March 18, 2010
BRIAN LAMB, HOST, CSPAN: David Martin, National Security Correspondent for CBS News, why do you do what you do?
DAVID MARTIN, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: Because I like it. I really do. It’s the best beat in Washington, and I can’t think of one that would compare with it. For one thing, you’re not corralled like you are at the White House under this little press room and then ushered into events. You can really just roam the building. And then, of course, you’ve got all the places to go in the military. There’s the bases in the United States, the wars overseas. It’s just an exciting job, plus you’re playing for all the marbles. It’s life and death, and you can just never feel blasι about the about the subject matter you’re dealing with because you’re dealing with young men and women putting it all on the line.
LAMB: Your father was in the CIA for 23 years.
MARTIN: He was.
LAMB: What impact did that have on you?
MARTIN: I don’t think much because I didn’t know what he was doing when I when I was making all my early career decisions. In fact, I was in high school at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he didn’t come home for several days, and I knew enough about what was going on in the news, so I assumed that the two were connected. Well, many years later he told me that, in fact, there was a coup in Algeria at the same time, and he was working on the on the coup. So it was it was a time when the CIA really did not officially exist, and on my little school forms I could only put that my father was a U.S. Government employee. I couldn’t say that he worked for the CIA.
I think the event in my life that probably had more to do with steering me to where I am today was the Vietnam War, coming out of college when the draft was still alive and well, and deciding to go into the Navy before I was drafted. And then that when I got out of the Navy, and I remember the year 1968 being such a huge news year that it was, Tet Offensive and the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy for some reason watching that even though I saw everything on 24-hour delay in Hawaii back then, is what got me interested in news. And then the only real skill I had after three years in the in the Navy was the knowledge of military affairs. So that’s how I sort of began peddling myself, and that’s how I ended up.
LAMB: You went to Princeton on oh, my goodness. What a mistake. I don’t know how that happened. You went to Yale and then right into the Navy?
MARTIN: Right. I did a brief start of graduate school, but I had to be honest with myself and tell myself that I was just going to graduate school to postpone the decision about facing the draft, and so I said you know let’s do it.
LAMB: And what years were you in the Navy?
MARTIN: Sixty-six to sixty-nine.
LAMB: And I know you were on a destroyer, but was it the whole time?
MARTIN: Yes. The whole time. It was a destroyer based in Pearl Harbor, and we would go to what we call West Pac, the Western Pacific, which was the Gulf of Tonkin, and we would spend six months on deployment and come home for about a year and then go back, and that’s what I spent my three years doing, going back and forth between Hawaii and the Gulf of Tonkin.
LAMB: And you’re reporting, and I know it’s 27 years attached to this CBS and the Pentagon. What would you say would be the just name one place you go all the time to stay up with what’s going on.
MARTIN: You know the one that I always have the most interesting time at and am most surprised by is the Army’s training and doctrine command, which doesn’t sound like a very interesting place, but that’s where they figure or try to figure out what the next war’s going to look like and how they’re going to train for it, and the amount of thinking that goes on down there and the amount of technology that they use in an effort to train soldiers is, to me, it’s always almost mind-bending. They’re so much further ahead of where you would think a stodgy old institution like the United States Army is. They are really pushing the envelope on a lot of things, and I think the first thing they started with was you know we’re just never going to predict where the next war is going to be. We never get it right.
LAMB: Is this at Fort Monroe?
MARTIN: Yes, the oldest military installation in the United States
LAMB: And where is it?
MARTIN: It’s down in Virginia, down in the area around between Richmond and Norfolk.
LAMB: We have a clip from one of your reports back in January. Let’s watch it, and we’ll continue this discussion.
(Begin Video Clip)
MARTIN: Retired Army Sergeant, Mark Covey, runs what is undoubtedly the most high-stakes video gaming center in the world. The videos are posted on a classified Web site where soldiers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan practice against the latest enemy tactics. That’s just the beginning of what the Army has in mind.
MARK COVEY, SERGEANT (RET), UNITED STATES ARMY : This is the next step in the in serious gaming for training and that’s to take a soldier and put an ending environment. And so in this case you know we’re in a Humvee.
MARTIN: 3D battle simulation.
COVEY : This is what we call a geo typical village.
MARTIN: Name is to download these 3D simulations into a warehouse big enough to hold an entire platoon of soldiers learning to clear a village wherever the next war might be.
COVEY : We can rapidly change we can go from an Afghan village to an Iraqi village to perhaps somewhere in the Philippines. You’re only limited by your by your imagination.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: We’re ready to go. You ready to go swimming?
MARTIN: Good to go for a Hollywood produced ride down a road in Afghanistan. Actually, the landscape is Lone Pine, California, seen countless cowboy movies. Only now it’s a gauntlet of roadside bombs. The aim is to use the most sophisticated device of all, the human eye, to find them before they find you. Just like the real battlefield, the enemy can come at you in unexpected ways.
Martin: Hey, whoa. I don’t know how close to the real thing that was, but it was very, very convincing, and it took you totally by surprise. Sergeant, were you ready for that?
COVEY: I was not, sir. I had no idea it was coming.
MARTIN: The goal was to make a soldier’s last day of training the same as his first day in combat, a very different kind of shock in all.
David Martin, CBS News, Fort Monroe, Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Everybody OK. Everybody OK.
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: Why would the military let you in there to see that?
MARTIN: Well, they’re spending taxpayer dollars on building all of that, and I think they sort of had the duty to show people what they’re doing with their money, and I think they’re proud of it. They think that they’re on the cutting edge of technology, or at least training technology, to get soldiers ready for whatever. But that is the principle sort of mental breakthrough on all this training. It’s you’ve got to be ready for whatever. You can’t just say, OK, the next rule’s going to be name your country because you’re always going to get your goal. And so the Army is trying just to teach its soldiers how to adapt and adapt its training methods literally overnight. I mean we were in a room there where all the battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan come in. So the forensics on the last roadside bomb that went off immediately is printed out on a computer screen there, and so they immediately crank that particular iteration of roadside bombs into their into their training scenarios, and you know of course 48 to 72 hours it’s beamed up there and down to a room, a trailer at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the next group of soldiers to go to Afghanistan goes through and sees what the latest IED looks like.
LAMB: How many soldiers go through that what you went through?
MARTIN: Well, I mean I went through a show-and-tell, but and that Humvee where I got hit by a roadside bomb is it was still just in the beginning stages. So in fact, I think, if I remember correctly, no line soldiers had actually been through that yet. So it was just coming on line. But now every soldier, at least every infantryman going to Afghanistan goes through one of these rooms where they take these video games that they’ve extracted from real-world experiences in Afghanistan and subject the soldiers to them.
LAMB: How would you describe the relationship the Pentagon has today with the media?
MARTIN: It’s interesting. The Pentagon has become less user-friendly than when I first started covering it, but that is more a product of the construction of the building than anything else. The renovation of the Pentagon has made it much harder for a reporter just to walk around because more an more spaces are now behind ciphered doors where I can’t go unless I’m escorted. So the old tactic of trolling the halls for news has gotten tougher. And I think after nine years of war now, and wartime security really has taken hold, and they’ve gotten very good at compartmenting information, and just much more disciplined, I think about talking.
But you know when I say user-friendly, I don’t less user-friendly, I don’t mean that it’s hostile toward the military. I think the opinions of the media were much more hostile when I began than they are now. You know I think when I started, we were still coming out of the post-Vietnam malaise, I guess we could call it, and I think the military was not held in high regard in society at large. And I think they blamed, and probably rightly so, the media for some of that perception. So now you have the military is probably the most widely respected institution in America, and they’ve earned it and they’ve bled for it, and they realized that we are the media, a conduit to the American people about what they’re doing. So they’re not at all hostile anymore, plus the fact that they now realized this is just how it’s going to be. You have to deal with the media, and we’ve got to be better at it than the enemy. And the enemy is not bound by having to get it get your story straight before putting it out. They can put out anything, so they’re always going to beat you in putting your story out.
LAMB: We’re going to show a clip from report you had earlier in the year. But before I do that, on a personal level, your wife is what kind of a doctor?
MARTIN: She’s retired now, but she was an obstetrician.
LAMB: And your kids?
MARTIN: Kids, I have one kid who is a reconstructive surgeon, a daughter who is a schoolteacher. I have another daughter who is getting her premed requirements done so she can go to medical school, and I have another daughter who is taking her junior semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain.
LAMB: What about the reconstructive surgeon? Male or female?
MARTIN: Male. That’s my son.
LAMB: And where is he doing this?
MARTIN: He’s doing it up in Baltimore at a place called Good Samaritan Hospital.
LAMB: Let’s watch this report from January, and it kind of gives a report on the status of the military worldwide.
(Begin Video Clip).
KATIE COURIC: As we begin this new decade, the world is more dangerous than ever, and nations around the globe have assembled massive armies to defend themselves. Russia’s military is 21 million strong active and reserve, China 3 million, North Korea about 6 million, and Iran just under a million. The United States, by comparison, has about 2-1/2 million men and women in uniform with 182,000 of them now fighting two wars. Tonight, National Security Correspondent David Martin shows us how the U.S. Militaries train to defend the country against an ever-changing enemy as CBS reports ”Where America Stands.”
MARTIN: If one moment could capture the unexpected trauma of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this would be it; American soldiers hit by a roadside bomb. Something as simple as a homemade booby trap literally blew up America’s plan for quick and easy victories. The report card is written in blood and treasure. Fifty-three hundred dead, more than a third of them killed by roadside bombs, 36,000 wounded, more than 950 amputees. Two million have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, more than half of them leaving families behind. Some have served five combat tours. Three hundred thousand are estimated to suffer from post-traumatic stress or major depression. Four hundred eighty thousand who have left the service are now in the VA system.
The soldiers have made the sacrifices, but the American taxpayer has footed the bill. This year, the total amount spent on the two wars will go over the $1 trillion mark. The problem is there for all to see. The most powerful and sophisticated military force in history stretched almost to the breaking point by two guerilla wars against third-rate opponents. Shock and awe turned out to be a myth.
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: First question has to do with the actual technical part of putting that together, and also the production part of it. Who’s idea was that?
MARTIN: Well, the executive producer of the evening news commissioned a series, ”Where America Stands,” and Rick Kaplan said you know give me your ideas. And so I, along with the producer I’ve worked with for more than 15 years now, Mary Walsh, submitted a proposal that said you know the question is not are we ready to find, and then name foe X, Y or Z, but can we adapt to whatever the next unexpected event is, and Rick immediately locked onto that and said that’s a great idea; do it. And so that’s when you start turning it into television, and that’s where the relationship between the reporter and the producer, I think, is most important.
And you know after 15 years, she and I are like cops in a squad car. We finish each other’s sentences and you know communicate with raised eyebrows. And so we sort of instinctively go off in the in the same direction. And what we try to do is for her to align up the shoot. So when I go down there, and seeing everything for the first time, because that allows me to be more genuine in what I’m seeing. It’s kind of hard to say, ”Oh, gosh,” when you’ve seen something 10 times before. But if you really are just seeing it for the first time like you know a 3D simulation that you didn’t know was possible, you really do say, ”Oh, gosh,” and you mean it. And it just contributes to the reality of what we’re doing.
And then after we’ve shot and you know it takes I don’t know what the ratio is, 10-to-1 what you shoot to what you use. Then we bring it all back, and I write the script, and then she and I almost always agree on it. But she’s much better at turning things into television than I am. So she’s always got ideas on how to make the piece look better, how to keep it moving, the pace going, and you know at this point there’s no pride about who’s right and who’s wrong. We both are working to make it a better piece. And that’s what we do. And then we show it to New York. New York always has one or two things they want changed you know which is fair because we’re immersed in the subject by then and we might gloss over something that confuses somebody who’s watching it for the first time. And so New York asks for changes, we give them changes, and then it’s ready to go.
LAMB: The deceptions of the report, you saw the 21 million what is it, Russian troops, supposedly. What’s that mean, though, compared to our 2-1/2 million?
MARTIN: Yes. The Russian Military is still a basket case. I mean they have nuclear weapons, so obviously they have the capacity to destroy us or somebody else. But as a as a working functioning military organization, they can overwhelm Georgia, but they could not overwhelm the United States. They’re just not remotely equipped to do it, and it will be once you lose a military like we lost our military after Vietnam, it takes a generation to get it back, and I think that’s where Russia is now.
LAMB: What about China’s 3 million?
MARTIN: Well, China’s 3 million is worse if they ever change their foreign policy to be more aggressive. I mean like right now they just basically want to be left alone to conduct their economic miracle. And they’ve but the problem is that they need a lot of energy to conduct that miracle, and that energy is becoming in short supply, and so you can construct scenarios under which there will be competition between the U.S. and China over those energy supplies. But again, right now, I mean the U.S. the U.S. could always control the seas from China. China, as always, has this enormous land mass and enormous army that totally discourages anyone from trying to invade. But they don’t have the ability yet to project their power out to, say, the American base in Guam in the middle of the Pacific. But that’s coming. That’s coming. They’re working on it, and there’s going to be a day when they have, at least on paper, the ability to deny the U.S., or at least make extremely difficult, a U.S. Military operation in the parts of the Pacific Ocean that are all around China.
LAMB: How many times have you been to either Iraq or Afghanistan?
MARTIN: It’s in the neighborhood of six or seven, I guess.
LAMB: And when you travel, and we’ll show this later, but when you travel with the chairman or joint chiefs of staff or Stanley McChrystal, who is responsible for that part of the world in Afghanistan, how do you protect yourself from not being spun?
MARTIN: Well, yes. I mean you’re in that bubble with the chairman or McChrystal. But they’re doing the same thing you’re doing. They’re trying to protect themselves from being spun because when the big cheese shows up, everybody else has got to say, ”Hey, we’re doing great, sir. You know just give us a little more time and we’re going to get this job done,” and you know these guys have had it all before and seen the, particularly in Afghanistan, seen the progress going exactly the wrong direction. When I went out with the chairman, Admiral Mullen, he told us that when he was a when he made admiral, he got a lot of letters of congratulations, and one of them said, ”Congratulations. You’ll always eat well, and you’ll never hear the truth again.” And so he’s trying to break through the bubble, and so we’re trying to break through two bubbles there; the one bubble that he’s trying to break through, and then the bubble that he’s trying to project that everything is you know under control. But I have to say, in terms of the spin that goes around this city, the military is a distant second to the real pros in the White House and on the Hill.
LAMB: So when you’re having a quiet moment with the top leaders in the Pentagon and others, what do they say to you off camera about Barack Obama?
MARTIN: I’m trying to think if I have to say I’m not sure that any of them would, if they had a negative thought about him, would voice it to me even off camera because you know loyalty to the Commander in Chief is what the military’s all about, and if they had any thought that they that would be disparaging to the Commander in Chief, I don’t think they would say it except to you know someone they’ve known all their life.
But what they say is that he is extremely attentive when they meet with him and asks very good and very penetrating questions. I think they’re all impressed by his intellect. And you know the relations between the White House and the military have not been that great in the first year of the Obama Administration because the military keeps giving him advice he doesn’t want to hear. We need more troops, a lot more troops in Afghanistan. He didn’t want to hear that. And now, the commander in Iraq, Odierno, is asking for some flexibility on maybe not meeting the 50,000-troop ceiling by August of this year, and that, again, would be advice that the President doesn’t want to hear.
And then what really angers the White House is when the military is seen to do anything that would somehow constrict the President’s options. So for instance, a this confirmation here, General Mullen said long before the President had made any decisions about the need for more troops in Afghanistan, he told Congress that the U.S. would probably need more troops. The White House was quite angry at that because they thought it sort of preempted the President and put him in a box.
LAMB: Another report from you back in 2009, and this, before we go to it, is about reconstructive surgery. Did your son help you at all on this one?
MARTIN: No. He didn’t, although he was probably my most interested viewer because this is this is right up his alley. It’s the exact kind of work he does, only the hospital he does he’s at does not have a program like the UCLA hospital, which is just a one-of-a-kind operation.
LAMB: You did this for CBS Sunday Morning. It’s not a full report. It’s about three minutes, so you can fill in the blanks when we come back.
LAMB: Let’s watch.
(Begin Video Clip)
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Our cover story is reported now by National Security Correspondent David Martin.
MARTIN: Joey Paulk on his 21st birthday. How’s that for a face that says life is good? Joey Paulk at 23. How’s that for a face that’s been thru hell? Don’t look away. We could show you worse, much worse among other soldiers and Marines here at UCLA Medical Center.
JOEY PAULK: I don’t regret what I’ve done in the military.
MARTIN: They suffered these scars for us. It happened to Joey nearly 2 years ago in Afghanistan.
MARTIN: What was it that hit you?
PAULK: A triple-stacked anti-tank mines.
MARTIN: Oh, man. What were you in?
PAULK: A Humvee.
MARTIN: A Humvee?
MARTIN: So it was the blast and the and the flames
fuel tank. So you burst into flame.
TIMOTHY MILLER, HEAD OF RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGER, UCLA: Well, for the first shot, I think we did good.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Really well.
MARTIN: Dr. Timothy Miller, the head of reconstructive surgery at UCLA, is inspecting the results of his first attempt to repair Joey’s face.
MILLER: Can you close your eyes? That’s pretty good. That’s amazing.
MARTIN: Until now, Joey’s features had been so distorted by fire he couldn’t close his mouth or his eyes.
MILLER: We can elevate this a little bit more, and I think we can get the eyelid almost completely normal.
MARTIN: Now one of the country’s top plastic surgeons, Miller first saw the wounds of war as a young doctor in a MASH unit in Vietnam. The wounds he sees from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan are worse.
MARTIN: Do they produce a particular kind of disfigurement?
MILLER: Absolutely. The roadside bomb is an incredibly destructive. It’s got a blast, it’s got unbelievable heat, and so the depth of the burn is usually very, very significant. It’s going to have to be more like that.
MARTIN: So significant Joey, with his mother Judy constantly at his side, spent 17 months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, considered the best burn unit in the world. But it was philanthropist Ronald Katz who came up with the idea and the money to get disfigured soldiers into the expert hands of Dr. Miller.
MILLER: A bad burn is about as severe an injury and as painful an experience over a long period of time that you can imagine. And so we’ll take this, move this up.
MARTIN: How much Miller can do to give Joey back his looks depends a lot on how much unburned skin he can find to repair the scarring.
MILLER: I can do it with a graft because you’ve got enough donor site here.
MARTIN: This is not nip-and-tuck plastic surgery. Miller’s inspiration comes from an inscription he found on a 16th Century Italian cathedral, ”It is the divine right of man to appear human.”
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: This is really unsignificant to the report, but how did you get that video of the cathedral?
MARTIN: Now I don’t know. The printers found it.
LAMB: I mean that’s the least, but
MARTIN: I’m sure it’s out there on the on the Web someplace.
LAMB: But when you watch this, I mean a number of things come to my mind I want to ask you about. Is the Afghanistan and Iraqi war worth what has happened to this young man?
LAMB: And all the rest. I mean you just talked about the rehabilitation room in the hospitals.
MARTIN: How can I answer that question, is it is it worth it? I don’t know that. I mean imagine what that young man’s been through. What is your thought?
LAMB: Do they think it was worth it?
MARTIN: They say they think it was worth it, and I think they have to believe that. My cop out on that question is one that Norman Schwarzkopf used with me when I asked him on the Eve of Desert Storm if Kuwait was worth dying for, and he said, ”Nothing’s worth dying for, but some things are worth fighting for,” and you know history’s going to have to judge whether Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting for.
LAMB: What did we miss in our report because we cut out of it?
MARTIN: Well, what you what you missed was the just a very inspiring story about another young Marine in this case, Octavio Sanchez, who had been even more badly mutilated than Joey, third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body, and he had lost his nose. And when he got out of the burn unit in the Army Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, and he went home, the first reaction is you’re so glad to be alive and out of the hospital. You don’t want to see the inside of the hospital again. And you’re used to the way you look now. So you know you’re just prepared to live with it. Like he would go with his kids to the shopping mall, and the kids would notice people staring at him, and the kids would get upset, and so he finally went to see Dr. Miller. And he Dr. Miller basically grew him a new nose. He took tissue out of other parts of his body and gave him the nose, and now Octavio Sanchez is a handsome young man.
And his scars just actually make him look more rugged. He’s got a prosthetic arm. His left hand is largely useless, but he decided to keep it because he could feel enough to stroke his kids’ faces. And the Sanchez Family is just as attractive a family as you will find in America. So it’s just a wonderful, wonderful story. But it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been one of the lucky 24 to get into this UCLA program. And there are 800 burn victims at the time we did that story, 800 burn victims that have been through Brooke Army Medical. So the number of maimed soldiers out there that have not had the benefit of world-class plastic surgery. It was really pretty staggering, and the Army is second-to-none at saving lives, but they’re not very good at reconstructive surgery. In fact, Dr. Miller, the reconstructive surgeon in there, told us that usually the first operation he does when he gets the patient is to undo what was done by the reconstructive surgeons at Brooke Army Medical.
LAMB: What’s their reaction when they hear that?
MARTIN: Who the surgeons at
Brooke Army, yes.
MARTIN: You know I don’t know. I hadn’t
LAMB: And are they all military?
MARTIN: They are. And I think they you know they know. They know what the standards are out there in the United States, and they know that they’re not up to that standard, and what there are now programs in which for instance, a reconstructive surgeon from Johns Hopkins will go down to Brooke for a month at a time and work with them you know and try to try to raise the scale.
LAMB: My memory is that the fellow’s name is Katz that’s named for this at UCLA?
MARTIN: Ron Katz, yes, and if anybody ever spent their money better, I don’t know who it is.
LAMB: What is his background? You know anything about him?
MARTIN: He made his fortune in somewhere in the credit card business. I think when you swipe your credit card, he makes money. It has it has to do with the transmission of the data.
LAMB: What’s it costing to do those 24 surgeries?
MARTIN: Well, 24 people. Twenty-four people at that time was $1.2 million. So I think it roughly costs they take they can take about 12 patients a year, and it roughly costs about a million dollars a year, and 20 percent of that is likely to be covered by various forms of federal health insurance.
LAMB: Do we how do we do as a country when it comes to committing to taking care of people that have been injured in war?
MARTIN: Well, I think as individuals we do pretty well. I mean there’s just some people like Ron Katz. There are just a number of organizations, the Wounded Warriors Fund is another that comes to mind that I mean just do fantastic work for wounded veterans. But the system you know the VA system is just such a huge bureaucracy, and it is just so difficult for such huge bureaucracy to give soldiers the special care they need. And particularly when all these alternative forms of treatment are now available. You know the VA needs to see hard proof that a that a treatment works, and you know for my money, if a wounded soldier thinks it’s working, that’s good enough for me. But it doesn’t that’s not how you get something covered by the VA.
So these kids that are dealing with these injuries, and you know it’s always worse than it looks because you see a kid with two prosthetic legs, but you don’t know about all of the infections he’s had in there and all the unwanted bone growth you get from these wounds and all the times he has to be refitted for the prosthetic and all the pain medication he’s on, and then on top of that to have to do this wage bureaucratic battle to get the VA to cover their treatment. And even when they succeed, it usually is after a period of, say, 6 months, when they’ve been just living on pain medication waiting for the VA to approve it.
LAMB: Back in October 5, 2009, you do the Battle of Wanat. Little bit of a setup because we don’t run the whole thing. Why were you there?
MARTIN: Well, I wasn’t at Wanat, and if I was, I might not be here. That was a base in Eastern Afghanistan that came very, very close to being overrun. There was a platoon of 49 American soldiers there. Nine of them were killed, and they suffered about half of the platoon suffered casualties.
LAMB: Did you go there when you were over in Afghanistan?
MARTIN: No, they had pulled out, and it was it was you couldn’t get there from here.
LAMB: So you did everything from here on this story?
MARTIN: We were in Afghanistan, and we got as close as you could, but it wasn’t we were still some number of valleys over from Wanat. But what we had was the gun camera take from the Apache helicopters which had come in overhead, and we had a historian’s, I don’t know, 250-page report on the battle in which he had interviewed all the soldiers. And that’s what we worked on. And I can just remember so well watching this gun camera tape for the first time. It goes on for a couple of hours because there’s more than one Apache helicopter and more than one gun camera tape you need to look at. And your heart is in your throat because these kids are getting killed down there while you’re watching.
LAMB: Did you get this exclusively?
MARTIN: We had the gun camera tape exclusively, yes.
LAMB: How did you do that?
MARTIN: Well, I can’t tell you. But you know we got it from somebody who obviously had it and wasn’t supposed to give it to us.
LAMB: So you didn’t get it from Pentagon.
LAMB: Let’s watch and so others can know what we’re talking about.
(Begin Video Clip).
MARTIN: This is the scene Apache helicopter pilots recorded on gun camera tapes obtained by CBS News. A serious firefight, buildings in flames, and the only officers still alive on the ground calling for help.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Be advised we are in a bad situation. Need you to come in hot immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: I think they’re pinned down good, bro. They don’t want to lift their heads.
MARTIN: The enemy is so close the Apaches will have to lay down their cannon fire within 10 meters of the American position.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: You know I know it’s high risk, but we need to get these guys off of us. Over.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: You have got to be kidding me.
MARTIN: More Taliban are shooting down on them from those buildings. The Apaches make run after devastating run.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Hey, I’m inbound with a missile.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: There you go. That’s how you do it. That’s how you do it.
MARTIN: They also come in firing their cannons, but the Taliban keeps shooting back.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: You can see muzzle flashes like lightning bugs.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Yes, roger.
MARTIN: A desperately needed Medevac Helicopter tries to get in through the maelstrom, but instantly becomes a target.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Thirty-five. We’re taking fire. We just got hit in the lower belly just to the north side of aircraft.
MARTIN: The Apaches clear away a landing zone for the Medevac.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: We’ve got double casualties that we still need to move. We’ll be able to pick up two now and then probably two more later. Over.
MARTIN: Finally, reinforcements arrive, and the tide of battle turns. The battle took place a year ago in a valley east of here that is now controlled by the Taliban, and it has triggered an investigation into why the 49 men of Second Platoon were left so exposed so deep in enemy territory.
For much of its tour, the platoon was under incessant attack, hunkered down at a base that was surrounded by high ground and could only be supplied by helicopter. Lieutenant Jonathan Brostram set up a camera to record an assault on that base, and when he was home on leave showed it to his father, retired Army Colonel David Brostom.
DAVID BROSTROM, RETIRED ARMY Colonel: I was frankly shocked. They were getting attacked and probed everyday, heavy attacks by enemy forces.
MARTIN: Brostrom’s platoon and the other units fighting up and down the valley sometimes called in airstrikes on houses from which they were taking fire.
BROSTROM: My son showed me that. I said, ”You know you just lost that village.”
MARTIN: ”We dropped 861 bombs with few questions asked,” the senior commander is quoted as saying in a report for the Army Lessons Learned Center obtained by CBS News.
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: The report is was that confidential?
LAMB: The military really didn’t want you to see any of this.
MARTIN: They didn’t. But you know when they had it, they didn’t fight back. They talked to us about it.
LAMB: Why would this father want you to see this stuff? I mean obviously he was irritated
MARTIN: Well, his son was killed, and he thought that the investigation was a whitewash. The investigation basically blamed it on the local Afghanistan police commander, who was in collusion with the with the Taliban and helped engineer the assault. But and the original investigation said that this incident should not make future commanders risk averse about going into enemy territory. And he just thought a whole slew of mistakes had been made so that those soldiers were put out there in a position where they just didn’t have adequate defenses, and I think that’s true. There’s been another investigation, and that one hasn’t come out yet, and I haven’t seen it. But we do know that three officers have been singled out for letters of reprimand for not preparing the defenses adequately before the fight. And one of them you heard on that tape, the company commander, Captain Matt Meyer, who was the guy who was so calmly calling for rounds within 10 meters of his position and who was given the silver star for his bravery in that fight is now going to receive a letter of reprimand for the same battle for not having taken adequate precautions ahead of time.
To me, this encapsulates the war in Afghanistan perfectly. For one, it’s a small-unit operation. That’s what the war is, small-unit operations, and the reason we know about this one is because it went so badly and nine Americans were killed. But this is what life is like over there for soldiers, and until this year, or I guess 2009 when the President finally ordered that the 30,000 more troops, Afghanistan was officially called an economy of force operation, which is a euphemism for not enough troops. And what really happened at Wanat is they didn’t have enough troops. There shouldn’t have been one platoon in there. There should’ve been two platoons, and when you when you create a situation and when you’re operating without enough troops, what that means is the commanders have to make perfect decisions every time. And those commanders will tell you they you know they made wrong decisions. But they’re just they’re mistakes, the kind of mistakes you and I make everyday.
LAMB: A couple of other things. You reported $1 trillion is spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, and then in this report you talk about 861 bombs being dropped in this little area. Again, I asked the question I know you don’t like these kind of questions is it worth it? And then lives lost. I mean that’s more important than anything.
MARTIN: I mean they pulled out of this base two days later. The territory which had been so important to American goals in Afghanistan that you would drop 861 bombs, that you would put a platoon in there at the bottom of this little valley where you’re just a fish in a bowl, that’s how important that territory was until the day nine American soldiers got killed, and then the next day they’re out of there. So.
LAMB: Here’s another report from April of 2009.
(Begin Video Clip)
MARTIN: Specialist Carl McCoy survived two tours in Iraq only to take his own life and shatter the life of his wife, Maggie.
MAGGIE MCCOY: He shot himself in the bathroom.
MARTIN: Here in this house?
MARTIN: According to Maggie, Carl was drinking and their marriage was in trouble. He knew he needed help and scheduled an appointment with a mental health counselor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. But that morning
MCCOY: They called and canceled.
MARTIN: And they canceled because?
MCCOY: They didn’t have anybody to see him. And that was the day before he killed himself.
MARTIN: Maggie was also a soldier, a sergeant with two tours in Iraq. She planned to stay in the Army until she saw this e-mail written by her commander after Carl’s suicide.
MCCOY: ”I know Sergeant McCoy has a lot of problems, but we need people who can deploy. So get her out of the Army, or get her out of my unit.”
MARTIN: That may sound callous, but it’s the reality of life in an Army faced with the unrelenting pace of war and only beginning to come to grips with soldiers so stressed they’re taking their own lives.
PETE CHIARELLI, VICE CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED STATES ARMY: We saw the numbers go up the last 4 years. We should’ve been more proactive, all of us, including me, in attacking this problem.
MARTIN: General Pete Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, has never seen anything like it.
CHIARELLI: I’ve been doing this stuff for 36 years, and I have never run into anything as difficult as this.
MARTIN: Carl McCoy was one of 140 known or suspected suicides in the Army last year, and all-time high. This year, the numbers are even worse; 54 in the first three months. Here’s another alarming statistic. Each day on average, three soldiers call a national suicide hotline run by the Department of Health and Human Services. That means each day there are three soldiers out there thinking of killing themselves who are afraid to ask for help from within the Army.
CHIARELLI: It’s the stigma. It’s the soldier who wants to reach out to someone who’s not in his chain of command because he feels that somehow if he does do that he’s going to be thought of as a lesser soldier.
MARTIN: Chiarelli sells Fort Campbell has the most aggressive suicide prevention program in the Army, but that has not stopped what he calls a horrible spike. Eleven suicides at this one base since the first of the year, one of them during his visit. The fact that these are some of the Army’s toughest soldiers, members of the 101st Airborne Division, doesn’t protect them from inner demons. Lieutenant Colonel Tom Kunk is the first to be notified whenever a suicide occurs.
TOM KUNK, LIEUTENANT COLONEL, UNITED STATES ARMY: And the one common thread is relationship problems.
MARTIN: Problems which set in after the honeymoon of the homecoming is over. Kunk is nearly at wits end trying to prevent the suicides.
KUNK: We’ve got to figure out, OK, it’s got to stop.
MARTIN: But it hasn’t. Last month, every soldier was required to watch this interactive video on suicide prevention. Specialist Ken Attkisson watched it, and the next day, in the middle of an argument with his wife, killed himself.
David Martin, CBS News, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: And you know the audience has a lot of different reactions. There are people who react to that by saying you are sensationalizing suicide in the military. What’s happened a year later? That was a year ago.
MARTIN: Well, the general you saw, Pete Chiarelli, is still one probably his number one job is to try and stay on top of suicides, and the number of suicides is down from those record levels. I think we said in that piece that there were 23 in one month alone, and the last figures I saw which were for February, I believe there were 13 in the Army. You know is 13 a good number? Obviously it’s not. Thirteen is probably below the national average. Twenty-three was not. That meant that soldiers were killing themselves more frequently than the population at large.
LAMB: Were they killing themselves before or after they’d been to war?
MARTIN: Well, that’s the mystery. It’s one-third, one-third, one-third. One-third killed themselves when they get home. One-third kill themselves while they’re there. And a third kill themselves before they go. So I mean you can see how all of them would have apprehension over going, the depression from being away so long, and then maybe something going on; you know you get a Dear John e-mail. And then coming home and finding a totally changed situation from the one you left, where your kids are a year older and had a totally different relationship with the other spouse because of the year together.
LAMB: What about the sensationalism charge that people have? And what about just the charge that the networks are biased period about and that all they really care about is making money and that you’re looking for ways to titillate people?
MARTIN: Do you really think that’s sensationalized?
LAMB: Well, no. I’m asking you because
MARTIN: I mean have you heard people say that?
LAMB: But you get criticized I mean I just had a guest here a couple of days ago that said that every time Katie Couric interviews a conservative she sneers. I mean I don’t know. I mean this is in the eye of the beholder. That’s why I’m asking what your approach is to it.
MARTIN: I mean how do you sensationalize a tragedy like that? I mean if bringing it to public light is sensationalizing it, I mean not allowing it to stay private, then OK; guilty as charged. But don’t you think people should know that that is what they’re going through? These people aren’t listed as casualties of war. They don’t show up on the number of dead from Iraq and Afghanistan. But there they are.
LAMB: You know going you’ve been there at the Pentagon for 27 years. You undoubtedly have heard the charges by either the military or people who are in favor of this war in Iraq or in favor of the war in Afghanistan that media in general are opposed, opposed to the military.
MARTIN: You know my experience has been that the media is anti-establishment. We’re always harping on whoever’s policy it is that’s in charge of the policy. And I mean now we’ve got two wars going, so that’s what we harp on. But before we had wars going, we’d harp on strategic defense star wars. I mean there’s that’s what we do. We’re supposed to challenge the conventional wisdom and frankly you know run up to the Iraq war, we did a pitiful job of it because we bought off on the White House intelligence that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. I mean if people should complain about the media, it should they should complain about us being not aggressive enough.
LAMB: We have one last 60 minutes. This is General McChrystal, and you were over there with him, showing him running and all that. It’s only about a minute and a half. Let’s watch that, and then we’ll wrap it up.
(Begin Video Clip)
MARTIN: McChrystal himself keeps a murderous schedule, up at 4:30 and out the door at 5:00 for his morning run into the maze of buildings and trailers that makes up his headquarters. This is his idea of leisure time. How many miles do you cover, do you think?
STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY: I do an hour. And it’s not as many hours as it used to be.
MARTIN: He eats one meal a day. Anything more makes him feel sluggish. In another life, he could have been a monk. The lap of luxury.
MCCHRYSTAL: It is. It’s good. I mean it’s what else do you need? It’s functional and it’s comfortable. You get very used to it. You have what you have, and that’s all you need, and you realize you don’t need a lot of other stuff. One think, of course, you miss is family, but besides that it’s pretty much perfect.
MARTIN: He lived like this for five years as head of a top-secret hunter-killer unit which captured Saddam Hussein and tracked down the infamous terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, calling in an air strike to kill him. Being a general didn’t stop him from going on commando raids.
MCCHRYSTAL: I won’t claim that I was ever any great help on the missions. It was really to go and see what the force does and to understand just what their challenges are, and then also there’s a there’s a value to the old man coming along just to show that he’s willing to do that.
MARTIN: Kind of dangerous, though. I mean what if Zarqawi got his hands on you? You know an awful lot.
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, we got him first.
(End Video Clip)
LAMB: That trip, did you go by yourself or did you go with the military?
MARTIN: No, we flew over there my producer and I flew over there with a 60 Minutes crew, and then we would most of the time travel around the country with him. We also broke off and traveled around a little bit with the 82nd Airborne.
LAMB: How closely does the military watch you on a trip like that?
MARTIN: Well, it so happened that while we were on this trip, a CBS radio report, Cami McCormick, was hit by one of those roadside bombs and lost part of a leg, and so they were very nervous that something else would happen to a CBS crew. And so we actually had basically a Colonel and a master sergeant from the 82nd Airborne sort of assigned to make sure that nothing bad happened to us. And we went down to the exact same base where Cami had been hit and where they still had their vehicle she was riding in, and so it was a very real experience.
LAMB: And what’s her status today?
MARTIN: She’s an outpatient at Walter Reed, and she’s still facing more surgery.
LAMB: And why do people like her and Kimberly Dozier and others go into the middle of all of this?
MARTIN: Well, it’s where the story is, and the rest of us you know we live more comfortable lives, and we sit back at a remove and watch this and occasionally dip in and dip out, and we’ve got the law of averages going for us. But they’re there everyday, and it’s what gets them up in the in the morning, whether it’s because they like the adrenaline rush or because they just like the fact that this real news. I don’t know, I think it probably differs for each person. But when you’re out there everyday, the law of averages starts to change.
LAMB: We’re about out of time. But what impact has it had on you that you served in the military for three years when you deal with the Pentagon? Do they think differently about your approach than somebody that hasn’t served?
MARTIN: I don’t I don’t think so. I mean in the first place, that was the draft military, and it was it bore only passing resemblance to the military we have today. I think the relationship I have with people in the Pentagon is just built on the relationships that I’ve built up over the 27 years that I’ve that I’ve covered that building and not as the result of any previous experience. I guess the one thing it does is it makes me too tolerant of screw ups because I know how many screw ups there were on my ship.
LAMB: You were born in this town.
MARTIN: I was, yes.
LAMB: And again, went to Yale.
LAMB: Twenty-seven years in national security. You worked for the Associated Press in the newsroom before you got in this.
LAMB: David Martin, National Security Correspondence for CBS News, thank you very much for joining us.
MARTIN: My pleasure.