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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  July 2, 2021 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT

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>> war stories with a war r hero this week on "firing line." >> basic s.e.a.l. training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months. >> a navy s.e.a.l. who spent more stories with the war hero. this week, on firing line peer >> basic seal training with a lifetime of challenges crammed in the six months. >> a navy seal who spent 37 years serving his country. admiral william the grave and commanded the special forces who captured saddam hussein. >> he went from being pompous and arrogant to just a tired corrupt old man. >> reporter: and rescued captain phillips from somali pirates. >> the first people i want to think of the seals, they are superheroes. >> i was honored to be part of the operation. >> he was also in charge of seal team six during neptune's a spear, the daring operation that took out osama bin laden. >> it showed that we as americans can do the hard things and do them well. >> he salutes the drake greatest generation, and has faith in a new one. this week on a special
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independence day firing line. >> firing line, with margaret ú part by robert ranieri, charles r schwab, the fair weather foundation, the family foundation, and by corporate funding is provided by stevens inc., and morgan stanley. >> admiral william mc raven, welcome back to firing line for a special edition episode honoring independence day. thank you for your service. >> thank you, margaret, good to be with you. >> admiral, you've just written a book, the hero code, lessons learned from lives well lived. your father served in world war ii, and you share memories of him and his fellow servicemembers swapping stories about missions. did you have a sense that you would follow in your father's footsteps? >> i don't know, as a young boy, whether i thought i would follow following my father's footsteps. what i knew was i loved the
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camaraderie, i love the sense of patriotism, i loved the sense of duty, honor, and country that i saw in this greatest generation. of course that generation, they were children in the great depression, they were children of world war i, all the men went off to world war ii and then they came back and rebuild the country. so well i didn't know at a young age that i wanted to follow in my father's footsteps, i didn't think, i don't think it me long before i realized that this was the path that was the right fit for me. >> you write about a skydiving accident that you were in in 2001 the nearly cost you your life. you were hit by a fellow diverse canopy. you wrote, as long as i could wiggle my toes, i was going to stay a seal. you share the story of martin, the vietnam era seal who was partially paralyzed from a head- on bike accident. he was one of your instructors. who you call one of the most
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inspirational men that you knew. tell me about the impact that martin had on you. >> i mean, even to this day, the impact of martin is with me every day. of course, it started in seal training, he, to me, was this quintessential navy seal. he was a vietnam vet, he was, to me, the gold standard of the navy seals. when we were in training, he did not hesitate, to pick me out of a crowd, and turn me into a sugar cookie, as we say, where you roll around in the sand and good-natured harassment on a routine basis. after seal training, we were stationed at the same team, and we became very close friends. then in 1983, he had a head-on bicycle accident and was paralyzed from the chest down and has been since that time. and never once, never once in all those years have i heard martin complain about his lot in life. never once did he say, why me? to this day, he oversees the
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triathlon that we run every year as part of our underwater demolition team, and our seal fraternity. he's done more from a wheelchair then any men standing erect. he is a remarkable, remarkable inspiration. >> on september 11th 2001, you were still recuperating from your injuries. when you want the terrorist attacks on this country play out on a television screen in your living room. can you reflect on that moment, and what it was like for you? what you took in at that moment? >> reporter: a lot of people who watched it on tv, it was a horrifying moment for all of us. but, i also knew at that moment that life was about to change. and i took the opportunity to call up my boys, and say,, my daughter was with us, and explained it to her as well, that life was about to change for dad. i knew there would have to be some sort of follow action against al qaeda, and even though i was brokenhearted at
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the time, i was in a tent on getting back in the fight, being able to support my fellow special operations warriors. that was a day that, i think, motivated all of america to go forth and realize that we had to bring justice to bin laden, bring justice to al qaeda, and to do what we felt was right for the country. >> duty is among the virtues that you write about in the hero code. general william westmoreland joined the original firing line with william in 1979, for a conversation called the crisis in the u.s. military. take a look. >> the zeal and the desire to serve is not present, to the extent that it was several years ago. this is a disturbing phenomenon, to me. because, i don't believe our democracy long rains is going to work, unless there is an attitude, in our society, particularly among our young,
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that they have an obligation of service. a principle of democracy is for every right, there is a duty. >> i've heard you say, that you your biggest fan of the millennial generation and gen z. how using this generation rise to the occasion in a way that is different than general westmoreland's observations? >> it's interesting, when you think about westmoreland's observation in context, back then, he was worried about whether or not the youth would stand up and join the military. we go through this cycle every couple of decades. when we stood up and all volunteer force, i remember thinking initially, this will never work. who in the world is going to join the military for relatively low pay to put your life at risk, etc., and the answer was millions of men and women. particularly after 9/11, the reason i am so impressed with this generation is because the
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9/11 generation, these young men and women that signed up after september 11th, that raised their hand and said i'm going to join the military knew that they were taking on the risks. knew that they would probably go to war. if that's not service, i don't know what is. so, whenever people begin to lose hope about the future of the country and whether or not the men and women will continue to serve, we have seen this movie before, we always find heroes in the next generation that are more than willing to serve and sacrifice, and i've seen it in this current generation, the millennials and gen z. >> in 2003 you are the commander of task force 714 in a rack. you were on a helicopter leaving baghdad, and you suddenly wanted to turn it around. you wrote in sea stories, my life in several special operations, i was having one of those feelings again, inexplicable, powerful, eerie. when i couldn't shake and i certainly couldn't rationalize. but it wasn't the first time i
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had a premonition. as i would find out later, it wouldn't be the last time. tell me about that premonition. >> it was a c-130, i was heading out of the rack, heading to meet with the commander. as i say in the book, inexplicably, i just had this feeling that, this was going to be the night that we got saddam hussein. i would offer that i use the word premonition, but it was the fact that my brain was connecting the dots. i received an intelligence brief the night before, from one of the great noncommissioned officers that was part of the saddam hunt, i had been talking to the leader of the army task force, so all of those clicked in my mind, and something said we've got to úturn around and get back becaue tonight is going to be the night. by the time i landed back in baghdad, the force was moving towards the target, and within
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an hour's time, the army special operations guys that were working for me had in fact captured saddam hussein. >> we all remember those images of saddam hussein, the moment that he was captured. you were in the joint operations center and you heard the squadron commander, on the ground saying, we have jackpot. take us inside the joint operations center at that moment. >> well, the joint operations center we refer to it as the jock, was about 100 people, that are sitting in a room with a lot of computers, this was 2003, so the technology wasn't quite as sophisticated as it is today. we didn't have a drone, we had a helicopter with an optical ball on and that was providing our video coverage. so, when i got the call from the squadron commander, and he said we have jackpot, you are
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always, as the guys sitting in the rear your thinking this is good news, but at the end of the day you have to confirm the jackpot. we've had times in the course of the last 20 years where we thought we had the right individual, and then we get them back, and we look at everything from their finger prints to their dna and find out it's the wrong guy. in the case of saddam hussein, it was pretty obvious. he has a unique facial characteristics, and even with that giant beard, it didn't take long for us to realize that we have the right guy. >> saddam hussein became a prisoner when he remained at your camp longer than originally expected, 30 days. you write that you had an obligation both morally and legally to keep him safe. so you visited his room every day, to speak with the doctor on guard, but in the end you never addressed him directly. tell us about that. >> it was interesting, when we first captured him, he was pompous, arrogant, he still felt that he would come back into power. so what we had to do pretty quickly was to make sure he
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understood that he was a prisoner of the united states, and we were going to treat him well. but he was not going to have outside contact with any of his former iraqi leaders, we were going to put him in a cell with other people, that his days as the leader of iraq were over. but, again, to your point, i had a moral and legal obligation to make sure that we took good care of him. we did. he ate as well if not better than a lot of those holders that we had, as you point out, i have a medical professional, a corpsman, a medical doctor, in the room with him 24 seven, along with the security guard. but i would go in every day to check on him. and every day that i went in, he tried to engage me in a conversation. and i didn't want to engage him in the conversation. because i didn't want him to think that he was somehow important enough to be able to engage l have a, as he called me.
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>> he called you we'll have a? >> he knew that i was in charge. when i walked in i major that my nametags were off and my stars were off so he didn't know my rank or my name. but, i leaders know how to recognize other leaders. and every day, when i would come in he would try to engage me but the fact of the matter is i didn't want to engage with him, because frankly i didn't want him to psychologically think that he was a vip, somebody important enough to be able to engage me in conversation. i didn't want that to occur. for 30 days i came in every day to check on him, and then would leave the small room without engaging him. >> you think that contribute to his decline in custody? >> i don't think that contributed to his decline. what i would offer is, when he finally realized that he no longer had his palaces, he no longer had his generals, his handmaidens, he went from being pompous and arrogant to just
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being a tired, corrupt old man. and that was pretty evident. >> you were also in charge of a successful high seas rescue, captain phillips. who was held hostageby pirates off the coast of somalia. he was later memorialized in an eponymous film starring tom hanks. >> volz gifts carrying armed men. >> in your account you said as a commander, you would like to be in ultimate control of all of the decisions but the reality is, you can't be. >> that is true of every mission you conduct. you have to be able to delegate to people that you have trust and confidence in. in the case of the rescue of captain phillips, the guys on scene made all the right calls, and i was just honored to be part of the operation. >> in april 2011, while you were serving as the commander of joint special operations command, you were gearing up to
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take down osama bin laden. you told the seal team six, this mission is to capture or kill bin laden. capture him if you can, but if you present a threat, any threat whatsoever, kill him. bring us back to this moment, did you actually ever think that he would be captured alive? >> absolutely. there's people out there that think that this was a kill only mission. it absolutely was not. we had a plan with what we were going to do with bin laden if we captured him. the fact of the matter is, the law of armed conflict in the rules of engagement were pretty clear. if bin laden had his hands up and he clearly was not a threat, which was going to be difficult because you don't know whether or not they are carrying a suicide vest underneath, but if you come out of that room with his hands up, and clearly not a threat, we had an obligation. a legal obligation, a moral obligation, to capture him. we had a plan to do that. as it turned out, in a dark room at night, he never had his hands raised, he pushed two
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young girls, his daughters, in front of him, which created chaos, and the seals entering the room did absolutely the right thing, and shot him, not knowing whether or not he was wearing a suicide vest or what was happening at that instant. >> the night you washed the raid, where you saw in a small closet with a view of the center while communicating privately with the white house, take us inside that closet as you watched your seals enter and cler the compound floor by floor. what were you seeing, what were you feeling in those moments? >> having done thousands of missions before, this was not an overly complicated mission. it had a lot of political risk with it, and i don't want to minimize the risk, there were risks every time we came close t the pakistani border or across the pakistani border, the pakistanis were not concerned about engaging us, there was always concern about the pakistanis engaging us and of course when we get on
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target, we didn't know whether or not the entire compound was -trapped, , all of those sorts of things added to the risk. it was a relatively straightforward mission, in terms of the first part of it, we flew the hundred 62 miles without incident, as we begin to , to target, the one helicopter loses lift as it got over the target, the down blast from the helicopter hit this 18 foot high wall, created a vortex, a vacuum over the blades, caused the helicopter to lose lift, and then a hard landing off to the side. i knew immediately the guys were okay, i'm listening to the radio, i can see it on the overhead surveillance, so, i understood pretty quickly that the guys were banged up, but they were okay. so we went from plan a to plan b. the second helicopter which was supposed to come in and land on the roof, lands outside, and eventually the seals execute a mission that
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all of these guys in terms of the tactics of it, had done hundreds of times before. >> upon reaching the third floor, the raids a second seal senior chief petty officer rob o'neill came face-to-face with a tall, thin man. that he fired three rounds. tell me about that moment and what you heard come through the radio after that. >> i couldn't hear any of that. i'm getting radio calls from the ground force commander. rob o'neill and his teammate, when they came up, there were no helmet cams, anybody that claims they got helmet cam video, nobody was wearing helmet cams. i couldn't see what was going on inside the building. what i'm getting of course is reports, from the ground force commander when shots are fired. whenever a shot is fired, somebody is reporting through the chain, and i recognize that shots are being fired. but it was probably 15 minutes after that, or i might have to
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be careful, from the time the mission started maybe 15 minutes, when i got the call from the ground force commander, for god and country, geronimo, geronimo, geronimo, that was the code word for bin laden. >> it is striking, the command center breaks into tears, but you had no sense of relief, no internal exhilaration. no feeling of victory. why is that? >> the mission wasn't over yet. you've got to play four quarters of the game. so, yes, we believed we had bin laden but once again as i mentioned with saddam hussein, until you can do the forensics on the remains, check the fingerprints, check the dna, do the facial recognition, i am reluctant to have said we've got jackpot on this one. and by the way, the guys are still in the compound, the compound could still be -trapped, and now the pakistanis are waking up for the fact that we are there, we
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know they are getting ready to launch aircraft to intercept us, so the mission was a long way from over. i didn't have any relief in terms of the mission until after all the helicopters had come back across the border, the afghan border and were landing back at our base. >> did you have a moment of relief? at that point? >> i had a moment of relief. you that. but, having been through these missions before, what i always know is, you really have to sit down, with the operators you've got to find out is everybody okay, did we inadverently kill people we shouldn't have killed, what kind of intelligence did we get off the target, what we need to do next? there's a lot of things that goes on post operation, so i really didn't come off the business end of this mission, probably until later that evening, when finally i was
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able to hit the rack. but that was still many hours after the mission was concluded. >> the story of identifying the body, is such a memorable one. you mind recounting it? >> by the time the helicopters had passed back over the border, now i'm on the video with president obama and his team, and you've seen the iconic photo from pete sousa, they are all crammed into the small room, with general brad webb, who was my liaison to the white house at the time. the president asked me, he said you know whether or not it's bin laden? i said sir, i don't. i need to go personally identify the remains, i would before i can come i can tell you for certain. we put the bodybag on the hangar floor, and, it's a rubberized bodybag, i unzipped the bodybag and without getting too graphic, he didn't look too good, he had a couple rounds in his head. the beard was smaller i think than what we usually anticipate,
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but it was pretty clearly bin laden. having said that, i knew bin laden was about six foot four. and i thought, i am 6'2", i will lie down next to the body to see whether or not the remains are longer and i thought, that's probably not very distinguished for the three star admirable to be lying down next to the body, so i saw a young seal standing nearby i said son, how tall are you? he said i'm 6'2", i said okay, come here. he lay down and turn of the body was about two inches longer. i didn't think much of it, i went back to my headquarters area, got back on the video with the president, and the president said okay, bill, let me get this straight. you had $60 million for a helicopter, the one where you lost on the raid, and you didn't have $10 for a tape measure? and as i told folks, it was just the right amount of levity at the right time to lower the stress in the room, that little bit of levity helped me through the rest of the night. and then two days later, when i
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was back in washington briefing congress, i get a call to come to the white house, the president thanks us for the mission, and then reaches by the president's desk and hands me a plaque, and on the plaque is a home depot tape measure. and so, i proudly had the opportunity to display that tape measure at the special operations command. >> take a look at president obama's speech to the nation the night of may 1st, 2011. >> tonight, i can report to the american people and to the world , that the united states has conducted an operation that killed osama bin laden, the small team of americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. no americans were harmed. they took care to avoid civilian casualties. >> this past may marked 10 years since the historic and heroic mission that he orchestrated. what is it like for you to watch president obama say those words now 10 years later?
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>> i would say it's a little surreal. but, i go back to that whole operation, and i've offered to the american people, regardless of what side of the political aisle you might be on, you would have been proud of the national security team, the president, the vice president, secretary of state, the chairman of the joint chiefs, director of national intelligence, all of these men and women that came together to do what was right by the nation. we had a lot of heated discussions, in the meetings i was in, but there was never any rancor. there was always an understanding that it was about doing what was right for the country. it showed that we as americans can do the hard things, and do them well, so, i reflect back on that 10 years ago, and i'm just proud to have been a small part of it. >> there are people out there who may not know about the raid on osama bin laden's compound, or the rescue of captain
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phillips, but they do know you, as the make your bed guy. take a look at this video. >> if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. it will give you a small sense of pride. it will encourage you to do another task. and another. and another. if, by chance, you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made. that you made. and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. so if you want to change the world, start by making your bed. >> you've led sailors to harrowing missions, i wonder, what you think we can do to convince more people to make their beds every morning. >> [ laughter ] well, there are people who i meet every day who have no idea i ever spent a day in uniform. they just know me as the make your bed guy. and i'm okay with that.
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i'm absolutely okay with that. it is a small task, but, i think an important one, as port parents as guardians, as teachers, as mentors, as coaches, encouraging the youth of america to develop healthy happy, good routines, is important for the future of this country. routines, good routines, healthy routines are important, making your bed is easy to do, and if it's any indication from the people that have talked to me since that speech, i think it's of some value to getting your day started right. >> on this independence day weekend, thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your stories from your recent book hero code, see stories, and make your bed. >> thank you very much, margaret. >> firing line line, with margaret hoover is made possible in part by robert quinn erie, charles r schwab, the fair weather foundation, the family foundation, and by.
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corporate funding is provided by stevens inc., and morgan stanley. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ >> you're wahing pbs. >> you're watching pbs.
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>> the whole nation is supporting these families. yamiche: president biden meets with families in the aftermath of a deadly condo collapse. in washington, house speaker nancy pelosi appoints republican liz cheney to a committee investigating the january 6 attack. in new york, the trump organization and its chief financial officer are indicted for tax blood. -- tax fraud. plus, president biden will not meet the january for -- the july 4 vexing

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