CB: "Anyone who faces those bullets in the Arab world deserves credit."
Michael faces off with former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who contends that President Obama "threw the troops under the bus" by not thanking them during the Cairo speech and by discussing Gitmo in a negative manner. I find it absolutely astonishing that a speechwriter doesn't comprehend the importance of crafting a speech to its intended audience, which in this case was a segment of the world that does not view our military in a positive light. To them, we are occupiers, not liberators. Maybe someday that will change -- in fact, Obama is working hard to start the process of changing that view -- but the blunders by the civilian leadership of the Bush administration has caused untold violence and destruction in the Arab world, which all of us will be dealing with for decades to come.
Michael also makes the point that the troops are not going to get all ego-bruised and whiny over not being thanked in public during every speech. Get real. The military knows that this administration has already done more for them than the previous one did; including trying to find a way to get the Arab world to stop shooting at them.
CAMPBELL BROWN: Welcome back.
Every night at this time, the "Great Debate." Tonight's premise: President Obama undercut the military in his speech to the Muslim world.
And with us to argue that point, the man who came right out and said it, Marc Thiessen, who was chief speechwriter for President Bush. Also with us, CNN international correspondent Michael Ware, who was in Iraq for much of the war.
We also want your opinion. So vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen.
First, we're going to have an opening statement from each of you, 30 seconds on the clock. You will hear a bell at the end of 30 seconds.
Marc, the premise again, Obama's words undercut the military. Make your case.
MARC THIESSEN, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, certainly, what he did was, he used throughout the speech shameful moral equivalents.
He said that the Iranian Revolution was bad, but the overthrow of Mossadegh was bad also. The Holocaust was bad, but the use of -- but the -- but the occupation of Palestine is bad also. And then he turned to our military. And he said, let me read you what he said. He said, "Just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles -- 9/11 led us to act contrary to our principles."
That is drawing moral equivalence between the men and women of our military and our intelligence community who stop acts of violence and the men and women...
THIESSEN: ... who commit acts of violence.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I listened to Marc and I have read his pieces. And, without hearing more, it's difficult for me to shake the feeling that -- that what's been said here is a gross disservice to the U.S. military and to the U.S. intelligence community.
I'm not sure that the military or intelligence communities would feel under attack. I mean, I don't know about the view from the Pentagon and the White House, but having spent far too much time in the foxholes with the American troops being shot at, I think they need less of platitudes in a speech in Cairo than of a strategic speech...
WARE: ... that tries to stop angry Muslims shooting at them in the first place. I think that we're really arguing a vacant point.
THIESSEN: I heard a bell.
BROWN: All right, Marc, I will let you respond to that. Go ahead.
THIESSEN: Well, I mean, it's just clear what he said.
He stood on foreign soil in front of an Arab audience, in a foreign land, and said that the men and women of our intelligence community had committed torture. He said that he was closing Guantanamo Bay, without making any defense whatsoever of the good men and women who run that facility, who got vital intelligence to protect the American people, and did not commit abuse, did not commit torture.
In fact, Eric Holder, when -- when he gave a speech in Berlin, said that they were professional and that they treat detainees humanely. Just a single sentence defending them would have been sufficient. But he threw them under the bus in order to curry favor with a -- with a Muslim audience.
BROWN: Michael, did -- should there have been some acknowledgement of -- of American troops and what they have done in the speech somewhere?
WARE: Well, I think that's implicit throughout, you know, all of this discourse.
And I would -- I would argue that President Obama in Cairo was not giving a Republican candidate's stump speech on the campaign trail. I mean, one needs to be aware of one's audience.
Now, the Arab Muslim world has its own firsthand appreciation of the U.S. military and intelligence community. Indeed, it's its sons who are in Guantanamo, for better or for worse. And Guantanamo exists in its own right. I don't think we need to defend the merits of that here.
Paying lip service to the troops who have been serving there honorably anyway to the grunts who are in the field, bleeding and sweating, I don't think is going to play in a Muslim audience. I don't think that's what they were there to hear. I don't think the troops in the field or at Guantanamo need to be treated like such needy children, that they need someone to stroke their hand in every speech.
THIESSEN: This is not about treating them like needy children.
WARE: Let's stop the Arabs attacking them in the first place. I think that's more important, Marc.
THIESSEN: Could I say something?
BROWN: Go ahead.
THIESSEN: It's not about needy children or that kind of condescending attitude from Michael. I think that's a terrible thing to say about them.
He went out and affirmatively said that they had committed torture, that Guantanamo was contrary to our ideals. So it's not that he didn't praise them, though he should have praised them. It's that he attacked them. He criticized them.
WARE: Well, that's to your point and I do believe --
THIESSEN: Hold on, hold on, you said some things. Now, let me say something in response.
WARE: Yes, sure. Go for it, mate.
THIESSEN: The United States military what he should have said in his speech, and certainly it shouldn't be just a Republican that would say this, Michael. Any Republican or Democrat should both agree that from Iraq to Afghanistan, to Kosovo to Bosnia, to the first Gulf war, the United States military has done more to liberate Muslims and Arabs from oppression and tyranny and genocide than any force in human history. And to throw them under the bus that way--
WARE: Yeah, I've seen that point in your article, but the problem is you're not talking to a Veterans of Foreign Wars evening dinner. You're talking to the Arab or the Muslim world.
WARE: And to be honest, they don't feel terribly liberated by the U.S. military. Now, you and I might have our view of that--
THIESSEN: Well, that's why the president has a responsibility to say something.
WARE: You and I may have our view of that. But when there's American tanks sitting in the Arab streets, when they see the killings in Afghanistan from our bombings, though they're not intended, that's not how they feel. When they see what happened in Abu Ghraib --
THIESSEN: The vast majority of Afghans support Americans --
WARE: You got to understand -- you got to understand, Marc, I mean, it might feel different in the ivory towers on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. But on the streets -- on the streets --
THIESSEN: Excuse me, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan four times in each of those countries so I know what it's like in the Arab streets. I've been there.
WARE: Oh, I'm sorry. You spend how much time in Iraq?
THIESSEN: Oh, listen --
WARE: No, no, no, how much time, Marc? How much time, Marc?
THIESSEN: I've traveled -- oh, I know you lived there.
WARE: Right, I lived there for six years, right?
THIESSEN: Oh, congratulations.
WARE: I know the problem that President Obama is trying to address.
WARE: And I can tell you, I've spent more time in the trenches with your troops than I can guarantee you have. And I'm speaking for your soldiers.
THIESSEN: Michael, let me tell you something.
WARE: And I'm telling you, they don't need platitudes. They need a solution.
THIESSEN: I was under fire too. I was in the Pentagon in September 11, 2001 with our troops, so don't tell me about being under fire with the troops.
WARE: Yes Marc, and I respect anyone who was there that day --
THIESSEN: And let me tell you something, the point is -- the point is --
WARE: But your point about the Arab street --
THIESSEN: Excuse me --
WARE: Marc, come on, mate.
THIESSEN: Can I get a word in?
WARE: Come on, Marc.
BROWN: All right. Hold on, Michael.
WARE: Let's discuss something real, Marc.
BROWN: Let Marc make a point. Let Marc make his point. Go ahead, Marc.
THIESSEN: The point is it's not that they have to be praised because for praise's sake, it's that he criticized them. He attacked them in a foreign land.
The president of the United States does not go to a foreign country, particularly to an Arab audience, where al Qaeda's propaganda is echoing the things that you were saying just a moment ago about how we do all these terrible things and feed into that propaganda. That is a shameful thing for the commander in chief of the United States --
WARE: Listen, listen.
THIESSEN: Let me finish.
WARE: I understand what you're -- I understand what you're saying.
THIESSEN: It was a shameful thing for the commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces to do to the men and women under his command. He's not a left-wing senator from Illinois anymore. He's the president of the United States.
BROWN: All right.
THIESSEN: And he has responsibilities to men and women under his command.
WARE: Marc, I think you protest too much. I don't think that your boys and girls in uniform would feel as aggrieved as you do.
THIESSEN: They're not boys and girls. They are heroes.
WARE: And as you said -- as you said --
THIESSEN: They are heroes, Michael. They're not boys and girls.
WARE: As you said at some point --
BROWN: All right, guys.
WARE: The president doesn't admit shortcomings on foreign soil.
BROWN: Let me -- hold on a second. We're treading the same ground here. Let me just ask for clarification if I can from Marc.
BROWN: Because, Marc, is it -- isn't President Obama attacking not the military or the troops necessarily, but the policies of the former president and the decisions he made, and President Bush? I don't think it's directed at the people who were doing their jobs in terms of carrying out those policies. Is that a fair assessment?
THIESSEN: I don't think so, no. Because the people who carried out those policies who could -- the policies were not to torture and not to commit abuse. And the people who carried them out followed the policies and did not commit abuses. There were numerous reports that have been done on this.
And, you know, Eric Holder -- a month ago, Eric Holder went to Berlin and gave a speech on Guantanamo. And in that speech, before he said they were closing Guantanamo, he said, "I went to Guantanamo. I reviewed the place. It is conducted -- it's run professionally. It is run ethically and the detainees are treated humanely, but it's become a symbol and so we're going to close it."
THIESSEN: All the president had to do was say that these people do the right thing before he started talking about closing Guantanamo and throwing them under the bus in a foreign audience.
BROWN: Michael, very quickly.
WARE: Marc, I think you're being far too precious. I mean, the point's taken.
Under the Bush administration there was legal authority given for what was done. Now, we can call that extreme interrogations. You can call that waterboarding. You can call that torture. That's splitting a hair. I don't think at any point there was a question about the honorable service of the troops or not.
BROWN: All right.
WARE: And to throw this up now just seems like cheap, you know, political point scoring.
BROWN: OK, guys, we're going to take a quick break. But we're going to do as we do every single night. We ask our debaters to find common ground.
I know you've got it in you. We're going to take a break and give you the commercials to think about it. When we come back, they're going to find common ground. Stay with us.
BROWN: Welcome back to our "Great Debate." Tonight's premise, President Obama undercut the military in his speech to the Muslim world.
Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen thinks so. CNN international correspondent Michael Ware weighing in on the other side. After a vigorous debate, I'm asking them both to find some common ground here.
Marc, where do you think you can agree with Michael?
THIESSEN: Well, I'll propose some common ground. The Church Commission of 2005 which investigated claims of abuse in Guantanamo Bay, their findings were, and let me read this to you. "At Guantanamo, where there had been 24,000 interrogation sessions since the beginning of interrogation operations, there are only three cases of substantiated interrogation-related abuse all consisting of minor assault."
Michael, will you agree that the men and women in Guantanamo Bay did not torture people, did not abuse detainees, and that they acted in the -- upheld the principles of the United States of America?
WARE: Yeah, Marc, that's an easy one, because you're posing a political purview. I mean, I just wish you'd stop playing political games and trying to score political points, mate.
BROWN: OK. Come on -- hey, Michael, this is the common ground part.
WARE: The bottom line is -- No, no, no, Campbell, let me say this.
The bottom line is at no point do I cast aspersions on anyone who served in Guantanamo Bay. I think, Marc, the point of common ground that we have here is that we're both trying to stand up for the American military and intelligence community. I do so because I've been in that mud and blood and guts with them.
Now, I disagree with you that I think they would take slight from a president who failed to mention them or by referencing Guantanamo policy is discrediting them. Nonetheless, both you and I, in our different ways, are trying to say that these people are out there doing one of the hardest jobs imaginable, and they need and deserve respect. Anyone who faces those bullets in the Arab world deserves credit in my view, Marc.
THIESSEN: I agree with that 100 percent.
BROWN: I love it. Guys, thank you so much. It was a great debate, Marc and Michael.
WARE: Oh, I hardly use the word "great," Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Have a good weekend. Appreciate your time tonight.
WARE: Cheers, mate.
BROWN: And we're going to see right now how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate." Thirty-seven percent agree that President Obama undercut the military with his Cairo speech, 63 percent disagree.
This is not a scientific poll. Just our snapshot of our viewers who called in tonight. And thanks to everybody who did make the call.