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Arthur Schlesinger on the Cuban Missile Crisis

Pulitzer Prize winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has died at 89. We listen back to an interview recorded with him at the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Schlesinger was a special assistant in the White House to President Kennedy.

Rebroadcast from Oct. 16, 2002.

07:22

Other segments from the episode on March 1, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 1, 2007: Interview with Martha Raddatz; Obituary for Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Transcript

DATE March 1, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Martha Raddatz, news correspondent and author of "The
Long Road Home," on the situation in Iraq, the frustration of
being an on-site journalist, and families dealing with war deaths
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Martha Raddatz, is the chief White House correspondent for ABC News
and formerly served as ABC's senior national security correspondent. Before
joining that network, she was the Pentagon correspondent for NPR. She's been
to Iraq 12 times since the start of the war.

Raddatz' new book "The Long Road Home" reconstructs the battle in Sadr City.
It began in April 2004 on what's come to be known as Black Sunday, when the
First Cavalry faced Iraqi insurgents and had more casualties than any single
day since Vietnam. Her book is based on interviews with the American soldiers
who were ambushed by insurgents. She also interviewed their families back
home about what it was like when they got news of the battle.

Martha Raddatz, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why is this battle considered a turning
point in the war in Iraq?

Ms. MARTHA RADDATZ: I think it's the first time that the US military
realized `There are people here who don't like us.' There had been sporadic
and very violent attacks, a few of them. There had been a few suicide car
bombings before that, but never such a wholesale assault on the US military.
And particularly in an area where the US military thought they liked us. This
was Sadr City, this had been under the thumb of Saddam Hussein for so long
that the military and civilians assumed that everyone would greet the military
with open arms. It's a thing you've heard over and over again. But this
city, this slum, personified that. Because they felt that they would believe
that the US military would come in there as saviors, and that day it was clear
they were not.

GROSS: What did they face? What did the platoon face in Sadr City that made
them realize this was an insurgency?

Ms. RADDATZ: Well, it all started out very quietly. They'd been patrolling.
It was a morning where they'd done sewage patrols, "honey trucks," as they
call them. The Iraqis would drive around and suck up sewage. There's more
sewage, raw sewage in the city than you can imagine. And they had been
escorting these trucks and they realized, first of all, that the truck
drivers, the Iraqi truck drivers, were starting to get taunted by some of the
people on the street for even being with the Americans. And they didn't think
much of it. And then, really, just very suddenly, they started being fired
upon. And it grew in intensity, and there were RPGs flying. This platoon, 19
soldiers, out there, and an Iraqi interpreter, were under fire, pinned down.
They were in four Humvees. Two of those were completely disabled and burning.
And the crowds grew. It wasn't just the Mahdi militia, Muqtada al-Sadr's
army. It was civilians. There were women. There were children. It grew
from hundreds to thousands of people on the street. And every rescue attempt,
there were more and more people attacking those rescue squads.

GROSS: The soldiers thought this was going to be a peacekeeping mission.
They thought it was a kind of routine patrol. How were they unequipped for
the insurgency that they faced?

Ms. RADDATZ: They were equipped for a peacekeeping mission. The Army--the
Pentagon decided that it would be bad to bring in a whole lot of tanks, a
whole lot of Bradleys, because then you look like an occupier. Those are very
bad in such a dense urban environment, and if you open fire you're bound to
have what they always call collateral damage, which means you can kill a lot
of innocent people. So when this platoon came under assault, when these men
were out there, they were in unarmored humvees. Some of them just had canvas
tops, and they were in open trucks. It's really extraordinary when I see
these trucks--in fact, when I was just back there a couple of weeks ago I saw
one of them, they're called LMTVs, and they're basically supply trucks, carry
troops around. But they are wide open. It is like a giant pickup truck. And
these soldiers hopped into these trucks to try and rescue this platoon in this
wide open truck.

GROSS: So what were the Mahdi militia's tactics in fighting the American
military during this battle in Sadr City?

Ms. RADDATZ: I think the oldest tactics that these soldiers--and some of
them were sitting in their vehicles thinking, `Oh, no, I've read about this.
I've seen this in the movies. This is horrible'--the tactics were often to
put children out in front.

There was a point when these soldiers were in this alley. They'd been pinned
down for about an hour. They'd taken refuge in this alley, and on either side
of this alley--and it was about 10 feet wide, lots of small concrete houses,
and they'd taken refuge in one of the houses with humvees parked in the
alley--on either end of that alley, they saw hundreds of Mahdi militia and
civilians lining up. And they would line up in tiers, and in the very front
they had children. Behind them, they had old people. Behind them, they had
teenagers. And behind them, they had the Mahdi militia. And the Madi militia
were firing over the heads of the children as they approached further and
further down the alley. And Lt. Shane Aguero, who was the platoon leader,
watched them, and he, in his mind, calculated at what point his men had to
open fire no matter what, and--because he felt they'd be overrun. And he
watched those children--he has children of his own--most of the men looked at
the children aghast, but at some point they just started firing. They had to
because the Mahdi militia was firing at them. And the descriptions of what
happened in that alley and what was left in that alley are horrifying. They
felt...

GROSS: Tell us a little bit about what did happen.

Ms. RADDATZ: There were, Lt. Aguero told me, probably 100 bodies on either
end of the alley piled on one another, piles of shoes, piles of clothing,
abloodbath in that alley. And Lt. Aguero and some of the other soldiers just
said, in their minds, it was kill or be killed at that point. Again,
horrified that they had to shoot children. But, at the same time, they knew
those were the tactics that often the Mahdi militia or other insurgents had
used over the years.

There was another tactic that some of the insurgents had used, and, you know,
Terry, I find myself haing the same problem here of what to call the enemy in
Iraq since it's changed so many times, but we'll call them insurgents at this
point. And they would put a gun out--they would put an AK-47 out on a string
and they would pull the gun back to themselves, grab the gun, run out into the
alley and shoot at the soldiers. Or they would get children to stand out in
the alley and point out where the soldiers were firing from. They call those
kids "peekers," and they started saying, `There's a peeker over there,'
because the little kids would run around the corner and point at the soldiers.
They did not shoot those children because they were not armed, but they
would--if the insurgent would come around the corner, the Mahdi militia would
come around the corner and fire, then the child would usually run back.

GROSS: So those AK-47s on the string, was that meant to be a decoy, to like
deflect attention to the wrong spot while the real action was going to come
from someplace else?

Ms. RADDATZ: Actually, there was probably that, but it was also a way, if
the shooter was killed, they'd still have the weapon, and that they could pull
the weapon back.

GROSS: Another tactic the Mahdi militia used, which isn't as horrifying in
the sense that it didn't take advantage of children--it didn't abuse children
for this, but they would haul objects into the intersections. And talk a
little bit about this tactic.

Ms. RADDATZ: Well, that was what was astonishing. I've driven down these
streets in Sadr City so many times, and there're usually these lively markets
and they're selling vegetables and fruits, they're selling hubcaps; they're
selling almost anything you could possibly think that any human being could
sell. You have to imagine this too because it's absolutely lined with sewage.
And, I mean, you can smell the city from miles and miles away because of the
raw sewage. But the markets are out there. The day of this battle, the day
of this ambush, the entire town shoved everything into the road as an obstacle
course. It was a flaming obstacle course within about 20 minutes after this
platoon was pinned down. They had piles of hot dog stands and--or what looked
like hotdog stands, big metal stands that we can identify from streets of big
cities. They had kitchen sinks. At one point, they had a giant metal
staircase blocking one of the routes. And basically what this did was block
off any kind of rescue because they would have these main routes on the
streets blocked with all of this mess that they pulled down from the markets.

GROSS: How did this battle in Sadr City finally end?

Ms. RADDATZ: The real battle there didn't end for 80 days because at the
same time that they pinned down this platoon, they took over--the Mahdi
militia took over every police station in the city. So as soon as they were
finished rescuing this platoon--and they lost eight soldiers that night, and
they had more than 70 wounded--as soon as they managed to get that platoon out
of there, they had to go try to re-occupy the policy stations, take that back
from the Mahdi militia. But 80 straight days they fought to get those police
stations back, to get the city under control. They got it under control for
about a month, and violence broke out once again. And they fought for another
60 days, and look where we are today in Sadr City. It is a long way from
being solved.

GROSS: What is it like now in Sadr City?

Ms. RADDATZ: You can't go in. I was there two weeks ago, and it's the first
time--I mean, think about this and how long we've been there, how long ago
this battle was. It was not safe for anybody to go in. The military wouldn't
take us in, and it is such a political firestorm there right now, as you
probably know, that the Maliki government has been accused of being in bed
with Muqtada al-Sadr. He is now in the political arena. But he controls that
town without question.

GROSS: Al-Sadr controls the town?

Ms. RADDATZ: Al Sadr controls that town without question. The last time I
went into Sadr City in August of last year, you could see Mahdi militia
members along the streets still toting AK-47s. We went in there very quickly
and got out of there quickly. I went back to see the alley again, which is a
place I like to see to sort of get a feel for what's going on in Iraq, is to
return to that alley as often as possible. But this time there was no chance
we could go in there.

GROSS: My guest is Martha Raddatz, ABC's chief White House correspondent.
Her new book about the battle in Sadr City is called "The Long Road Home."
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Martha Raddatz, and she's the
White House correspondent for ABC News and their former senior national
security correspondent. Also, former NPR Pentagon correspondent. She's been
to Iraq 12 times since 2003. Her new book "The Long Road Home" is about the
battle in Sadr City that was a turning point in the war in Iraq because it was
the first sign that there was a major insurgency against American troops. The
book is called "The Long Road Home."

Did the families at home hear about the battle first through cable news or
through calls from the military?

Ms. RADDATZ: The families--there's something called a Family Readiness
Group--and the Family Readiness Group, the brigade commander's wife, the
battalion commander's wife, LeAnn Volesky and Connie Abrams both first started
hearing about the battle from calls from Baghdad. They didn't know who had
been killed, and it came as `Two dead, four dead, get the care teams ready'
who would go out and help take care of the families.

But the notification comes from the knock on the door. The notification
always comes from the knock on the door. People had probably started hearing
a few things about a battle in Sadr City. I know Cindy Sheehan heard about
the battle in Sadr City, and she immediately said, `Casey's dead.' And her
husband said, `No, no, no. There are 160,000 troops over there. There's no
way he's dead.' And by the time the notification teams got there, she was
convinced that he wasn't, but when the knock on the door came, that's how they
do it. They only do it before 10 PM and after 6 AM. They won't do it in the
middle of the night, and the reason they don't do that is they don't want
military families to go to bed thinking they could get a knock on the door in
the middle of the night because they know no one would ever be able to sleep.

GROSS: Col. Abrams, who commanded the division's 1st Brigade in Sadr City,
was the son of General Creighton Abrams who was in Vietnam, and the Abrams
tank is named after him. But although Colonel Abrams had been in the military
for about 22 years, until Sadr City, you say he'd never heard a gun fired in
battle. How is he changed--you know, this person from an illustrious military
background--how is he changed by actually being in battle?

Ms. RADDATZ: Colonel Abrams, who I describe as a--his soldiers joke that
he's a natural born killer, given his family history--is the most
straight-ahead, salute-sir colonel you've ever met. Always the colonel. He's
a wonderful, warm guy, but he is very military. I talked to Colonel Abrams in
Sadr City. hey were just about to go back home. And he was, you know,
ramrod-straight posture in his uniform and practically saluting me, and I ask
him a very simple question. I said this: `Tell me what your year has been
like.' And the division, by the end of the year, had lost 168 soldiers either
in battle or through accidents, and Colonel Abrams started talking, you know,
very clipped sentences, and then he said, `It's been hard on our families,'
and he could not continue. He burst into tears.

And he was so upset by this that as soon as we finished, he was calling me
saying, `I can't believe I did that. I am totally humiliated. You're not
going to use that, are you?' And I said, `Col. Abrams it is a lovely, lovely
tribute to your family and to the military, and yes, I am going to use it.
And I promise you it will be used tastefully.' And he, later that evening,
e-mailed General Peter Chiarelli, who is the division commander, who's in
Baghdad--they're all in Baghdad, and I am too. And General Chiarelli did one
of those great things, which is, he forwarded me this e-mail unbeknownst to
Colonel Abrams, who he later told--we both told--and the e-mail said, `General
Chiarelli, I try to make the division proud, but today I let you all down. I
was interviewed and got emotional when talking about our families. I'm sorry
to let you down, sir.' And General Chiarelli wrote back and said, `You would
have let us down if you'd done anything else.'

So, to me, to see how heartfelt and how much pain these soldiers have from
this--and their families--but that they go back and do it the next day--I
mean, the next day--they were fighting for 80 straight days. And the First
Cavalry division is back in Iraq now.

GROSS: Why did you use that scene of Colonel Abrams breaking down and talking
about what his family had been through? Why did you use it after he asked you
not to?

Ms. RADDATZ: He never frankly said, `Don't use this; you can't use this.'
But I think he understood how powerful it was, too. I think it's good for
Americans to see that our military has heart, has suffered in this battle,
gets up every day and does it again. I mean, to me, when I see someone like
Colonel Abrams and I see the pain, the depth of pain, it is remarkable to me
that people don't understand, or that none of us have paid enough attention to
this conflict. I went through a period where I would tell people, `Please,
please, just when you read the paper, read the names of the dead. Do that.
It's the least you can do.' None of us have paid any price for this war,
outside of those who have family members there or who have served. None of
us. Yeah, people can put up a yellow ribbon, but you still go shopping every
day, you still go out to dinner, you still mow your lawn, and you don't think
about it.

There is a greatest diversity in the military community and in thier families;
you can't imagine it. Their families, they're like us, but they have
experiences unlike those we will ever have. And it is important for us to
connect with them, to somehow know what they are going through and not just
say, `Aren't they great?' as if they're our, you know, hometown football team
and go on and do whatever we do.

GROSS: As the White House correspondent for ABC News, what's it like for you
to hear often pretty upbeat press briefings from the White House about how
we're doing in Iraq and what the outcome is going to be when you've been there
and you've seen and heard really gruesome things? You can't even get into
Sadr City right now. Is there often a real disconnect between the briefings
that you get and what you see when you're in Iraq?

Ms. RADDATZ: Oh, is there ever! And believe me, it can drive me crazy. And
there've been a couple of times when I've just been back, and, in fact, the
president had a briefing just a couple of days after I got back from my last
trip, and he actually--he knows I go. He asks me about the trips. He's
pretty respectful of it, and he also knows I know what's going on there. And
I think it is an advantage for me, because they know I know. I feel like I
can ask better questions at some of the briefings, but here's the problem: It
doesn't mean you get better answers.

And I think the press corps in general is getting far more aggressive about
saying, `Wait a minute. That's not really what's happening.' I mean, I
remember the day that they came out and glowingly said they're going to start
all these provincial reconstruction teams around the country and they're going
to double the size and asking, `Well, wait a minute. They can't even staff
the ones they've got. They're not working. You've got a few people. You've
got some unqualified people, and the military is filling all the bills because
you can't civilians from the State Department to go over there. How on earth
are you going to double the size?' And it was just sort of, `We are, we are.'
I mean, I know, I've been there. I've seen it.

It is actually disturbing to me--when I first started covering the White House
and I first started hearing this, I thought, `This is difficult. This is
really difficult because I know what's going on.' Now I've also listened to
years and to years of Rumsfeld saying it was the media's fault and we're not
reporting the good news. I mean, the truth is, we're there. We are covering
that story because the US military is still there after four years and because
it is still not under control. I mean, I heard General Casey say in one of
his last hearings, Americans would not be safe walking around 50 percent of
that country, and that's very true. It might be more than that.

GROSS: Martha Raddatz is the chief White House correspondent for ABC News.
Her new book about the battle in Sadr City is called "The Long Road Home."
She'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross and this is
FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Martha Raddatz, ABC's
chief White House correspondent and former national security correspondent.
Before joining ABC, she was NPR's Pentagon correspondent. Her new book "The
Long Road Home" reconstructs the battle in Sadr City, when the American
military realized it was facing a major insurgency in Iraq. She's been to
Iraq 12 times since the start of the war. When we left off, we were talking
about covering White House briefings in which the information given to the
press has sometimes conflicted with what she's observed in Iraq.

You know, most of these press briefings are shown on C-SPAN and some of them
on CNN. You see clips of it on the evening news. Do you feel like your
pointed questions are, in a way, a method of registering protest or offering
alternate information in a public setting, in addition to just asking a
question?

Ms. RADDATZ: That's really an interesting thing, because I do. I mean, I
think you, I think you--and I hadn't thought about it quite that way--I think
you know you're on the record. This is history. As much as some of those
briefings can just be, you know, whatever. They can be performances. They
can be spin. They can be whatever. You do want to get on the record and say,
`Well, wait a minute. I know this, that and the other happened, or--and it's
true. The way you frame the questions, you know that you are adding
something, hopefully.

GROSS: What is the question you're most glad you asked because it got you on
the record as registering something contradictory to what you were officially
being told?

Ms. RADDATZ: Well, I remember one exchange with the president--and this was
months before he announced his new strategy--and I said, `Mr. President, is
it'--I named some statistics about what was happening over there and, you
know, this is going bad and that is going bad, `is it time to look for a new
strategy?' And at that point, he turned and said, `Well, I talk to my generals
about tactics all the time.' And I said, `I didn't say tactics, I said
strategy.' And he flashed me what I thought was a look of the teacher trying
to put the child back in his place and he said, `Well, like I said, you know,
I'--here I'm trying to quote the president but I can't really, but it was the
strategy-tactics thing back and forth.

I--at the last press briefing, I asked the president whether he
thought--whether he agreed with his national intelligence estimate that it was
a civil war. He didn't answer that. He actually said, he said, `I--it's hard
for me to say, living in this big beautiful White House. You've been there.
I haven't.' Which was a strange answer, to say the least. First of all, he
has been there a couple of times. But--and he is the president, and Tony Snow
will tell us every day he has more information about Iraq than anyone.

GROSS: Do you have to worry about the possibility of a critical report or a
critical question resulting in your access to the White House being cut off?

Ms. RADDATZ: I don't think so. There is always--whenever you cover a big
important building, there is always--you're always going to get a call from
somebody if they don't like your report. If my report is accurate, I have no
problem with it. My organization would back me hands down. I don't worry
about it. I will not let myself worry about that.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. RADDATZ: The questions, especially. I think the White House is very
good at not worrying about what the questions are. In fact, it's a whole lot
more pleasant covering the White House in those briefings than it ever was
covering Don Rumsfeld.

GROSS: Yeah. What is the difference? What was the difference, like, between
covering the Pentagon under Rumsfeld and covering the president, you know,
President Bush's White House?

Ms. RADDATZ: I thought Secretary Rumsfeld could be incredibly disrespectful
of the questioners and didn't listen, didn't--it was--the atmosphere in there
was not good, and I think he generally just didn't like the press. Just
didn't want to deal with the media. Saw us all the same: All bad, all bad.
Never really engaged with anyone, never really talked to anyone at any length.
At the White House, at least, I think, you know, you can ask Tony Snow
anything you want, you know. You can tell him his mother wears Army boots and
he's not going to get mad at you. Now, again, like, neither one of them
really answered much, but it's a more respectful attitude in the White House.
And that may well be just because they know they have to deal with the press
every day and that everybody's watching in a way that they probably weren't
watching with Don Rumsfeld. But he was very, very difficult to deal with.
And I know he thought of himself as incredibly accessible and providing more
information. I found the Pentagon under Secretary Rumsfeld--and I'd been
covering it a long time--provided less information than any secretary of
defense who I'd ever covered.

GROSS: I don't know if you read Seymour Hersh's piece in the current edition
of The New Yorker...

Ms. RADDATZ: I haven't, to tell you the truth.

GROSS: Well, what he says in that is there's a shift in the Bush
administration's strategy in Iraq and the Middle East, and that this is
leading us closer to a confrontation with Iran. I mean, that's one of the
things he says in the article. But I wonder if, in like covering the White
House, if you think that the White House is in fact moving closer to a
military confrontation, you know, airstrikes against Iran.

Ms. RADDATZ: It's really hard to say, and I think there are people in the
White House who are advocating that. But if you look at the comments that
Secretary Rice made, the United States is now willing to enter into
discussions about Iraq with Iran and Syria, that's a toe in the water towards
diplomacy. Secretary Rice certainly prevailed with the North Korea
discussions over Vice President Cheney. I think there's always going to be
someone in the White House--and I know there are people who advocate getting
much tougher with Iran.

Now, one of the problems the administration has is when somebody stands up
there and says, `We have no plans to attack Iran,' then you think back--I
always think back to General Tommy Franks, who stood before the press and, on
the record, said, you know, `We don't have any plans to attack Iraq. We
haven't currently any plans to attack Iraq,' which we now know they did. So I
think when you have that history, you have a much more cynical press corps and
certainly a much more cynical public, and I think that's what they're dealing
with now, as well.

But you've also got, you know, the president had some pretty tough language
this year about Iran, and then you have others walking that back, and you
have, you know, push back, pull back. I think they want to saber rattle, but
they don't really have all that many sabers left.

GROSS: You know, something else that Hersh says in the article is that these
plans to possibly attack Iran are coming out of the vice president's office.
Some reporters I've spoken to say that they think Cheney has really been
weakened by the problems that we've had in Iraq, that that's taken away some
of his power. Seymour Hersh disagrees with that. I wonder what your
impressions are about how much power Cheney has now in the White House.

Ms. RADDATZ: From my vantage point, it seems diminished. And I judge that
only by the North Korea--what happened with North Korea, that Rice really did
seem to prevail there and wanted to reach out diplomatically more than the
vice president did. The vice president, as you know, is very secretive. But
look at him in the last couple of weeks. He was the one they sent to--maybe
this is the perfect role for him--to muscle Pervez Musharaff in Pakistan. I
mean, some of the comments he made, in fact, on ABC to ABC's John Karl about
what was happening in Iraq, I mean, were rather extraordinary. You know, that
it was good news. That it showed things are working, that the Brits were
pulling out of Basra. So he is still saying things that, in a way, get the
administration in hot water, that get a skeptical American public to say,
`What is he thinking?'

GROSS: My guest is Martha Raddatz, ABC's chief White House correspondent.
Her new book about the battle in Sadr City is called "The Long Road Home."
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: My guest is Martha Raddatz, chief White House correspondent for ABC
News. Her new book "The Long Road Home" reconstructs the battle in Sadr City
when American troops realized they faced a major insurgency in Iraq. The book
also describes what it was like for the families back home when they got news
that loved ones were killed or wounded in the battle.

You know, Bob Woodruff and his wife Lee were recently on our program and, as
I'm sure our listeners know, less than a month after he took over as anchor of
the "ABC Nightly News," he sustained a severe brain injury while covering Iraq
because of an IED, and his cameraman, who's a good friend of yours, Doug Vogt,
was seriously injured, too. I know you're friends with Woodruff, as well.
You've made 12 trips to Iraq since the American invasion. How did it affect
you as a reporter to have two colleagues, who are also good friends, so
seriously injured by an IED while reporting from Iraq?

Ms. RADDATZ: I, Bob, Lee, and Doug are all good friends, and that was
devastating. And it actually came in the middle of writing about the soldiers
over there and the families and how they were affected, and, for me, getting a
call in the middle of the morning, 5:00 in the morning from Baghdad, telling
me that Bob and Doug had been injured, I felt the same sickness I'm sure these
families feel. That morning, I went into work, actually, and reported on Bob
and Doug's attack, but before that I called my daughter and--who was living in
California at the time--and hearing how upset she was, because I knew, because
she'd meet Bob, too, and hearing her and knowing that she knew it could have
been any of us, was very painful. But I keep going back.

I think about it. We all think about it. But we also think it's an
incredibly important story to cover. My family has been supportive. My
daughter, who is now 26 and up in law school in New York, talks about it. But
she knows. I go through this as a mom, too. That I think, if something
happened to me, people would be highly critical that I did this with two kids.

GROSS: How old's your other child?

Ms. RADDATZ: My son is 15. Not quite as talkative about it, as you might
imagine. I think kids have the most amazing coping mechanisms, and Jake had
always teased me. No matter what great things happened to me at work, he
wasn't going to give me any credit. He'd always just say, `Huh, so, you're
not the anchor, huh?' and we'd laugh. `So you're the White House
correspondent, huh? Too bad, you're not the anchor, huh?' So that morning,
when I told Jake about Bob--and remember, we had lost Peter Jennings, as well,
and--who Jake had met as well, and I told him about Bob, and he just looked at
me, he said, `You know what, Mom? I decided I don't think you should be an
anchor anymore.' And I thought it was so sweet, and it was his way of
thinking, `OK, if she's not an anchor, she won't get hurt. She won't die.'
And he talks about it. I mean, he's very sweetly gave me for my birthday this
year all these girly lotions and shampoos, which are very sweet. And he said,
on the card, `Hope this brightens your trips to Iraq.' So I...

GROSS: Are you going to take them to Iraq?

Ms. RADDATZ: Absolutely. It will brighten my trips to Iraq. So it was
great. But my kids have also--for the last two Christmas eves, we have gone
to Bethesda Naval Hospital because I am a huge advocate for a fund called the
Semper Fi Fund, which helps wounded Marines. And it is fantastic, and I've
been involved with that for years. And I, three years ago, went to visit
wounded Marines on Christmas eve and I didn't take my family, I didn't take my
kids because I didn't know whether it would be appropriate, first of all, and
whether--I don't want wounded Marines to think we're all coming to just stare
at them. But I could see they had their families around them, it was fine,
and so I brought them the last two years. I think it was very difficult for
my son, because there were some very serious injuries and I--as a friend of
mine said, `So, I guess your son won't be joining the Marine Corps, huh?'

But it's been a great experience, I think, for them, and it also lets them
know how much it means to me, so I know I want my children to grow up and find
a passion for themselves and find something that they want to do. They might
pay me back and scare me to death with whatever it is they're doing, but I
think we all have to let go. To me, I've raised my children to be independent
and happy and I will support them in ways they've supported me.

GROSS: Now, your husband Tom Gjelten is a long-time NPR reporter who has been
in many war zones, too, including Bosnia in the '90s, and he did some amazing
reporting from there.

Ms. RADDATZ: He sure did.

GROSS: Were you ever in war zones at the same time?

Ms. RADDATZ: Yes, yes. Yes, we were. We were in Bosnia and, in fact--I'm
trying to think what year this was. It was probably December of '94, and he
was in Sarajevo and I was in Tuzla, and we had a bunch of NPR people there.
And I know that night we--it was near Christmas and we got a--somehow
found--Tom somehow found a little Christmas tree, and I found, with Leo Del
Aguila, the engineer, a chicken. And somehow I made eggnog, as well. I don't
know what we had but we had some dinner. But not very often and very, very
briefly.

GROSS: Were you already married then, or a couple?

Ms. RADDATZ: We were not married and we were friends, and then we eventually
got married. And Tom is a wonderful, wonderful stepfather to my children and
they adore him. It's a wonderful--it's worked out wonderfully.

GROSS: So does that mean he understands when you're in a war zone, because
he's been there?

Ms. RADDATZ: He does. I can't say he loves it, and he gets mad at me when I
say that I know he's not thrilled about it. He said, `But I'm always
supportive.' Yes, he's always supportive. But who would be thrilled with
having your spouse over there? You just can't be thrilled. And he always
accuses me, which is exactly right, of not telling him what I'm going to do
until I get back, which is true. And I know on a couple of trips, it's like,
you're not really going anywhere on this trip and then I knew I was going to
Ramadi and didn't tell him. Because I don't like to talk about it before I
go, either. I just sometimes...

GROSS: Does it make you nervous to talk about it?

Ms. RADDATZ: Yeah. I mean, I just--I don't want to talk about it.
Basically what I don't like, is I don't like other people to be nervous. And
it was kind of cute, one Marine patrol I was out on--and there were rocket
mortar attacks, and the Marine said, `Oh, you probably shouldn't tell your
husband.' I said, `The problem is, I'm on TV. He's going to see it on TV. I
pretty much have to tell him everything.' So--and there was, the one trip, the
last time I went to Ramadi--actually, I went to Ramadi on this trip, too, sort
of unexpectedly, and I didn't have it on the air until I got back, so that was
good news. And you know, so you're safe and sound and back and that's good.

But there is always that--I mean, there's always--I remember this from Bosnia
and it was the first time I started thinking about the families and the people
who are in the war zones, and there was Defense Department official who was
killed on Mount Igman, and I didn't know him but I'd met him. But his family
lived in Washington, DC, and I remember thinking again, it's that thing about
the time difference. That you could have been through the most horrible day
or died or been hurt, and your family isn't even awake yet. And for some
reason that always struck me. I think it was in August of '94 and I was in
Washington, I wasn't in Bosnia at the time. And just thinking: They were
going out to breakfast, they were doing this, and their dad was dead and they
didn't know it. And I don't know why that has always haunted me, but it has.

And it's that--and maybe that's part of me as a journalist; I just want to
know everything when it's happening and I'd want to know every detail. Some
of these details, actually, that the women told me about their spouses in this
battl,e and would you want to know how he died, and would you want to know the
moment they--Gary Vileski unzipped the body bags to say goodbye to these men.
I'd want to know all of that. I think I'd want to know everything, but some
of them didn't. Some of them don't want to know the details. Some of them
want to know everything.

GROSS: Martha Raddatz, thank you so much for talking with us.

Ms. RADDATZ: Thank you.

GROSS: Martha Raddatz is the chief White House correspondent for ABC News.
Her new book about the battle in Sadr City is called "The Long Road Home."

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. died last night. He was an adviser to President
Kennedy. Coming up, an interview in which he talked about the Cuban missile
crisis. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive and
historian Arthur Schlesinger discuss the Cuban missile crisis in
light of declassified documents
TERRY GROSS, host:

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. died of a heart attack last night at the age
of 89. His New York Times obituary describes him as the historian whose more
than 20 books shaped discussions for two generations about America's past.
Schlesinger was the special adviser to President Kennedy and wrote a Pulitzer
Prize-winning book about Kennedy's presidency. I spoke with Schlesinger in
2002 on the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, which brought us to
the brink of nuclear war. The crisis began on October 16th, 1962, when
President Kennedy was informed that CIA aerial spy photos revealed Soviet
missiles had been secretly moved into Cuba, missiles with a far enough range
to strike the United States. For the next 13 days, we moved closer to
confrontation until the Soviets agreed to withdraw the missiles.

When I spoke with Schlesinger, I asked about recently declassified documents
pertaining to the Cuban missile crisis.

Arthur Schlesinger, you were advising President Kennedy during the Cuban
missile crisis. I'm going to ask you, if you could choose one of the
documents that was recently declassified and tell us if there is something
that you learned that even you didn't know at the time.

Mr. ARTHUR SCHLESINGER: I think the role of Cuba deserves a certain amount
of emphasis, particularly because the meeting took place in Havana, and Fidel
Castro was the only man. chief of state involved in the crisis who's still
around. Castro did not want to accept the missiles. He felt that this would
make Cuba a strategic target, it would complicate Cuba's relationship with
other countries in the western hemisphere. He would welcome Soviet troops; he
would even welcome membership in the Warsaw Pact, but he didn't want the
missiles. As Khrushchev put it in his own memoirs, `We argued and argued, and
finally Fidel gave in.'

Castro then proposed that the transaction be made public. There was no reason
under any international law why the Soviet Union should not send nuclear
missiles to Cuba. However, Khrushchev believed in secrecy. He sent
emissaries, sent messages, lying messages, denying that the Soviet Union was
sending offensive missiles, offensive arms to Cuba, and the stealth and deceit
which accompanied the Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba gave a moral
advantage to the United States.

GROSS: Did you not realize at the time of the Cuban missile crisis that Cuba
didn't want those missiles?

Mr. SCHLESINGER: We did not realize that. We assumed that Castro welcomed
the missiles as a means of deterring a US invasion. This recent conference
brought--gave much greater emphasis than the previous conference and the
previous understanding to the real tension, the friction between Cuba and the
Soviet Union. In fact, Castro seemed madder at Khrushchev than he seemed mad
at Kennedy. Having accepted the missiles on the terms of socialist
solidarity, he was appalled that Khrushchev had neglected to inform him of the
withdrawal of the missiles. Castro himself heard that over the radio, and
having made this great sacrifice because of the Russian avowals of the
solidarity of the socialist bloc, the solidarity did not extend to
consultation or even notification of the withdrawal of the missiles. He was
furious.

GROSS: How afraid were you during the Cuban missile crisis? And I'm
wondering if you and other members of the Kennedy administration were telling
their families to leave town. Were you telling your families at all anything
that was happening behind the scenes? Were you sharing your fears once you
realized how frightening the scenario was?

Mr. SCHLESINGER: We were receiving evacuation notices, those members of the
White House staff, for example. But I think the general feeling was expressed
by Robert Kennedy when he said that he was damned if he was going to abandon
his wife and children, and that he would confront any crisis with his family.
I think that's the way most of us felt.

GROSS: So you were being advised to evacuate Washington and leave your
families behind?

Mr. SCHLESINGER: No. In case of war, we had evacuation instructions, where
to go...

GROSS: To go to a safe place so that you could keep planning?

Mr. SCHLESINGER: Yes. As they now say, a `safe, undisclosed location.'

GROSS: Right. How close do you think we came to nuclear war? And is there
one thing that you could put your finger on that you would isolate as having
averted nuclear war?

Mr. SCHLESINGER: I think the one thing that averted nuclear war was the
understanding on the part of Khrushchev that he would lose the war. He was
not a leader. He was a gambler, a plunger, but he didn't want to commit
suicide. So I think, looking back, he was bound to withdraw the missiles. We
did not know at the time how clearly he saw the situation. But I think the
great fear on Kennedy's part, and probably on Khrushchev's part, too, also,
was not that either country, either of these great powers, would deliberately
initiate nuclear war, but it was that something would go badly wrong down the
line somewhere, the "Dr. Strangelove" situation where the crazy general
decided on his own to launch a missile and so on. It was that--the issues of
command and control were very much in Kennedy's mind and in Secretary of
Defense Robert McNamara's mind, too.

GROSS: Arthur Schlesinger, recorded in 2002 on the 40th anniversary of the
Cuban missile crisis. He died yesterday at the age of 89.

If you want to catch up on things you miss on FRESH AIR, you can now download
podcasts of our shows on our Web site, freshair.npr.org.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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