the soldiers was paralyzed and he kept telling him he was OK.
And Sergeant – you could just see the pain in this man‘s face like I‘ve never seen before. He was awarded a silver star for his heroics, all the time he‘s continuing to shoot.
But this – what had happened this night is - the 1st Calvary Division had just arrived in Iraq, the 2/5 Cav was in charge of Sadr City. At 6:00 that night they were taking over command. They were told and their families were told this was probably largely a peacekeeping mission. They hadn‘t even brought all their tanks or their heavy equipment because it was going to be go out and see the people. One soldier had died in the previous year.
And that night exactly at 6:00 they had a platoon pin down. They had a gunner in a Humvee killed. They were in an alley for hours. These rescue squads all went in, again a lot of them in open trucks. And absolutely slaughtered.
They were facing thousands of Sadr supporters. I mean, look today. Look how Al Sadr is still one of the biggest problems in Iraq. But it …
LAMB: Let me just interrupt a second.
LAMB: Sadr City is where?
RADDATZ: Sadr City is a slum in East Baghdad, home to 2.5 million people. It is the kind of – and I go there almost every time I go back to Iraq to check on it. That‘s one of my gut checks when I go to Baghdad. It is absolute poverty. I mean, it is raw sewage in the streets. It is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people running around in open markets that you can‘t believe they would even sell anything. They sell stuff that we all throw out for junk.
And the soldiers had hoped and they still hope today that they would go in there and befriend these people. And that night it was just a horrendous battle. I mean, they had an aid station. It was a wonderful – just to – at the aid station where they were just sort of getting their bandages in order, they had a pediatrician who was one of the main doctors there. He‘d never treated any trauma. A pediatrician – and people will say, ”There are pediatricians in the Army? Why?” Well, they treat the children of soldiers.
So, this lovely doctor, who suddenly sees a tidal wave of injuries come in, just horrible, horrible injuries and deaths – and then the messages start going back to Fort Hood, Texas and around the country and notifications of people who are injured. So, I not only covered the soldiers, but I kept going back and checking in with the soldiers while they were there and after they got back to Fort Hood, but also their families, what it was like answering the phone at night. And they have these family readiness groups to help the families there and these lovely women answering the phone. And they‘re saying, ”OK, we have three casualties.” ”We have four.”
Meanwhile they‘re watching TV all night and they have CNN on and they can see something‘s happening. So, the story of these families – it also happens to be the battle where Cindy Sheehan‘s son was killed, which I did not really connect to. And she hadn‘t started her protests until the summer, long after I had done these Nightlines.
LAMB: How many people were killed?
RADDATZ: Eight. Eight within a couple hours were killed. Casey Sheehan was one of the – her son was one of the last killed that night. And we talk a lot about how these guys went out and why they went out, how they all jumped on these trucks voluntarily to go rescue.
LAMB: Are they all back here in this country now?
RADDATZ: The 1st Calvary Division is all back and ready to go again this winter, which is also the story of this war. I‘m writing this appendix about where these – where they all are now. The major general then, Pete Chiarelli, who‘s the division commander, came back to the states and six months later was back there. He‘s now the number two commander over there.
The battalion commander, who was the battalion commander for this battle, is about to go back again for the second tour. A lot of these guys – another one of – the platoon leader, who was pinned down that night, is now in Afghanistan. I mean, it is fascinating what‘s happened to these people where they are now.
LAMB: What‘s their attitude when you‘re up close and personal with them over there about all this?
RADDATZ: This is the one thing that I just have to convince people of. I think the morale is amazing. I mean, there are Marines going over there for a fourth deployment. Can you imagine four times over there, what that does to a family, what that does to you, what that does to your life, especially if you‘re a reservist?
But most – when I was over there three or four weeks ago I ran into a lot of people I have known over these four years, which is another reason to keep going back. And how they feel about this now – I think they largely try to forget about the politics of all this. And they just – ”However we got in,” they say, ”we‘re here now. We got to do what we can.”
I really do think the attitude is pretty great. And I – it‘s – when you‘re riding around all day and when you‘re with them and when you‘re embedded, which means you are really spending 24 hours a day with them – and, believe me, I‘ve been just thrown into a hut with eight soldiers and half of them – the snoring men compartment, as I call it. And – I mean, you really get a sense of how they feel about it.
I think I‘m trusted enough by them and I‘ve been around them enough and they know I take the same risks they do, which is also important to them, that I really, truly believe their attitude is terrific. I think there are a lot of concerns. I think there are a lot of concerns that the equipment‘s breaking down, that it‘s hard to get men to go back and women to go back again and again and again. And they think recruitment will eventually suffer. They‘re losing a lot of young officers who‘ve just had it, who can‘t do this time after time and again. I think there are concerns for their families in terms of what this does to a marriage or what this does when you‘re trying to raise children if you‘ve gone that often.
But I think morale is great, but there are concerns.
LAMB: Now you have gone 11 times. All of those embedded?
RADDATZ: A couple of those – let‘s see, I went over with Secretary Rumsfeld, I went over with Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, and I went over with General Abizaid. So, in all the other times I‘ve stayed there. And what I do is I base it, as I call it, the prematurely named Camp Victory, which is in Baghdad. It‘s not in the green zone. It‘s out by the airport and it‘s a huge – where his water – where Saddam Hussein‘s water palace is, where it‘s this huge sort of palatial compound.
So, I stay there, but what I do is I go off with different units. I go up to Mosul or I‘ll go out to Fallujah or I‘ll go out to the desert in Al Anbar – Doug Vogt, who was injured in January. And I spent a completely miserable time in Al Anbar last summer.
LAMB: He‘s the photographer?
RADDATZ: He‘s the photographer embedded with the Marines.
LAMB: By the way, you were talking about them earlier. How are they both doing, Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt?
RADDATZ: I think they‘re doing really amazing. I mean, they both have had miraculous recoveries. I saw Bob just a couple of weeks ago, and I think he‘ll back to work working on stories. I mean, he‘s working on some things now. He‘s just remarkable.
When I think back – and Bob and I were talking about this. When I think back of that morning, because the morning they were injured I was called because they knew I had contacts in Baghdad. And I was called – I think it was about 5:00 in the morning. And they just gotten – ABC had just gotten word that they were hurt. So, I started calling people. And I was in Baghdad and I was getting updates all the time. And that morning was …
LAMB: You were in Baghdad.
RADDATZ: No, no, no, I was here, but I was getting updates from Baghdad. And – with the U.S. military people that I was in contact with. And some pretty detailed – and I remember – I told Bob this, that I remember the first call I got, that they said Doug was walking wounded, which technically he was because he walked to the stretcher. But he was badly injured and pretty much out of it after that. And Bob, they said, was more serious, but they had just done some tests and he was looking pretty good.
And then I got a call. I remember walking into ABC because I was supposed to be on This Week that morning – and walking into ABC on my cell phone in the lobby and getting a call and being told that it doesn‘t look good. And, I mean, I just remember that feeling in that lobby, and my heart just sank.
And then it was so confused there at ABC that morning. Obviously I wasn‘t going to go in the roundtable in This Week and talk about politics. But George Stephanopoulos and I basically broke the news.
And I remember George and I sitting on the set that morning and just looking at each other and both of us trying to hold it together. And I certainly didn‘t want to say all I knew, but I gave the facts. And that was very hard – very hard. But to see Bob now it‘s just amazing. He looks great. I mean, he looks the same.
LAMB: What did he have to recover from?
RADDATZ: He had to recover from a wound to the head, a bad wound to the shoulder. He got shrapnel up in here. He got some shrapnel in the face. He had – I mean, you just get so many injuries in those when you hit a bomb like that. And I think people forget – I mean, it‘s basically a blast injury and it‘s also – Bob fell over. I mean, it‘s – shrapnel flies everywhere.
Doug got a hunk of shrapnel in his head. I mean, when I first saw Doug in the hospital I thought he looked terrific, but when you get hit in the head it‘s a long time to recover. And, I‘m telling you, Bob Woodruff and Doug have made amazing recoveries.
Doug is in France, but I saw him when he came back for check-ups in Bethesda in April. Then, as I said, I just saw Bob a couple weeks ago, who flew down to D.C. to do some reporting.
LAMB: So, will you now – are you going to go back again?
RADDATZ: Yes. I say yes. Once again, I‘ll have to twist ABC‘s arm and – I just think I can‘t – if I go back every five or six months, that‘s – I want to do that. I feel I have to do that. And I feel I have so much invested in it and so much, as I said, sort of institutional memory – (INAUDIBLE) institution. I guess it isn‘t. But I have so much memory.
I have so much, I think, that I‘ve observed there that I can compare to, that I can talk about, that I – I mean, to see the same soldiers that I‘ve been seeing for four years is remarkable in itself. And to see the journey they‘ve been through or the journey the commanders have been through, to me, is valuable to tell people about.
And I feel – I feel like I have so much heart in this story. It is – and I think that people find this in their career that there is a story that they are so attached to that they can‘t let go of. And I‘m that way about this.
And I know when I first – and, again, ABC‘s been terrific and patient about this. And John Carl (ph), who covers the Pentagon now, is a terrific Pentagon reporter. And I think I probably drive him crazy that I keep wanting to bop into Iraq, but I think he understands as well that it‘s something I‘ve just so invested in and I feel I can add value to this story.
LAMB: What‘s better and what‘s worse than when you first went over there?
RADDATZ: What‘s better? The Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi Security forces, I remember – and I hear the president talk about this all the time, that they‘re great and we‘re training them. And I hear Don Rumsfeld. Well, they are because compared to the first time you ever saw they were the sorriest bunch of people you‘ve ever seen. I remember standing over Don Rumsfeld and him saying, ”Aren‘t they great? Aren‘t they great,” and Martin Dempsey, who was then a divisional commander over there, General Dempsey, and he was saying the same thing.
Two years later I said, ”General Dempsey, now that you‘re training Iraqi security forces I remember you looking at them years ago and saying, ‘Aren‘t they great?‘” And he said, ”Well, for the time they were great.” But they‘ve come a long way.
Are they ready to take over? Clearly not, because if – I mean, I said to the president the other day, ”OK, we have 270,000 Iraqi security forces that you say are trained and equipped and ready. And some of them are level one and some of them are level two, ready to operate on their own. And yet you say as the Iraqi security forces stand up our forces can stand down. Well, in fact, we have 270,000 Iraqi security forces and we‘re not standing down and we haven‘t really reduced the number of troops.”
This whole number fudging thing drives me crazy because they‘ll say, ”Well, we were at 160,000.” Right, because we built up troops during election or doing some other thing. It‘s stayed pretty consistent over the year.
LAMB: Aren‘t you talking about an example – a good example – of where the American people when they watch you do your work? You were there. You saw the security people weren‘t well trained, but you had your politicians or your generals, who often are very political, saying, ”Aren‘t they great?” and you sit there and say, ”I don‘t see that.”
RADDATZ: Right. Right.
LAMB: And then the American – some of the American people say, ”Well, she‘s clearly a big left winger that‘s going over there to get” – ”she hates the war.” You come – you get criticized all the time for that.
RADDATZ: All the time. All the time.
LAMB: So, how do you deal with that?
RADDATZ: You know, this is an amazing war to look at. I mean, you look at – people either are for it or against it. There‘s no gray area.
I am not going to be able to convince most people of anything if they‘ve got their mind made up. I mean, I remember seeing – or getting a letter, e-mail or blog about how I‘d gone over during the elections on the constitution. And we were literally in the voting area with a camera and saw a guy vote seven times for the constitution. And someone said, ”She‘s making that up.” I mean, we had it on tape. Those are the kind of people we‘re not going to convince. If you didn‘t understand that we just showed you that this man voted seven times in one voting booth and you still don‘t believe it, I‘m never going to convince you.
I‘ve actually gotten some great, positive feedback on things I‘ve done with the troops because I have tried to just straight tell the story. Now, I could show pictures of the Iraqi security forces in 2003. And if anybody thinks that was a great display of power, they‘re wrong. But they might still say that.
LAMB: But let‘s assume you were right.
LAMB: Why is Don Rumsfeld or the general standing up in front of you and saying, ”Don‘t they look great?” There‘s – what‘s going on?
RADDATZ: Well, I guess – I mean, given that I‘ve asked General Dempsey that since and he said, ”At the time we thought they were pretty good,” and – he said, ”At least they showed up.” He said, ”At least they could pick up” – ”At least they could pull the trigger. At least they” – and he said, ”You know, basically we made mistakes then. And we‘re retraining them in a different way.”
And I think that‘s one of the things you‘ll get from the commanders on the ground, that they will tell you that, look, we adjusted. We had to adjust. We didn‘t know this. Now, you ask me what I think is worse over there. And what‘s worse is, number one, that we all know about the sectarian violence.
One of the things I‘ve watched – and you‘ll remember – is the language of the enemy. I think you have to know – and everybody who studies war know that you have to know who your enemy is before you go into the fight. Well, we‘ve had dead enders. We‘ve had former regime elements. We‘ve had the – my favorite was the anti-Iraqi forces. We‘ve renamed the enemy 50 times, and yet – and for good reason, I guess, because the enemy seems to keep changing.
I think that‘s one of the complications of this war, that it has changed so swiftly. And this April 4th battle I write about is, I think, the day that the U.S. forces realize, hey, maybe everybody doesn‘t like us. Maybe this is beyond a few dead enders and a few looters and what we‘ve been told about this war. And it is a significant part of the population.
The numbers game? I mean, you hear the numbers game all the time. There are 20,000, they‘re 5,000, they‘re 25,000, or just 25,000. Well, 25,000 people with big bombs can cause a lot of problems, and that‘s what you‘ve got going on here, or the number of attacks. Those are the things that drive me crazy, that does this mean it‘s worse – does this mean it‘s better? It depends on how you count them. It depends on what kind of attacks they are.
The serious problem they‘ve got right now is a threat of civil war. And that‘s really what could take this country down. The Iraqi government really does have to step up here.
LAMB: Do you ever have the experience of covering somebody in public and even interviewing him and then after the interview‘s over they say, ”The real story is this?”
RADDATZ: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Does that …
RADDATZ: Drive you crazy?
LAMB: Yes. What do you do to that?
RADDATZ: Well, I think you take that into account. And I think you – I think when you talk about it – and one of the reasons I can talk about it, one of the reasons I can go over there and have these conversations with people and feel I have a depth of knowledge about this that perhaps others don‘t is because I can talk to people about all these things, can get a sense of how they really feel, and can report that in my own way and can give us – if that makes any sense. I mean, it is part of what I know from being over there.
And when I talk about it and when I talk about it on our news or when I ask questions of the president, I have that knowledge. Are there things that are absolutely off the record? Yes. But I have a sense, I think, from dealing with people of as close to the truth as you get.
LAMB: You got the first tip on the death of Zarqawi.
RADDATZ: I did.
LAMB: First, who was he?
RADDATZ: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi morphed into the al Qaeda leader in Iraq because he did try to get together with Osama bin Laden and be his representative there, although I think there were all kinds of differences. He was truly a terrorist. And there‘s another language thing that I‘ve had problems with.
I don‘t think you should call everybody who‘s causing trouble in Iraq a terrorist, because there are insurgents. There are other people that are not all terrorists. And I think – I remember being in briefings with even General Abizaid – John Abizaid, who‘s the central commander, saying, ”You can‘t call them all terrorists. You have to approach these people differently.”
But Zarqawi was a terrorist and he was responsible for almost all of the suicide bombings, almost all of these horrific attacks on U.S. forces. He was without doubt a person who fomented any kind of civil war there.
One of the generals asked me – he said, ”Look, when we look at this civil war and we look at sectarian strife, do you count the fact that it started here? Do you count the fact that Zarqawi probably bombed the Sunni mosque and then the Sunnis retaliated against the Shiites?” And then – so, he – that was his goal there, to start a civil war. So, he was a very bad guy, a very bad guy. And they‘d come close to catching him before.
LAMB: Tell us as much about – this is all process stuff – as much about …
RADDATZ: We love process stuff.
LAMB: … about the fact that you‘ve got the first story about him being killed. What time of day did you get it?
RADDATZ: The – I know there are stories about me getting this – that said I was on vacation. This was the only time I had tried to take a book leave and I tried to take two weeks off to just get this book in shape. So, I was working really till 2:00 in the morning every night. And I was at the office. I worked out of the ABC office.
And I got home at about 2:15, so I‘d been up all day writing – all night writing. And I got home and I got a call. And I think my first reaction was ”Oh no, I‘m too tired. This can‘t happen tonight.” And then ABC has a process in place where you dial a phone number and it goes out to all the bureau – not like – all the bureaus around the world, not that there are a whole bunch of people awake at that hour. But I got on that line. They call it the 320 line. And I said, ”This is not a drill. Zarqawi is dead. Call the appropriate managers of ABC.”
And then I was up for the rest of the night and the morning. And it was quite a night. And then they had an announcement, I think, about two, three hours later …
RADDATZ: … out of Baghdad.
LAMB: … tell us as much as you can about – I know you‘re not going to tell us who the source was – what have you done in your reporting career that made that individual call you?
RADDATZ: Well, I think that‘s also a matter of knowing people over the years and establishing a trust with people. I think they also know I‘m pretty competitive and I talk a lot – I‘ve talked a lot – to a lot of people about Zarqawi and wanting to know when that story broke. And don‘t forget me and don‘t – I mean, to have someone actually call you on a story is highly unusual. I mean, you can make calls all day and you can try to find out information, but to have someone call you in the middle of the night …
LAMB: Just the process – if you‘re the person that‘s calling …
LAMB: … you get to sit there and watch how long is it going to take for this …
RADDATZ: I know.
LAMB: … to get out. And how long from the moment you got the call did it get on the air?
RADDATZ: ABC was incredible. We got it on because we have the Web site. We have radio. We have – we had an overnight newscast on. They got it on there, which I did a phone from my home to get it on there. And they got it on the Web. They got it on the radio. They got it out really quickly.
LAMB: Overnight newscasts?
RADDATZ: Yes, the overnight newscasts. So, once that‘s on – and then they call the wires and say, ”We just broke this story.” And they got …
LAMB: How did you know? How could you be totally sure that this …
RADDATZ: I was totally sure. I was totally sure, because it was an incredibly trusted source, or I would not have gotten on the air if I was even remotely nervous about it not being true. I had no doubt.
LAMB: Where did you learn how to do this business?
RADDATZ: I didn‘t – you know, I think …
LAMB: I mean, I‘m talking about the whole business ..
RADDATZ: Well, I know the whole business …
LAMB: … of television and journalism and writing and …
RADDATZ: I think I just – I just – I had no formal training whatsoever. I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. And I think there are just people who are incredibly curious and I think – just – I mean, it‘s like a disciplined curiosity, that at some point you‘re excited by all this.
My lovely daughter tried journalism right after college. And I remember her calling me saying – and she had a great time and she worked at a Boston cable station and they were wonderful to her and she learned a lot. But I remember her calling one day and saying, ”Mom, you know, I just” – ”I know I‘m just starting, but this story about,” whatever, ”the grand opening of a tire story just doesn‘t do it for me.” And I said, ”You know, maybe you‘re not cut out to be a journalist because that would‘ve done it for me.” Anything would‘ve done it.
LAMB: And when we started I read from her February 2006 letter to you. And, by the way, we‘ll put that on our Web site so if people want to read it, then they can. But it‘s pretty passionate, her writing and all that. How did you – when did you get this? When did you read this for your first time?
RADDATZ: I think she had it on their Web site. That was a week I‘m not going to remember dates very well. Within a few days. And I sent it to some friends. And I said, ”OK, I can die tomorrow. Look how much Greta loves me.” It‘s – it was such a wonderful thing for a mother to get.
LAMB: Let me read some of it so …
LAMB: … folks can know what we‘re talking about.
”As I listen to this story,” and it‘s a story when you visited the – was it Walter Reed?
RADDATZ: It was Bethesda Naval Hospital, the Marine.
LAMB: ”Saw the injured.” And there‘s a story about a guy who actually got, I think, shot through the neck.
”As I listen to this story, I thought about the other mothers who hadn‘t gotten this gift, the ones who would never again spend Christmas with her son or daughter.” She had been talking to one of the mothers. ”I immediately had a greater appreciation for every military family. I also felt extremely proud of my mom. I told David and his mother” – that was the injured soldier – ”that she too had been to Fallujah and how important she thought it was to tell compelling stories such as this. My mom has no immediate plans to return to Iraq.” This was almost a year ago. ”She is on the White House beat now, no longer covering the war on a day-to-day basis. She is, however, writing a book.” It goes on.
Then she ends it by saying, ”I am certainly glad she is not in Iraq right now, but it‘s hard to say how I‘ll feel if she goes back. Given what happened to Bob and Doug” – Bob Woodruff and Doug Voyt – Voyt or Vogt?
LAMB: Vogt. I‘m sorry. ”I‘ll definitely be scared. And I imagine even my mom will be a little more nervous.” True?
RADDATZ: Yes and no. Yes that I was more nervous because I knew Greta was more nervous, my son Jake was more nervous. And I can‘t discount that. So …
LAMB: And then she writes, ”So I may have to deal with it again, but it would only be for a few days. For David‘s family, however, the wounded soldier, and the families of other service members, contractors and Iraqis, this fear is constant. Covering this war is a part of my mom‘s job and I know how important it is to her. I believe in what she does and more than anything I want to support her.”
RADDATZ: How‘s that for a great daughter?
LAMB: And she wrote this on her own?
RADDATZ: Yes. And the first part where she talks about the call is the one that really – again, I mean, when I called Greta – and I‘m so close to Greta. When I called Greta that morning, I mean, she knew immediately. And when I told her – and she‘d met Bob. She had not met Doug, but she‘d seen lots of pictures of Doug because he only worked with me in Baghdad, but she‘d met – she‘d certainly met Bob. She was just ripped up, as was I. But I do think, as she says there, it made her scared for me.
Through the years – and I think women covering war – and I am a mom who goes to these war zones. I always think if something happened to me I would just – people would think I was a horrible human being for ever taking these risks, for ever doing this, for putting myself at risk because there‘s nothing greater in the world than being a mom. But I also want to teach my children and want my children to do in life what they feel passionate about. And there are risks and I take risks. And some day Greta may take risks. She may not. She – she‘s going to be a lawyer, but who knows where that will lead her.
And it is, I know – I know that some people would think it‘s awful that I do this as a mom. But I guess there are things that are important to you and you feel passionate about. If I was taking risks that I didn‘t feel were important, that I didn‘t feel that I had important things to say about important people, about people who are risking their lives every day – if no one told the story for those people risking their lives every day, that‘d be a horrible thing. This country wouldn‘t know about that sacrifice. This country wouldn‘t know what they do every day. So, I feel in that sense that I weigh that risk.
Do I run around without body armor on? Do I stand up in the middle of the street to do really stupid things when I‘m over there? No. I listen to who I‘m with. I try to take precautions when I‘m there. There is risk. I understand them. My family understands them.
LAMB: Back to the book and the April 2004 Sadr City battle, you say that was a turning point. A little more on why. And have there been incidences like it since?
RADDATZ: There have. It was a turning point because I think the Blackwater contractors were killed a few days before that.
LAMB: Who were they?
RADDATZ: In Fallujah, the contractors who were ambushed when they were just driving through Fallujah and their bodies were hung from the bridge in Fallujah. So, things were definitely starting to heat up.
There were incidents that we all covered through – I remember in October of 2003 going over and there were certainly some attacks and some – a few bombs. But by April an all out assault on U.S. troops had not happened. When you had thousands of – and this was the Mahdi militia, al-Sadrs, Moqtada al-Sadr‘s army, militia, and civilians. And they were children. They were women that went after this platoon, took over all the police stations that night. It was different. It turned that night.
I think U.S. military certainly realized again that, guess what, these people don‘t all like us. And they fought after that night, after losing eight soldiers that night and having 60 wounded. Most of them went out. All of those who weren‘t wounded and some of them who were went out hours later and were fighting for 80 straight days – 80 straight days. And then you had Najaf.
So, it was – that summer was horrible. That spring, that summer were all out fights. And then you had Fallujah, then you had taking over Fallujah in the fall of 2004. So, during that period I think that night was really a change that you started getting back into urban warfare, to unconventional warfare, but soldier against militiamen instead of just driving around and getting blown up by bombs. This was combat.
LAMB: In your private moments of talking to military officers and generals, did you ever run into the two different kinds of people, generals that say to you, ”We‘ll never win this,” or the opposite, ”We‘re going to get this done,” and mean it?
RADDATZ: And mean it? You know, I can‘t say that I‘ve ever run into somebody who‘s there or who‘s been involved who says we can‘t win this. And I think they can‘t say that. I mean, from their heart they can‘t say that. You can‘t do your job and say we‘re never going to win. I think – I mean, I‘ve had many conversations with senior officers, junior officers, enlisted men and women who say it could go either way.
LAMB: How do you think it‘s going to go?
RADDATZ: I think it could go either way. I mean, I think – I am always optimistic about the ability of the military, but I can‘t – I also look at the Iraqi government. This – you‘ve heard the president say this. You‘ve heard military commanders say this. This is not a military solution. It‘s a political solution. And I think there are deficits in the number of people from the State Department over there. They can‘t fill all the slots. You‘ve heard Condoleezza Rice talk about that.
And the Iraqi government – the Iraqi government really has to get this together. Their biggest problem right now is the militias. If you don‘t have the public trust in the Iraqi security forces, if they don‘t believe they can get security from the Iraqis, then they don‘t know who to trust. Then it‘s that thing with the fence sitters, with do I side with the Americans because if I side with the Americans and they‘re not here next year, then am I going to get killed by this other guy. And it‘s sort of that simple and that complicated.
So, I can‘t – I mean, no one can make predictions. I remain optimistic. I – there‘s been progress made, again, in the Iraqi security forces. But they‘ve got a long way to go. And the Iraqi government really needs to get on the move here and get a grip on these militias and get a grip on what‘s going on in the country.
LAMB: Why did you leave the Pentagon and take the White House job for ABC?
RADDATZ: I think doing something different is always really interesting. And …
LAMB: What‘s the difference in the two different places?
RADDATZ: The two different places – you know, actually it‘s – I found the Pentagon briefings very difficult with Secretary Rumsfeld because you can‘t get an answer. Now, it‘s not like you get answers all the time at the White House either, but it‘s a totally different environment.
The one thing I really miss is when you traveled with the secretary of defense – and I also covered the State Department too when Colin Powell was there – is that you‘re with the principal a lot all the time on these trips. You have access. You do not have that on these White House trips. I mean, if you‘re in India you might as well be in Cleveland. I mean, you really are in the same bubble the president‘s in and you barely see Tony Snow on these trips.
So, the access, I think, is not good on these trips. And so, you don‘t really get a sense of that, which was always great about the Department of Defense trips.
But I also – I mean, I covered politics when I was in Boston. It‘s fascinating. It‘s midterm election year. The presidential election‘s in a couple years. And I think a reporter who passes up covering the White House is really missing out on something.
And I also thought because of my experience, because of my experience covering the State Department and the Defense Department, all that helps you cover the White House. I mean, it is – I think I – a ”New York Times” reporter wrote covering the White House – this White House, this administration you have to do it from the outside in. And you really do because it‘s pretty hard to get anybody in the White House to talk. So, if you know people at the State Department, if you know people at the Pentagon, if you know people these other places, then you can kind of work on the story from the outside and gradually get to it in the center of the White House.
But having all those contacts outside really has been an enormous asset, plus Iraq and national security are such huge issues. I feel like it prepared me well to cover the White House.
LAMB: Has ABC, as far as you know, ever totaled up how much it costs a year to cover the president?
RADDATZ: I‘m sure they have. It costs an enormous amount to cover the president.
LAMB: But, I mean, when you – for instance, when you go to India and you‘re covering the president and you‘ve got – do you have a cameraman with you?
RADDATZ: You have staff of thousands. I mean, I‘m exaggerating, of course, but you have camera crews. If you‘re in the pool in the – the press pool, you have other crews. You have an editorial producer. You have a field producer. You have – there‘s a lot of people who travel on these.
LAMB: Let‘s say the president‘s just made a speech and you have to do a stand up and …
LAMB: … all that. Does the White House know in advance that you‘re going to need ex number of …
RADDATZ: Yes, yes, yes.
LAMB: … minutes?
RADDATZ: Yes. It‘s – there‘s time to file. There‘s a stand up location setup. You sort of rotate in and out with the other networks when you can do that. Usually – in fact, in New Orleans I think there were three camera positions so we could actually – most of us go live and you draw lots if you don‘t get to go live that night.
It is just a huge room where it‘s noisy and you all file two feet from your competition or so. The Bose headphones are good for those.
LAMB: What is your sense about where the business is going? I mean, I don‘t need to go into details about what‘s been happening in the business.
RADDATZ: I can tell you what I hope. I happen to be a firm believer – and I think Charlie Gibson is too – that the reason people tune in to the networks at night is to see the news. Cable has obviously diluted the audience over the years. And I know people have seen some of the news before they tune in to us. But if they can tune in to us and get the day‘s news, the stories that are most important in a clear and compelling way, I think network news will survive. That‘s what I hope we stick to as a formula. That‘s what I think ABC News does well. And I know we‘re very serious about the news.
I mean, I talk to people about – I feel I‘m not only a reporter, I‘m a storyteller. And I think you have to be a storyteller. I think you have to – I‘m excited and passionate about what I cover every day. And I want people to know I‘m excited and passionate about what I cover every day. I‘m also a pretty serious journalist.
If I can precisely in two minutes tell that story and let people know the most important parts, I think we‘ve done our job well. But I also think you can‘t be a news organization – I mean, they‘re well produced. There‘s graphics. There‘s all that that helps – if that helps people understand the story, terrific. And we need that and we also need people to tell the story well.
LAMB: Of all the things you do – and you‘ve seen on Nightline and the morning show, Good Morning, America!, and the overnight news and the Evening News and This Week and Washington Week In Review – which of all these experiences do you enjoy the most, including your trips to Baghdad?
RADDATZ: I actually love live TV. And I know – and I love live events and I love special events when we‘re on doing that and when things are happening and you‘re responding to them, whether it‘s the State of the Union or whatever‘s happening in the world and you can talk about it quickly. I will say that Nightline, to me, has always been one of those places, just like telling this battle of Sadr City, where it was the great – you had time to tell the story and in ways you didn‘t on the Evening News.
I love doing Washington Week. I love Gwen Ifill. I mean, I have to say that she‘s one of my heroes in the business. I mean, she is just a magnificent journalist. I just love it. And I‘ve been doing that show for about 10 years. And, to me, it‘s the great – at the end of the week when you do that show you get to empty your notebook. You get to talk about what you didn‘t talk about in a different kind of format.
I can do my stories on World News, which are terrific, and I can show pictures and I can show what I did. But with Gwen it‘s sort of what I tell you about, about what I really know, that I talk about on that show, that I can bring whatever depth I‘ve tried to gather from the field and talk about it on that show. So, I do love talking about that.
I also like that show because they don‘t ask you about stories you didn‘t cover. It‘s just the stories you covered. So, you don‘t – I can‘t go on programs and pretend to be – and I don‘t want to do that, pretend to be an expert on something I haven‘t covered, I don‘t know anything about, and just comment on the day‘s news. I don‘t like to do the conventional wisdom stuff. It‘s just not my style. Some people are very good at it. And maybe they read the papers better than I do. But I think it‘s great to talk about what you know about and what you care about. And that‘s why I like doing that show.
But I love my day job. I like covering the White House. I think it‘s – I mean, one of the things that‘s really incredible – I mean, this has been a really busy couple of months – is you‘re covering national security. And, lucky for me, it‘s been all about national security. But then the next day you‘re covering the economy or the next day you‘re covering something else. And it‘s like cramming for a test when you do those things that you‘re not quite as swift at. And I will admit that I‘m not quite as swift at covering the economy as perhaps I am at national security.
LAMB: Thank you, Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Thank you.