Lara Logan On Bill O'Reilly: It's So Ridiculous. ..you Shouldn't Have To Stoop To Address Those Kinds Of Issues.

laralogan-cnn.jpg Lara broke a horrifying story this week on CBS about the nightmare some Iraqi children in an orphanage faced. "Iraqi Orphanage Nightmare." Abu Ghraib came to my mind....She was on CNN's Reliable Sources and talked about the troubles she had trying to get this story cleared within our military and the Iraqi government. I'm sure the Bill Kristol's of the world would say that this is "just an unfortunate incident."

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She also responded to Bill O'Reilly's argument about why he doesn't cover the Iraq war all that much...

LOGAN: Well, I mean, with all due respect to Bill O'Reilly or anyone who takes that line, I mean, I just -- it's ridiculous. It's completely and utterly ludicrous. And how can you -- the media's job is not to serve one side or the other. That's never been our job. We're there to be the watchdog for all sides.

So it's not up to us to say, oh, you know, it doesn't -- it doesn't do well for the war effort if you show how many people are being killed, so we're not going to show it. I mean, what are we talking about? That's not even journalism.

It's so ridiculous. I actually don't think that I should -- I mean, you shouldn't have to stoop to address those kinds of issues.

And also, I mean, where are all of these people who think that we're helping the terrorists' cause? I mean, what about the fact that this is the reality, that these bombings are still taking place, that in spite of the surge, and people are still dying in Iraq, that huge numbers of American soldiers are dying over here? I mean, now we're in the game of hiding, only telling what some people want to hear? That's not what we do.

iraqi-orphans.jpg (graphic via CBS....full transcript via CNN below the fold)

KURTZ: The bad news out of Iraq has been pretty relentless, as anyone with a television set knows. But this week there was a story that reminded us, whatever your feelings about the war, that American forces can accomplish some positive things in this bloody conflict. The circumstances though were just horrifying.

CBS's Lara Logan reported on a military unit that made a gruesome discovery in a building in central Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARA LOGAN, CBS CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Inside the building, a government-run orphanage for special needs children, they found more emaciated little bodies tied to their cribs, kept this way for more than a month, according to the soldiers called in to rescue the 24 boys.

STAFF SGT. MICHAEL BEALE, U.S. ARMY: I saw children that you could see literally every bone in their body, they were so skinny, had no energy to move whatsoever, no expression on their face.

LT. STEPHEN DUPERRE, U.S. ARMY: Kids were tied up, naked, covered in their own...

LOGAN (on camera): Feces?

DUPERRE: ... waste, feces. And there were just three people that were cooking themselves food, but not for the kids.

LOGAN: In the kitchen?

DUPERRE: Yes, ma'am.

LOGAN: With all these kids starving around them?

DUPERRE: That's correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And joining us now from Baghdad to talk about the story and coverage of the war is CBS's chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan.

You've seen a lot of war and devastation on your beat. What was your gut reaction personally when seeing the pictures of these young boys?

LOGAN: It was hard to believe. I mean, nobody can look at those pictures and not be absolutely shocked to the core. And I think that that's one of the big problems with this story, because the Iraqis who were there that night, the soldiers who were there and saw how these boys were kept, they understand just how evil it was, what was done to them.

But what you're hearing from the Iraqi government and even from some American officials is that, oh, there was no electricity, that's how it happened, and they were tied up for their own good. And, you know, they're special needs children, they don't -- they are disabled, so they would have been dead otherwise if they hadn't been in this place. And my feeling is, if anyone who can say anything like that hasn't looked at those pictures and hasn't seen those children and doesn't want to see those children -- because to take that kind of line when you know what was done to these boys, I think it's criminal.

KURTZ: How did you get on to this story? Was it an effort by the U.S.

military to generate some good news for a change for the American side?

LOGAN: Now, Howie, you cover the media, so you know that no good journalist discloses their sources. I can't tell you how I came upon the story, but what I can tell you is that it was not an attempt by the U.S. military.

In fact, what you will be interested to know about is how difficult it was for me to tell this story, which the soldiers themselves thought the media was deliberately hiding it. What they didn't know was that the Army hadn't told anyone about this for a week. And I found out through my own private means, and when I did, I went to the military.

I was given a lot of support from the unit, a lot of support from the division. But as it started to go higher up the ranks, to the more political thinkers on the American side, I hit a wall. And I was told that I needed Iraqi government permission from the Ministry of Labor to do this story, because they said the Iraqis had the lead.

That's one of their favorite sayings over here, is the Iraqis have the lead on this. And my response to that was, why do I need permission from the Iraqi government to speak to American soldiers?

And I was told because, you know, the Iraqis were the ones who saved these boys. And I said, "Well, that's very interesting, because I am looking at photographs of American soldiers carrying emaciated boys, and I don't see any Iraqi soldiers in these pictures."

And there was a silence on the end of the phone by someone who was actually trying to help me. And they said, "OK, we'll come back to you." And actually, it's only because I had a two-hour meeting with a top general in this country who gave me his full approval. That was how I broke through the wall and managed to get to do the story.

KURTZ: Boy, it's fascinating that they actually would throw roadblocks in your path.

Now, as you know, in the middle of the week the Iraqi labor minister put out a statement and said, "We totally reject the tricks they use to manipulate and distort facts and show the Americans as the humanitarian party. That could not be further from the truth. Is it just propaganda for their alleged kindness?"

What did you make of that response by the Iraqi government?

LOGAN: You mean besides blind rage on my part when I heard those words?

KURTZ: Right.

LOGAN: That -- I mean, it really -- that was how we all felt, because to say something like that, to make this political, to make this more about politics and about staying in power, and self-justification than about these boys, as I said to you before, I think that's criminal. And it's not only deceitful, it's completely and utterly untrue.

And I don't know how -- I mean, Prime Minister Maliki ordered all the people involved in this incident at the orphanage to be arrested. And yet, the minister of labor stood at that press conference where he made those remarks and had the manager of the orphanage next to him, standing there to publicly defend and justify his actions.

I mean, so that demonstrates to me not only that Prime Minister Maliki either doesn't have control or is not exercising control, and that the ministry -- the minister of labor is, I mean, he's dishonest and he shouldn't be allowed to do this. I mean, but this ministry is what you call a Sadrite ministry connected to Muqtada al-Sadr and Jaish al-Mahdi, and it seems like they are able to do their own thing. And they will try and justify this any way they can.

KURTZ: Right.

Let's talk about the broader issue of war coverage. FOX's Bill O'Reilly says that the other networks -- he did not mention CBS -- are constantly showing bombings and suicide attacks and other violence in Iraq to undermine President Bush, and that this is giving the terrorist what they want.

What's your reaction to that kind of criticism? I know you wrestle with how much violence to show in your regular reports.

LOGAN: Well, I mean, with all due respect to Bill O'Reilly or anyone who takes that line, I mean, I just -- it's ridiculous. It's completely and utterly ludicrous. And how can you -- the media's job is not to serve one side or the other. That's never been our job. We're there to be the watchdog for all sides.

So it's not up to us to say, oh, you know, it doesn't -- it doesn't do well for the war effort if you show how many people are being killed, so we're not going to show it. I mean, what are we talking about? That's not even journalism.

It's so ridiculous. I actually don't think that I should -- I mean, you shouldn't have to stoop to address those kinds of issues.

And also, I mean, where are all of these people who think that we're helping the terrorists' cause? I mean, what about the fact that this is the reality, that these bombings are still taking place, that in spite of the surge, and people are still dying in Iraq, that huge numbers of American soldiers are dying over here? I mean, now we're in the game of hiding, only telling what some people want to hear? That's not what we do.

KURTZ: All right. Got about half a minute.

You reported on Friday that some Iraqi politicians are plotting to topple Prime Minister Maliki through a vote of no confidence. Why haven't we heard more about that story from other news organizations?

LOGAN: You know, I really don't know. I can't speak to other news organizations. I mean, that was an exclusive story, getting those people to speak to us and speak to us on camera, and to talk about this.

I know that other reporters are following it and investigating it, but nobody wants to just report what other people are reporting unless -- and this is complicated. You know, there are rumors all the time over here about different parties forming together to topple the government, but this was much more than rumors.

This is something concrete. And Prime Minister Maliki is now trying to counter that with another movement. But these are difficult stories to tell.

And what people often don't appreciate about serious journalists is that it takes a lot of time and reporting and hard work to be absolutely sure before you go into print or before you go on air.

KURTZ: Right.

LOGAN: And I think that's what some of my colleagues might be doing at this time.

KURTZ: All right. Well you had them on camera. A fascinating story.

Lara Logan, thanks very much for joining us from Baghdad. And please, stay safe


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