BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Molly Moore of the Washington Post, in your book, you write that, "The deeper I dug into the war, the angrier I became at how the politicians in the military had duped the media and the public." Do you feel that all through the whole war experience?
MOLLY MOORE Through very much of it. The military really manipulated the media in this war. I mean, they had a leash around our neck. They controlled everything we saw and did. And in the ground war, they controlled much of what we wrote because they had the right to censor what was in our copy as it came off the battlefield.
LAMB: Give us an example or maybe the biggest example you can remember where you were with -- you couldn't write what you wanted to write.
MOORE: Well, part of the problem from day one out there, when we landed in Saudi Arabia, was getting out to see what was really going on. The military totally controlled where you could go in the desert. It wasn't as though you could jump in your Jeep and drive around and go out to a command post on your own. You were really at their mercy.
And I was actually more fortunate than most of the reporters. I had covered the military for five years, knew many of the commanders and the public affairs officials and got around some of the restrictions. But during the ground war, there were many of my colleagues that just had absolutely horrendous experiences. The USA Today reporter, for instance, spent weeks living with his unit out in the desert and then during the ground war was writing furiously every day of the four to five-day ground war and thought that his copy was getting back to Dhahran, and at the end of the war, he went back to the Army headquarters and they handed him his stack of stories and said, "Here, you can take them back when you go."
Now my situation -- I was on the battlefield with Lieutenant General Walt Boomer, who was commander of the Marine Corps. About four days before the ground war, he sent me a fax from the front lines saying, "I'd like to invite you to come watch the war with me." And I thought this was probably about the most extraordinary invitation anybody could get. He invited five other reporters, all of whom turned him down because they didn't want to spend the war in some general's command post. They wanted to be out on the front lines. Well, this general, of course, turned out to be somewhat of a kamikaze general and, a few hours after the war began, leaped into a mobile convoy with his headquarters staff, threw me in a Chevy Blazer with his satellite, and we took off for the war front.
And so I had this extraordinary window on the war. And the frustrating thing about it, though, and one of the main reasons that I wrote "A Woman at War" was so little of what I saw and wrote ever made it off the battlefield and got back to the Washington Post because the war moved so fast, the communications were so terrible. There were just, you know, problem after problem out on the battlefield of actually filing your stories.
LAMB: Where did you get that picture?
MOORE: This picture was taken by Larry Downing. He was on one of the media pools. And just one day, we were standing out talking to some troops with the 24th Infantry Division and he was snapping pictures of us.
LAMB: How about the picture in the background?
MOORE: This is one of the troops out in the desert -- taken during a sunrise as the troops are moving across the desert. And this is not your John Wayne Western desert. This is a desert where there's not so much as a cactus or a tree out there. It's just a wide, flat, open desert.
LAMB: We're in the middle of 1993. Remind us when all this happened? And what time period were you over there?
MOORE: I went in August of 1991, just a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. And, as people may recall, it was very difficult for reporters to get into Saudi Arabia. Even in the best of times, the Saudis don't let reporters in. And Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney went on a mission to try to get these Arab countries to allow the US military to put aircraft on their soil and ships in their ports. And much like when the president travels, he takes the Pentagon press corps with him when he travels. And I went with him and discovered the day before I got on the plane that I had a visa to stay in Saudi Arabia 30 days, not just the four days of the Cheney trip. So I got off the plane and didn't come back to the U.S. at the end of his trip.
LAMB: How did you go about writing the book? What's in it for somebody that has no idea of what they're about to read?
MOORE: Well, I think that this book, hopefully, gives people a window on the war that they didn't see. I came back from the war and it seemed to me that the American people believe that this was a very quick and easy war. It was antiseptic. It was surgical. You saw the missiles coming through the front doors of the warehouses, hitting everything just perfectly. And the war I saw was nothing like that. The ground war that I saw was chaotic. There were miscalculations. There were mistakes. There was one day where General Boomer, during the toughest day of fighting, couldn't communicate all day with one of his senior commanders because of communications problems. There were friendly-fire incidents. It's amazing there weren't even more than those we all knew about at the time and heard about after the war
And I want to give people in "A Woman at War" a view of the nitty-gritty side of the war that people didn't see on TV and they didn't see in the newspapers because, at the time, we couldn't get a lot of this out. And I also wanted to give people kind of a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on in war. I mean, no reporter that I know of has ever had the kind of access that I was lucky enough to have with this general. I mean, I was going through the course of the four-day ground war with him, living in his tent with his chief operations officer, listening to his conversations back to Riyadh with General Schwarzkopf -- just a view that I was so fortunate to see, I thought it would be a shame to lose it.
LAMB: The only thing that I think may have been out of sequence is the first chapter. You start off with the chapter that on page 12 we learn that you slept in the same tent with the general, and that was on February the 25th, 1991. How come you led with that?
MOORE: Well, the book is an adventure story. Even if you don't care anything about the Persian Gulf War -- that was two years ago, so you don't care anything about it -- this is an adventure story about the human side of war and the fears, the anxieties, what's going on in the commander's head, what's going on in the journalist's head, what's going on in the minds of these young men who think they're going to die when they cross the border. And I began the book with a flashback to the first night that I'm on the battlefield, and we are going through the mine fields, it's pitch-dark, the oil wells are burning, sending up these vast purple, dark clouds of smoke over the entire battlefield and we end up trapped in a mine field.
We're listening to the radios and we're listening to the men on the radio saying, you know, "There are armed Iraqis on your left, machine guns on your right." We were surrounded by Iraqis, didn't know whether they were going to surrender to us or try to take us prisoner or start shooting at us. So for four hours, we're immobilized in the darkness in the middle of this mine field, and the commander of the Marine forces is commanding the war from this extraordinary situation. And I thought that it would provide a good opener to hook people on the type of scenes they would be seeing in the book as it went along.
LAMB: Has anybody in your tour asked you about sleeping in the tent with the general?
MOORE: Oh, everyone, of course. Now sleeping was a little bit of a misnomer because, of course, you're in the middle of a war -- and, in fact, one night as we're sitting there, we hear artillery -- the Americans firing over us at the Iraqis in front of us, the Iraqis firing over us at the Americans behind us. And we're sitting there, saying, "You know, God, don't let these shells fall short and land on us." All night long, General Boomer and his operations chief, Colonel Bill Steed, were working the radios. There were constant foul-ups on the battlefield. There were allied troops crossing into other allied troops' territories. So they were constantly trying to untangle these traffic jams on the battlefield so you wouldn't have these friendly-fire incidents.
There was one night -- the last night, ostensibly, of the war -- when the Marines had surrounded Kuwait City and were preparing for the Arab forces to go in, and all day long, General Schwarzkopf had been telling General Boomer, "You know, don't let those Marines in Kuwait City. We want the Arab forces going in first. And tomorrow morning at dawn, the Army Special Forces teams are going to come in and essentially land at the US Embassy, raise the American flag."
Well, during the course of the night, some Marines snuck into Kuwait City, captured the embassy and put up the American flag. And Schwarzkopf was livid. Boomer was getting these calls from Riyadh, screaming at him for letting the Marines in the city, and Boomer would, you know, hang up his field telephone and just kind of chuckle and say, "Well, I have to admit I'm pretty proud of them for doing it. I can't get mad at them," despite how angry Schwarzkopf was at him.
LAMB: What was the relationship between Walter Boomer -- the Marine general -- and General Schwarzkopf?
MOORE: The relationship between the commanders during the war was quite good. I mean, they were all in this together. However, Schwarzkopf had a very different side to him than people saw in the press conference view of General Schwarzkopf. I mean, he would chew out a general as though he were a lance corporal. He was an absolute tyrant to work for. And there were several cases during the ground war when he became rather angry at General Boomer. One was the fact that Boomer had me out there covering the war with him. The first day of the war, there was a news blackout for several hours. We were filing our stories. Boomer came to the place where I was working -- in his command post -- one hour after the war started to give me the official quotes for the story -- get the story out within two hours after the ground war actually started.
I filed four or five stories and none of them went anywhere except to General Schwarzkopf's desk because he wanted to see what the tenor of the stories were before he allowed them to be released. And at one point, I describe in "A Woman at War" General Boomer comes into his operations center where I was being briefed on the battles that were going on, he says, "I've been muzzled." And Schwarzkopf had called him and said, "You know, I don't want to see my generals being quoted in these stories on the war this early. You know, keep your name out of these stories."
There was another incident the night that the Marines had surrounded Kuwait City. General Boomer got a call on the radio from General Schwarzkopf, saying, "What are all these reporters doing in Kuwait City?" as, you know, your viewers may recall, Dan Rather was there and other reporters had snuck into Kuwait City to be there for deliberation. And Schwarzkopf was furious. And Boomer said, "Well, they're there because I told my men to let them in." He said, "I thought it was in the best interest of our relationship with the media to let them be there to cover the liberation of Kuwait City."
But one of the most extraordinary incidents -- and I didn't learn about this, in fact, until after the war in my research for "A Woman at War" -- was that General Schwarzkopf one day during one of the Scud attacks is down sleeping on his cot in the basement of the headquarters in Riyadh. He gets up. He hates these Scud attacks and these Scud warnings. You know, he thinks the Scuds are not going to hit the building where he is. He gets up. He flips on CNN. And he sees a tape of a slammed missile -- it's the first time this missile's ever been used in real combat -- and it was a picture-perfect hit, and there had been a news pool out on one of the Navy ships that caught this on film and put it out on the pool reports for all the television stations to use. And Schwarzkopf saw this and was absolutely livid.
He called the commander of the Joint Information Bureau, the public affairs office in Dhahran. The guy -- Colonel Bill Mulvey -- was in the basement of the hotel in the middle of his own Scud attack in his full chemical gear with Schwarzkopf screaming at him, saying, "You know, pack your bags and be in Riyadh tomorrow morning." Schwarzkopf was just absolutely furious. This colonel thought he'd been fired. In fact, it took the intervention of Dick Cheney and Colin Powell to calm Schwarzkopf down on this. And he later learned the reason Schwarzkopf was so angry is that he had wanted to use that film in his own press conference the next afternoon and had been scooped by his own public affairs people in his mind.
LAMB: What did you think of the way -- -- I know that in the footnotes you've got in the back that you'd say that General Schwarzkopf was not available to you after this war was over. How come?
MOORE: Right. He had an agreement with his publishing company that he would not talk to any other reporters or authors for their books because of the contract he had on his book. So it impeded somewhat what we could do to get his side of some of these stories because he was refusing to talk to us.
LAMB: What'd you think of that?
MOORE: Well, I can see -- you know, his publishing company paid a lot of money for his book. And they, I'm sure, didn't want him giving all the good stuff away before it appeared in the book. But the constraints were so severe that even if you went to a speech that General Schwarzkopf was giving, you couldn't take in a tape recorder to record any of it. I mean, they wanted all of this in his memoirs when they came out. But it made it very difficult for those of us who wanted to be very historically accurate on everything that we were putting in our books, and we, to make up for it, you just talked to as many people around him as you could.
LAMB: What do you think the idea of -- for that matter, you, a reporter for a newspaper making money off a book after war, but a general who is a public servant doing this kind of thing after a war? Is there anything wrong with that?
MOORE: I don't think so. He was retired from the military. There was a lot of controversy not about the money he made from the book, but the money he was making from speaking engagements. You know, there were incidents, I was told, of someone who wanted him to be a speaker in Brussels, and Schwarzkopf didn't want to do it for any less than $60,000. And this organization couldn't pay that kind of money. So there were a lot of people in the military that didn't think what he was doing was right. Frankly, I think probably a lot of it was jealousy. I mean, anybody would like to find fame and fortune like he did, and very few of them did. But it certainly raised quite a few questions. He couldn't have done it had he still been in uniform, but because he was retired, he can do it.
LAMB: I want to ask you -- and I don't want to overdo this sleeping in the same tent with the general thing, but I do want to ask you about that. Did your publishers say to you, "You've got to put that up front in order to get people's attention'?
MOORE: Not really. It was clear to me that it was interesting, that this reporter was inside this general's tent, listening to everything that was going on at the time and ...
LAMB: There's another aide in there with you, though -- his aide.
MOORE: Right, sure. Colonel Bill Steed, the operations chief. And as I said, the tent was more a shelter from these horrendous sandstorms, the cold, the rain, everything else, as opposed to a place to sleep. I mean, the most you were doing was taking off your flak jacket when you went in there. But the first night I was there, I was extraordinarily uncomfortable because the entire time I was in Saudi Arabia, every time I went out to the field, I made a point of not letting them treat me differently because I was a reporter or because I was a woman. You know, their tendency was always to give you the best tent, to give you a cot when nobody else had a cot. And I always said, "No, I'll sleep where the troops sleep. I'll eat what they eat."
So the first night we were on the road, the wagon master of Boomer's convoy stands up and says, "Well, men, you're going to have to sleep under your Jeeps. You didn't bring tents." And he looks at me and he says, "Well, ma'am, we really can't make you sleep under the Jeep. You know, we're going to have you in General Boomer and Colonel Steed's tent." And my first inclination was, "No, no, no. No, put me out there with the troops. You know, I don't want this special treatment." Then a split second later, I thought, "You know, you're crazy. This is an extraordinary window. Nobody gets this kind of access to a commanding general while he's fighting the war." But at the same time, the first night as I enter the tent, I think, "You know, my God, what am I going to talk to these guys about? They have the lives of 40,000 men and women on their shoulders." And I didn't want to do anything to disrupt them from their job or to distract them from their job.
But the first night was very extraordinary because General Boomer opened up, and it was just this floodgate of emotion, talking about his fears and anxieties over the past months -- I mean, things that he couldn't even talk about to his commanders because he didn't want this sense of fear and anxiety to rub off on them. And it was just -- you were getting inside his head.
LAMB: What were the ground rules?
MOORE: The ground rules then -- because the war was still going on, and no one knew how quickly the war would move -- he, of course, could read all my copy before it went out. But I had been covering the situation long enough and had been covering the military long enough where you develop a sixth sense of what should be in the story and what should not be in the story. I mean, unlike the American public who thinks reporters are about as sleazy as politicians and used car salesmen, we did impose a lot of self-censorship on what we were doing. And that night, he was telling me the war plan -- very explicit details of the war plan for the next day. And I could not report that ahead of time. In other words, you couldn't report when everybody kept hearing future operations. But that's something I knew. I mean, he didn't even really need to verbalize that.
But that was really the only ground rules. And, of course, during the ground war, you're in the middle of the war and the newspaper is most interested in what's going on now. At that point, they're not real interested in this general's ruminations of his personal feelings and that sort of thing. I did do very in-depth stories on that after the war was over for the Washington Post.
LAMB: How did you capture that when you're there in your sleeping bag in the middle of this tent, in the middle of the night -- how do you get the quotes accurately?
MOORE: I had a tape recorder with me and also had a notebook. I'm scribbling furiously, but much of the war, and what ended up being very beneficial for the book is I had a little tape recorder with me. For example, the night that we were trapped in the mine field -- it's pitch black. You can't see to write a note anywhere. I just turned on the tape recorder, and in doing the research for the book, I just listened to hours and hours and hours of these tapes and could reconstruct entire conversations verbatim.
Now, the other thing that was extraordinarily helpful in doing the research for "A Woman at War" was General Boomer did something that I think probably has never been done before. In every one of his war planning meetings, which he had -- every morning, he had a staff meeting from August through April, past the end of the war, he had a court stenographer in his staff meeting that recorded word for word everything that was said. And after the war, I got these tapes. They were on 12 computer disks. It was just a phenomenal amount of information. And I spent weeks doing nothing but reading all of these war meetings. And that helped you get inside the head of these guys, too. And some of them were very extraordinary. They were candid.
There was one war planning meeting in November when General Boomer called in all of his generals and they were trying to decide how they were going to attack into Kuwait. And there was a big debate on should there be an amphibious attack. And several of the generals were saying there: "Well, if we don't have an amphibious attack, we're out of a job because Congress is going to say, 'Why do we need a Marine Corps?'" And I thought that was just an extraordinary insight on the politics of how some of these decisions were made.
Now in the end, the decision was made not to do an amphibious attack because it would be considered too dangerous; too many people would lose their lives. General Schwarzkopf really didn't want to do an amphibious attack. And in the end, General Boomer had wanted to do one, not so much for the politics, but because he felt he was going to need those 17,000 troops who were offshore because he was going against incredible odds in Iraq and was afraid that there were no reserve units. He was pushing all of his men through those minefields and on to the battlefield, and had something happened, he had no reserve to come up behind them and fill in if they were all slaughtered.
LAMB: Where's General Boomer today?
MOORE: He is assistant commandant of the Marine Corps -- the number two man in the Marine Corps.
LAMB: You mention in the book that when you got back to Washington, you had a number of dinners with him to talk about what went on over there in the war. Has he seen this book?
MOORE: He has, and the notation to the dinners were the last day I was out there, I left, and, of course, I was thanking General Boomer for this fantastic window on the war. And I said, "You know, we've been eating MREs and peanut butter for three or four days and haven't ..."
LAMB: What's an MRE?
MOORE: Meals Ready to Eat -- these are the prepackaged military meals that taste kind of like Styrofoam and everybody's sick and they're gagging and coughing. And as I leave in his command post, I said, "You know, you come to Washington, I'll buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice." Well, as it turned out, in the research for this book, I spent hours and hours not only interviewing General Boomer, but many of his other generals. And the other group of characters in "A Woman at War" is Lieutenant William Delaney, who was on one of the very first tanks that went into Kuwait. And these young men spent just dozens and dozens of hours recounting for me minute by minute their feelings, their emotions as they were going through the battlefield. And, of course, this was a situation where you couldn't interview these young men during the war. They were inside their tanks and I was on a different area of the battlefield anyway.
But the cooperation I got from these people was very extraordinary. And Lieutenant Delaney -- instead of keeping a journal out there, because he was afraid that all of his men would, you know, sneak into his corner of the tank and read his journal -- wrote these extraordinary letters back to his father, chronicling his fears and anxieties as he went through the war. I mean, in one letter, he went so far as to tell his father where he wanted to be buried -- he wanted to be buried at Arlington Cemetery in a very simple ceremony -- who his father should give away his possessions to. I mean, these were sort of not the macho, let's-go-kill-Saddam-Hussein men that you saw on TV a lot of times in the interviews and the quick sound bites. Many of them thought they would never come out of this alive.
LAMB: Tell us more about the William Delaney scenario. His father lives where?
MOORE: His father lives in Montgomery County, Maryland.
LAMB: Right here in the Washington area.
MOORE: Right here in Washington, DC, area. It was interesting. He was raised, as he described himself, a man of privilege. He went to St. Albans, an elite boys school, and he chose to join the military and ...
LAMB: You're talking about the son.
MOORE: The young Bill Delaney. Now his father was very opposed to his son joining the military. His father was against this war and frequently wrote his son that he was against the war, which upset the son -- getting these letters. But Lieutenant Delaney made the point to his father in some of the letters that the U.S. military is a bit unfair. He was a man of privilege and he chose to join the military. He made the point that most of the men working under him had no choice. They came from the South, they came from the ghettos. Their choice was, you know, working in a fast-food joint or working at a gas station or going in the military.
And he thought that this was very unfair, that the military should draw more from all strata of society. And his fear was that if these young men went out there and got killed, they'd be remembered by no one but their families.
LAMB: The father lives here in the Washington suburbs. The first or so letters ended up in The Washington Post, from the son?
MOORE: Right. What happened is that the father -- after he started receiving these extraordinary letters, and, I mean, they're just beautifully written -- I quote at length from many of them in "A Woman at War." And his father was just moved to tears by many of these letters. And he sent them to Mary McGrory, the columnist at The Washington Post. And she thought they were extraordinary. And she brought them over to the national desk and gave them to the military reporters who were here. And a story was written in The Washington Post Style section quoting from some of these letters. And on my computer out in Saudi Arabia, I could electronically call up The Washington Post and saw these and said, "You know, I've got to find this kid." And as soon as the war was over, went on a search and, in fact, found him. His commander drug him off a barge where he was covered with grease and grime, hadn't had a shower in three months. They were bringing their tanks back to the port to come back to the US. And his men just had extraordinary ability to recall things that had happened to them, it was so vivid in their memories.
There's one incident -- one of the things that just terrified them the most was gas. They all said, "You know, we can tell where the bullets and the artillery are coming from, but we don't know where the gas is coming from." And one of the most terrifying moments for them during the war was when they had to do something which the military called selective unmasking. And this is when you got a gas attack; the warning would go up, "Gas, gas, gas." You'd hear it on the radios and everybody knew this is it, this is serious, a potential gas attack. Everybody would get in their chemical gear.
Well, the military had little hand-held machines that troops would go out and monitor the air to see if, in fact, there really were gas or poisonous particles. And they would go out, and if the machines came back clean, said there's no chemical out there, they would choose one unit -- one tank to take off their mask to see if, in fact, it was safe. And if it was safe, then everybody else could take off their mask. Well, there were one of Lieutenant Delaney's tanks one night that got picked to be the tank to unmask. And they were terrified. They didn't want to take off their mask. Finally, one of the young men got up the courage, ripped off his mask and he gets all the symptoms of gas poisoning. I mean, he feels his chest constricting, his nose is running, his arm is itching, his eyes are running. He thinks he's going to die. He looks up and he sees a fly buzzing around the tank and realizes that, no, he's not going to die, that, in fact, the air's clean and everyone else can take off their masks. But these were very terrifying moments for these young men.
LAMB: Go back again to Bill Delaney's letters. His father gave them to Mary McGrory. They were published in The Washington Post. Did the word get back to Saudi Arabia that these letters were published, and did that have any negative impact on him?
MOORE: Well, as it turned out, the letters were published the day before the ground war. And so, of course, everyone was then very absorbed in what was going on in the ground war. And Lieutenant Delaney was very concerned when he heard that his father had given these letters to The Post because he didn't know it and he didn't know a story was being written about him. And he was very critical in some of the letters of some of his commanders, especially the commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, who was Al Gray. And he was afraid that this would cause him a lot of trouble. In the end, of course, it didn't.
LAMB: Why didn't it cause him any trouble, and do you think it should have?
MOORE: Well, I think it didn't cause him any trouble because he portrayed the epitome of what the Marine Corps wanted in a young leader. I mean, here was a guy who was just, you know, not some kid who couldn't cut it anywhere else, and that's why he joined the military, unthinking, just wanted to go out and kill everything in his path. I mean, this was a very thoughtful, intelligent young guy. And it was obvious from the letters that he wrote and that were quoted in The Post and that are quoted in "A Woman at War" that he had this deep, deep concern for these men. I mean, at one point, he almost feels like they're his children. And he was very concerned going into war, would he lose any of these men that he had trained and that he was taking into battle? He felt personally responsible for their lives. So when you looked at these minor details of criticism and the overall picture that was painted of this young commander, it was a perfect advertisement for the Marine Corps.
LAMB: Where is he today?
MOORE: He got a job coming out working on the Military Commission on Women in the Military, because one of his commanders, in fact, who I had introduced him to out there, General Tom Draude, who was public affairs director of the Marine Corps, came back and was a member of the commission. And your viewers may recall, this is a general who gave some extraordinary quotes when the commission made its ruling. He has a daughter who now because of the combat exclusion laws on cockpits have been lifted, will probably be one of the first women fighter pilots in the Marine Corps. And he talked at length about the profound effect her career had on changing his mind about the role women should have in the military.
Now he had the nickname -- Sage was his call sign out -- during the Persian Gulf War because he was considered one of the wiser generals. He had sort of the demeanor of a quiet, wizened professor. And before he led his Headquarters unit into combat, he pulled out a copy of "Henry V" and read from it some of the passages of going into war. I mean, some of the names of these people -- it was almost as though you had characters out of Hollywood. One of my favorites was General William Keys, who was commander of the 2nd Marine Division. And his nickname was Pit Bull because he had pet pit bulls and he carried a picture of one of them in his wallet throughout the war. There was one general called Cyclops because he had a glass eye. The general who was in charge of the 1st Marine Division's nickname was Cobra. His men nicknamed him that because he had this habit of jerking his head like a cobra snake when he would get mad at someone.
LAMB: What are you doing now?
MOORE: I am the South Asia bureau chief for The Washington Post. My husband and I are a spousal bureau. We both work for The Washington Post, covering South Asia, and we've had a few wars since the Persian Gulf War -- wars that are not getting much notice now, but are every bit as brutal -- as the war in the former Yugoslavia; in Afghanistan, where there is still a bitter war going on; in Kashmir, in northern India where Indian forces are involved in a war with their own people, a war between India and Pakistan on the Siachen Glacier, the highest war in the world. They're fighting at 20,000 feet. So it's a region where there is a lot going on. And I've been able to use a lot of the experience I had in the Persian Gulf to carry over to this region of the world.
LAMB: Where do you live?
MOORE: I live in New Delhi, India, where it's about 112 degrees today, and the air conditioning is not working. It's a very tough existence. It's a very unlivable city, but the stories are extraordinary and make up for it.
LAMB: You mention in the middle of the book, at one point, while you're over there in the middle of this war your husband-to-be is skiing somewhere.
MOORE: Right. He was skiing in a condo in Wyoming that I had, in fact, rented for our group of friends that go skiing every year. He was covering Virginia politics in Richmond, Virginia -- the Virginia General Assembly -- throughout much of the war. And ...
LAMB: For what publication?
MOORE: For The Washington Post -- and was very frustrated that here I was out covering the war and he was covering politics. And then after the war was over -- we had to postpone our wedding because of the war. We had planned to get married, but didn't know how long the war was going to go on and how long I was going to be in Saudi Arabia. And I ended up postponing it for about six months directly as a result of the war, as many of the troops out there had their lives totally disrupted and had to postpone plans.
LAMB: You say in the book that you were a tomboy when you were growing up.
MOORE: Right. Which I think led to my interest in the military. I never had pictured myself as a military reporter. I was the first woman to cover the military for The Washington Post. And when I started covering the Pentagon in 1986, there were only two women reporters covering for major organizations -- myself and Melissa Healy, for the Los Angeles Times. When I left, there were three of us and then brought it back down to two -- Susanne Schafer was there along with the Associated Press, along with Melissa.
So it's still a press corps that's very much male-dominated. And hopefully we'll see some changes in the next few years because now there are quite a few women military reporters working for many of the trade journals who chronicle the defense industry and the military. And I think over the next few years we'll see many of those women moving up into the daily news organizations, television and the major media around the country.
LAMB: Where'd you grow up?
MOORE: I grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is in southwest Louisiana.
LAMB: What was the family like?
MOORE: Well, I got in the newspaper business very early. I started when I was 15 years old. My high school journalism teacher got me a job on the Lake Charles American Press, working on the weekends for $1.60 an hour taking obituaries and covering the rotary club. So I worked for them all through high school and college, which gave me a great jump. This was the time of Watergate when, you know, every kid who was interested in journalism, you know, wanted to go work for The Washington Post or some newspaper. And it was difficult. You know, frequently, I was writing stories about some of my father's friends at the courthouse who the newspaper painted as crooks. And ...
LAMB: Who was your father?
MOORE: My father is Fred Moore, who worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for his career. My mother was Betty Moore, who was a registered nurse, surgical nurse, emergency room nurse, while I was growing up. And I lived on land that had been in my family for five generations on a bayou. I mean, it was almost your stereotypical view of Louisiana.
LAMB: Where'd you go to college?
MOORE: I went to Georgetown University, majored in political science. And that's where I made my first contact with The Washington Post. I was a weekend flunky for the Style section. Back then, in the more sexist days, we were called copygirls and copyboys. Now we're called news aides, and began really at the lowest ranks. And then left Washington at the end of college and was hired by The New Orleans Times-Picayune as their education reporter and later was on their investigative team. And in 1981 Bob Woodward was Metro editor of The Washington Post and called and offered me a job on the Metro staff where I worked for five years before I joined the national staff.
LAMB: When was the first time you thought you might want to be a Pentagon correspondent?
MOORE: I was on the Virginia staff and covered quite a bit of military in Norfolk, whenever there was a court martial, a major incident, a homecoming of a ship, anything that the military was really involved in, and I hadn't really thought about it. Now at The Washington Post, if you're on Metro, where everybody wants to be is the National staff. That's the staff that has the name and the prestige, so we think, when we're on the Metro staff. And it's very difficult to get on the National staff. And in 1986 one of the two Pentagon jobs came open. And the National editor, Bob Kaiser, came over and asked me if I'd like to apply for the military job. He had seen some of the stories I had done on the Virginia staff and liked them.
And so I applied, and it was the first time that they had put a woman in this job. And even some of the editors at The Post wondered if that was a good idea, not that they didn't think that I can do the job, they questioned whether these old curmudgeon brass in the Pentagon would take a woman seriously. And in the beginning, they didn't. It was very difficult. I had to go in, you know, three times as prepared as a male reporter would have to be to an interview, because you'd walk in and they would see you -- especially if you had a young-looking face -- and say, "Well, what can this, you know, young thing know about the military?" So you really had to go in and be extra prepared.
LAMB: Was there any time where you thought you were being mistreated because you're a woman?
MOORE: During the war or during the ...
MOORE: Not really, because by that point I had known many of these commanders; I had covered the military for five years. But I saw many of the women out there who I think were mistreated, looked down on, were treated very condescendingly by the military because they were women and they assume that they didn't know what they were doing. I had the advantage, of course, at that point -- I had the name of The Washington Post behind me. So they're going to treat you with a certain amount of respect even if they may not like you personally or they may not think a woman should be in that job, because it is The Washington Post and they know it's read in Washington; you are going to be treated with a certain amount of credibility and respect.
LAMB: Any reaction about the substance of this book from anybody -- any negative reactions?
MOORE: Not much that I've seen. Of course, the book officially has only been out a few days, and people are just now reading it. Some of the people who are in the book are reading it for the first time. So far I've gotten very positive feedback from them, because many of the people who were out there also had the same impression that nobody really saw the true picture of what they did out there. And there was this view that everything worked perfectly and there were chaos; there were equipments that the military spent billions of dollars on that just flat didn't work out there. And one of the lessons learned that I talked about in the book -- and, of course, in my research I got quite a few secret reports that were written by the military about the performance of the equipment and the troops during the war, some of which still have not been released.
And one of the recommendations in one of the Marine Corps reports was that perhaps the military has gone too far in spending money on tanks that shoot further and can do more, that now they've exceeded the capability of the men and women out there using them. In this case, the troops would look through their fancy night vision scopes on the tanks, and if they saw a vehicle out on the horizon, all they could see was a blob. They didn't know whether it was an Iraqi blob or an American blob. And quite a few of the troops and the young men and women that I interviewed were very happy to see some of these things brought out that they were afraid would be lost and that people would just have this view of war as very clean and very easy.
LAMB: Is there anything you didn't put in the book because of the sensitivity of it all?
MOORE: No, not really. There were things I didn't put in the book for lack of space. It's like writing a news story. You gather far more material than you can ever possibly put in the book. And it's heart-wrenching as you go through the process to have to throw away entire chapters. But I feel like I didn't pull any punches. I painted a picture of Schwarzkopf that were I to talk to him, I suspect he may not like too well, and paint a picture of some of the problems on the battlefield.
Another thing that I talk about fairly extensively in the book is the women who were out in the Persian Gulf War. And I think they exploded quite a few of the myths that the men in the Pentagon had, that when it came to wartime women wouldn't be able to do their jobs, the men wouldn't be able to do their jobs because they would be so worried about the women being killed or shot. And time and time again you saw women just -- I never had a commander say that a woman didn't do her job fully as she was supposed to.
The other thing that's exposed was the fallacy of the combat exclusion laws. You know, the US military and Congress have laws saying, "Women will not serve in combat." There were women in combat all over the battlefield out there. There were women closer to the front lines than their husbands were. Now in the end, some of this was very frustrating to the women, especially, for instance, in Boomer's command post, because he took me forward into combat and wouldn't take any of the women because technically they weren't supposed to be going into the front lines. And so here they had trained and trained for these jobs and weren't allowed to do them. And yet here came along this woman reporter and she could charge into battle with the senior general. And it was very frustrating for some of them.
LAMB: Complete the sentence: "Molly Moore was the first woman in history to do what?"
MOORE: Probably to spend the war at the side of a commanding general who was actually leading his troops into battle.
LAMB: And as I remember, six people were offered this opportunity and you're the only one that went?
MOORE: Right. The other five turned it down, saying that they wanted to be on the combat pools that were with front-line troops. And in the end, we saw more combat than any of those reporters did because we were out there right in the middle of the battle. In fact, at one point, General Boomer's men are screaming at him on the radio that he's gotten ahead of his ground troops and the Iraqis are just right over the horizon and had to tell him to pull his convoy back.
LAMB: When you were out there in the middle of -- I guess, at one point you were in Kuwait.
MOORE: Right. For most of the time we were in Kuwait, because we crossed over the border and were actually in Kuwait proper for most of the ground war.
LAMB: Did you file a story from the battle zone back to The Washington Post that ended up getting published before the whole thing was over?
MOORE: After the first day of the war, I filed, during the course of the days, stories from Boomer's rear command post, which was right on the Kuwait border. But I never got a story out from Kuwait while we were on the ground during the ground war. I essentially went the three days of the main part of the ground war and could not get a story out. Finally, the last day of the war, when the city had been liberated and I came up to Boomer and said, "Look, I'm going to be fired if I don't get a story out of this. I mean, The Post has sent me out here to cover the war. We haven't been able to get a story out." And he was flying back to his rear command post right on the border and took me in one of his helicopters, back with him. And that's the first story I had filed in three days.
LAMB: Go back to what we talked about -- the very first chapter, you're out there with the general, you spent -- what? -- one night in the general's tent?
LAMB: All right. How do you write things that you hear that you know the general will not like, going to feed it -- he has to look at it first.
LAMB: How do you do that?
MOORE: You just do it. And you take your chances that he will or won't take things out. And ...
LAMB: Did he take anything out, ever?
MOORE: The first day he took a couple of things out. He took out an account of a battle that I described, that he thought I described the Marines as getting hit too hard in this battle. And I disagreed with him and ...
LAMB: He had the right to take anything out?
MOORE: He had an absolute -- the right to take whatever he wanted out. Now I could protest. But the problem is the protest would take two or three days to go through the Pentagon censoring process. And so you would defeat yourself. So as a reporter, you would take some of this stuff out just so you could get the vast bulk of your material out. And the first day everyone was understandably nervous. And as it turned out, the account of the battle that he thought I had made sound too difficult for the Marine Corps was even worse than I had described it. The problem was he hadn't been able to communicate with his commander to find out all the details of it at that point.
LAMB: Alright. What did you have with you beside your tape recorder?
LAMB: And a notebook.
LAMB: Did you have a computer with you?
MOORE: I had a computer. Right. In August when we first went out there, I dutifully went out and bought a manual typewriter, figuring that's what we'd have to use. Well, this being somewhat of a high-tech military, in the end, I could take my Toshiba laptop, write my story on it, take the disk out, hand it out to a computer whiz at the military communications tent, and he would send it through the military message traffic by satellite back to a rear base in Dhahran, where then the story would be distributed to all of the other reporters who were there.
LAMB: What's the fastest you ever got a story from your computer back to The Washington Post?
MOORE: Oh, well, I would never consider anything I did out there fast. I mean, we're talking sometimes a matter of days. The fastest was probably 12 hours.
LAMB: And besides your computer and your tape recorder and your notebooks, what did you carry with you? How'd you dress?
MOORE: Well, you couldn't carry much because you had to be able to carry everything. I basically dressed -- we didn't dress in uniforms, although I did have a military parka that I wore because it was so cold. In contrast to what some people may think about the desert, it was bitterly cold during the ground war part of this war. And you wore a flak jacket because there was shrapnel going off. We would drive through burning tank fields where the Americans had just destroyed all the tanks and artillery. And as you went by, the ammunition in those tanks would cook off just sending, you know, huge bursts of ammo into the air. We were wearing a helmet. You were wearing layers of sweaters. And I was wearing fleece-lined boots because it was so cold to wear in the sand. And in your rucksack, I basically, carried ...
LAMB: What's a rucksack?
MOORE: Your knapsack that you were carrying -- just the necessities you needed for life. You know, your basic toothbrush, one change of clothes. There was no way to take showers. So one of the most popular items out there were baby wipes. The baby wipe business did a booming business. Everyone from General Boomer down to Lieutenant Delaney carried big packages of baby wipes with them because you had -- water was so limited. It couldn't be used for showers.
LAMB: What's the longest you went without a shower?
MOORE: The longest I went without a shower was about seven days, which -- you're feeling pretty grungy at the end of that.
LAMB: What's the longest the troops went without a shower?
MOORE: Lieutenant Bill Delaney and his men went as long as three months without a shower. They went so long without a shower that when they finally got one after the war, they said it hurt their skin.
LAMB: When you think back about it, having been there, what do you know that we don't, having never been in the front lines of a war? What are the kinds of things that surprised you the most?
MOORE: I put a lot of them in the book, "A Woman at War," so that people could be right there on the front lines and feel some of this. But there's no way to calculate the emotions and the anxiety level of going into a situation like this. I mean, retrospectively, everybody says, "Oh, this is a cakewalk." You know, there were relatively few casualties compared to the number of troops that were out there. But even though there were so few casualties, there was just all the trauma of any war and the trauma of these young men for the first time looking through their scopes and seeing a human being that they're going to kill and coming to grips with that. Many of them who had bragged their entire careers, you know, "All I wanted to do was put the cross-hairs on a target," once they got out there and did it, they found it very terrifying and gut-wrenching to have to make those kinds of decisions.
The commanders -- you sort of see these very polished guys standing up at the press conferences. But to get inside their heads and see the anguish that went into every decision they made -- Schwarzkopf, in his press conferences, painted the war as very well-orchestrated, and you had the maps with the sweeping arrows and it made it look like, you know, everything was just carefully planned. Well, many of the plans fell apart on the battlefield because it was moving so quickly. Troops were getting tangled up with each other, the Arab forces couldn't keep up with the American forces and were falling behind, and there were gaps in the lines of the troops. The Army, as it turned out, had to start its attack 20 hours before it was scheduled because the Marines were moving so quickly through Kuwait.
LAMB: All right. How about this -- and I know you write about this, but the simple thing of a female latrine. How did you deal with that? You're the only woman among 38 men?
MOORE: Thirty-eight men, and as I said before, this is a flat desert. There's not even a bush out there to hide behind. So that was probably the single most difficult thing of being a woman out there. And you're out there; there's no place to hide; there's no privacy -- well, for the men or the women, but for me being a woman, it was, of course, a little more difficult. So I would basically have to wait till night, and when it -- fortunately, it was so dark from the oil wells and, you know, you were wearing this long parka, that you could kind of go off in a corner of the campsite. But even that was difficult because we were camped in the middle of a minefield. And the troops had pulled the vehicles in a circle around us, essentially, and didn't want anybody stepping outside that circle to go to the bathroom or do anything else. So it made it very difficulty -- difficult to find, you know, even a moment of privacy anywhere.
LAMB: Your own family afraid?
MOORE: Well, my own family -- they learned from reading the book much that they didn't know at the time. They learned how much my husband and I had lied to them about what I was doing. I kept sending back the messages, "Oh, I'm sitting in a nice cushy hotel there in Dhahran. Everything is perfectly safe." Of course, when the Scuds started landing, I kind of blew that theory and it wasn't, in fact, so safe. But they didn't know at the time that I was out on the front lines and in combat and in the war. They didn't find out until after the war, at which point I think they were a little grateful that they didn't know because they would have probably worried themselves to death.
LAMB: At what moment were you afraid?
MOORE: The whole time.
LAMB: I mean, but the most physical? Your knees ever knocking and ...
MOORE: Probably there were two points that were the most frightening. And the first were the Scud attacks. General Schwarzkopf described the Scud as a weapon of terror. He said, "You know, it's not accurate. It's nothing we really have to worry about." Well, he was right. It had us terrorized. The hotel that we were living in, which none of us could write or say on the air at the time -- and I'm sure everybody remembers the television reporters doing their stand-ups on this hotel with the blue domes in the background -- that hotel was right in the m iddle of the biggest airfield in Saudi Arabia, where the Americans had more air power than any other place in Saudi Arabia, and the Iraqis knew exactly where it was. And it was a prime target for most of the Scud attacks in eastern Saudi Arabia -- were directed directly at this airport. So we knew that there was a very good probability that at least one of these Scuds could land in the near vicinity or land on our hotel.
Now there were Patriot missiles out there, which gave us a false sense of security at the time, because we didn't know at the time how many of the Scuds the Patriots were missing when they were firing. And the Patriots you could see from our hotel, and you could hear the booms go off. So it was very terrifying to be sitting down in that basement. And the first few nights of the Scud attacks, I didn't have a chemical suit. The Washington Post had ordered the chemical suits from British Aerospace and they were recalled because of a defect. So here are all my colleagues pulling on their chemical suits, and I'm sitting here feeling naked, sitting in a raincoat, which would have done me absolutely no good. So that was the first most terrifying moment.
The second was when I was out on a combat pool about two weeks before the ground war began. I was with a logistics supply unit. And they were going to go out into the battle and resupply and refuel the troops, then come back to their command post and then go back out to another battle setting, which was a perfect place for a reporter to be. You'd see lots of different parts of the battlefield. About the third day I was out there, the public affairs escort who was with us went to a staff meeting and came back to the tent and told us -- - his face was just ashen, and he said, "I've just been given a briefing on the plan for what our unit is going to do, that you're going to accompany into battle. And they told us to expect 50 percent casualties, including the reporters. So I want to give you this opportunity to call your editors and tell them that they should probably have a backup reporter in case something happens to you." And that was a moment when your knees started knocking, and you said, "You know, do I really want to go through with this."
LAMB: It's a bit out of sequence, but we are running out of time. Please tell the F-15 story.
MOORE: This happened the first week of the invasion, when I was on the plane with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. And he was scurrying around, as I said, trying to get air bases in these countries that did not want Americans on their soil. And one of the places was Qatar. And it was the last stop of this grueling, grueling -- we did something like six countries in 15 hours -- in 24 hours. We were just all exhausted. And this was one of the first times that someone this high-ranking had ever been in the country. And Pete Williams, who was then the spokesman -- I'm sure everybody remembers seeing him on TV every day at the time -- wanted to make sure the TV footage film got out. He called the Pentagon. The American consulate there was supposed to have had a satellite dish up and they didn't, to get the film out. So he called the Pentagon and said, "What's the fastest plane you can get me? I've got to get this film out. We're got to get it to Cairo or another location where it can be satellited back." And they said, "An F-15." He said, "Send it." So they sent an F-15.
The local American diplomats there went ballistic. They screamed at him. They said, "You've got to be crazy. Here we are trying to get fighter jets placed on their soil; they don't want it, and you're calling in a fighter jet to bring some TV film out of here. Get something else." So he called the Pentagon and got a C-12, which is essentially a little Learjet. But meanwhile, the local military in this Arab country heard that they were going to see their first F-15. They got out the honor band. They had the honor cordoned. They were all out there waiting for this pilot to arrive. They were going to give him, you know, a great celebration. And lo and behold, this little clunky C-12 arrives, and they were just horrendously disappointed. But as it turns out, it wouldn't have foiled any of the diplomatic efforts. These guys were just absolutely ecstatic that they were going to get to see one of these planes. And in the end, the country did allow American aircraft to be put on their bases.
LAMB: Your conclusion about the American involvement in this war?
MOORE: It's very frustrating for me to have seen this involvement and see now what we're not getting involved in. It was very clear to me at the time, and I feel even more strongly now -- we got involved in this war because of oil. Granted, it was a good cause to try to free Kuwait. I was there when the city was liberated, and the outpouring of emotion of these people, who had been hiding for days in their basements, terrified for, you know, six or seven months, was extraordinary. But they're -- the situation going on in Bosnia, situation in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in India, just as horrendous atrocities and the West is really turning a deaf ear to it. So this war was very much a political war in my estimation.
LAMB: You're in India now. Do you go to the front?
MOORE: Frequently. I've gone into Afghanistan. Kabul is still being shelled every day, much like Sarajevo. Much of the city has fled or have been killed, in Kashmir, the frequent fighting. We frequently -- my husband and I both -- go into war situations in South Asia. And in many ways, it's much more dangerous than the Persian Gulf War because in these wars, you frequently don't know who the enemy is.
LAMB: Are you getting used to being close to gunfire?
MOORE: No. I think, in fact, I've gotten less courageous with each war situation that I go into, because you realize the risk you're taking and the danger involved. In the Persian Gulf War, much of the time you were so caught up in being out there, you were working so hard to do your job, it was so difficult to get stories out, that you didn't think about the danger until it was over. You know, at the end of the ground war, I didn't think about the danger, the entire -- very little of the four days because there was so much going on around me that I was trying to absorb. But after it was over, I thought, you know, "My God, what have I just done here?"
LAMB: How long you going to spend in India?
MOORE: It's a three-year tour, and we have two more years left.
LAMB: Then what do you want to do?
MOORE: We'll probably do a book on South Asia, and then hopefully we go into another foreign posting.
LAMB: And this book, at what point will you say this has been a success and been worth it?
MOORE: It was worth it for me just getting it down on paper and getting a view of the war out that I think most people didn't see. And I've been overwhelmed by the positive response, the reviews, the reaction to the book. One of the best reactions that I got was from a young Marine who had read it. And I called the office where he was working, and he picked up and he says, "Gee, ma'am, I just read your book, and it's awesome." And I thought if some young macho Marine would say that about it, that's about one of the best reviews I could get.
LAMB: On the back, Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, George Wilson, who used to be a reporter at The Post and used to cover the Pentagon, and John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy, endorsed this book. Was that your idea?
MOORE: It was mostly my publisher's ideas. They came up with the people to contact. And I was very excited by the response, in fact, that they got from the people and the really strong positive comments that they made on the book.
LAMB: Had you watched only television of this war, would you have had the clear and honest picture?
MOORE: Oh, absolutely not. You would have gotten a very distorted picture. You would have gotten a distorted picture even reading the newspaper stories in my own paper, simply because we couldn't get much of the information out in a timely manner. And by the time we could get it out, the story had moved on. It had moved on to the Kurds, it had moved on to the diplomatic questions, and nobody cared what went on in the ground war because it was perceived as this great victory with very few casualties, so why do we care very much about the details?
LAMB: By the way, who's the boss out there in India, you or your husband?
MOORE: I'm the bureau chief. My husband's the correspondent, which some of the South Asian chauvinists have a hard time taking.
LAMB: On that note, thank you very much, Molly Moore. This is what the book looks like. "A Woman at War," an account of the situation in the Gulf. Thank you for joining us.
MOORE: It's been a pleasure.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.