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As U.S. soldiers prepare to ship out from San Diego, family members worry about their safety as a possile war with Iraq looms. NBC's George Lewis reports.
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Chris Matthews took the ‘Hardball College Tour’ to Georgetown University. Joining him on the show were military analyst Bill Arkin, veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett, and Desert Storm commanders and veterans Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Gen. Wayne Downing. They talked about international affairs, Operation Desert Storm, media, and the potential war in Iraq.

WILLIAM ARKIN

William M. Arkin is a former Army intelligence analyst and consultant. He has written extensively about military affairs, including several books on the topic.

Arkin is a senior military adviser to Human Rights Watch and an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies of the U.S. Air Force. He’s also columnist and correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, washingtonpost.com and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

PETER ARNETT

Image:
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER: "Back to Baghdad" © CameraPlanet
One of the world’s leading war correspondents and an authority on the Middle East, Peter Arnett has covered 19 wars in his 40 year career as a reporter and distinguished television journalist.

Since 1962, when he joined the Associated Press, Arnett has consistently gained access to stories with a remarkable mixture of intelligence and ambition. He journeyed to Vietnam to cover the war and stayed through the fall of Saigon in 1975. In 1966, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his Vietnam coverage. In the years that followed, he covered such stories as the Iranian hostage crisis and the Jonestown massacre in Guyana for the Associated Press.

In 1981, he transitioned from print to broadcast, joining the then fledgling CNN. From 1986 to 1988, Arnett served as CNN’s bureau chief in Moscow, reporting on the rapid changes in the Soviet Union. Early in 1990, he transferred to CNN’s bureau in Jerusalem where he observed and studied the Mideast in depth. He was in the right place at the right time when the Gulf War began. He remained in Baghdad when other journalists left or were expelled, and thus became the only Western television journalist to report from Iraq throughout the course of the war. Arnett conducted the only interview with Saddam Hussein during the conflict.

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING

As commander of a Joint Special Operations Task Force assigned to U.S. Central Command during Desert Storm, Gen. Downing planned and led operations in support of the coalition war effort. He is a highly decorated combat veteran with two combat tours in Vietnam and service in both Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Desert Storm.

Recently, he was picked to head up the new White House Office for Combating Terrorism, a new arm of the National Security Council.

With almost 34 years of active military experience, Downing is recognized as a top authority on combating terrorism. Downing also served on a 10-person, high-profile commission, led by former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counter-Terrorism L. Paul Bremer, which last year called on the U.S. government to prepare more aggressively against a future terrorist attack that may employ biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological materials.

Downing previously commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command and the Army 75th Ranger Regiment.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY

One of the great military leaders of our time, General Barry McCaffrey was, at retirement from active duty, the most highly decorated and youngest four-star general in the U.S. Army. He was commander of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Operation Desert Storm, served as assistant to Colin Powell and supported the chairman as Joint Chiefs of Staff advisor to the secretary of state.

General Barry McCaffrey is also the Olin Distinguished professor of National Security Studies at West Point and head of a consulting firm specializing in international security issues. McCaffrey is an expert in world trouble spots, military preparedness, homeland security, leadership and the impact of illegal drug use on all aspects of culture. He was twice awarded the nation’s second highest award for valor — the Distinguished Service Cross, and received three Purple Heart medals for wounds received in combat.

LINKS

William Arkin’s Bio

Peter Arnett’s Bio

MSNBC.com chat with Peter Arnett on Iraq

Georgetown University Student Association website

Georgetown University homepage

To get news on the Hardball College tour delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Hardball Briefing. Click here to subscribe.

To get the latest in Iraq headlines delivered to your inbox every weekday, subscribe to the Countdown: Iraq newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT TO THE SHOW, BELOW:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I’m Chris Matthews, live from Georgetown University, tonight for a full hour. With the United States on the brink of war, two Gulf War generals tell us what this war with Iraq is going to look like and what will be the price of victory. General Barry McCaffrey and General Wayne Downing, let’s play HARDBALL.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Here we are at historic-we’re here at one of the most beautiful places in the country, Georgetown, historic Georgetown, where this university was founded the same year the constitution, I believe, was designed in 18 — 1789, right? They’ve even named a bar after it, which I think is great.

Let’s go with the serious questions here tonight. General Wayne Downing, General Barry McCaffrey, I’ve spoken to you many times, but we’re getting closer to war. In all seriousness, I want to ask you, General Downing, how many troops do we have in the region right now? Are we ready to fight?

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, RET. U.S. ARMY: We’re probably over-well over 100,000. I think we’ve been ready to fight for several weeks. I think we’ll probably want to put more in there, but I think as they started that buildup, they did that in a very, very intelligent manner, so that if he did respond, we’d be able to roll in hot.

MATTHEWS: How many have we got in there now?

DOWNING: I don’t know what the number is — 150, 170,000...

MATTHEWS: Is that enough to win?

DOWNING: I think it probably is, but I think they’re probably going to deploy some more forces.

MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey, how many troops do you..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... have enough in there, complement enough sufficient to win this war clean?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, RET. U.S. ARMY: No not now. I think what you’re seeing is, though, not signaling intentions. These are inexorable deployments of enough air, land, and sea power to bring this government down in one smooth jerk. My guess is they’ll be ready to fight by mid February.

MATTHEWS: Have you seen reports today that there’s rumbling within the Cabinet of Saddam Hussein? There may be some potential coup on the way.

MCCAFFREY: I sure hope so.

MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in that?

MCCAFFREY: Yes, possible...

MATTHEWS: General, do you see it coming?

DOWNING: No I don’t. I don’t think there’s any rumbling in there right now. I think he’s got them, as he’s always had. He’s got them under an iron grip. I would love to see them overthrown. That would be preferable, but not yet.

MATTHEWS: OK, let’s talk about the way this war will be waged. I want you to be critical, if you can, of how you see this war progressing and whether it’s the right shape for the war as you see it. There’s still time, obviously, to refine these goals and the method of the mission here.

General Schwarzkopf said in “TIME” Magazine this week he’s nervous about the very tight micromanagement of this campaign at the operation’s level by the secretary of defense. He thinks the military should be running the war. He says-quote-this is what he says about Secretary Rumsfeld.

“He seems to be deeply immersed in the operational planning to the chagrin of most of the armed forces.”

Are you chagrined?

DOWNING: No I’m not chagrined.

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you that a civilian is calling every shot apparently in this war?

DOWNING: Well you know, I don’t know what he’s calling and what he’s not calling. I mean I think the only people that know that are General Franks, General Myers, the operational staffs, and they’re not going to come out and say what that is. I think what he’s asking for is an innovative plan to turn this guy over.

This is not going to be Desert Storm I all over again, and I think we all have this conception that we’re going to stick the videotape into the V.C.R. and we’re going to see Desert Storm as it was in...

MATTHEWS: Right.

DOWNING: ... 1991 play out. This is different. We’ve got a different objective. During the first Desert Storm it was to destroy the Iraqi army and get them out of Kuwait. This thing is about a regime change. This is a very, very big political, a very big social and an economic dimension to this war. The military is going to be the strength that’s going to give us the capability of doing these things, but I’ll tell you, once the military job gets done, that’s just a small part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

DOWNING: You’re talking about putting a new regime into a country that does not have a democratic tradition, but yet that is what we want to do over there. That’s an entirely...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Have the most-the most successful presidents in our history, starting perhaps with F.D.R. in big wars, been those who trust their generals, trust their admirals, rather than those who micromanage every step like Lyndon Johnson did in the Vietnam War? You’ve seen it all, what do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it good to have a micromanaging secretary of defense?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAFFREY: Last time around we had some remarkable leadership out of George Bush. He was a World War II, 18-year-old Navy pilot. He did have great confidence in the military leadership and vice versa. Back to Rumsfeld, this guy is talented, decisive, terrific leadership, demanding and definitely in charge. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. That’s a good thing. Now, the proof of the pudding, though, is going to be whether he allows Franks and his packo (ph) commanders to do their job. My guess is he will.

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the nature of the war. You said, General, that it’s not going to look like the Persian Gulf ’90/’91. Secretary Rumsfeld apparently believes that the heart of this war should be what you said, regime change as the mission, the use of Special Forces to get in there, work with local insurgents, tribesmen of the north and the south and win this battle with the help of the locals. Do you see that as the face of this war or do you see it as a more conventional war, large firepower, lots of infantry men in the field, blowing them away through sheer power? How do you see this war taking shape?

DOWNING: Well I really think that we’ve got to have to have this overwhelming military power. This sets the background for you to do other things. You know Barry talked about a coup and how we’d love to have that, Chris. You mentioned that one of the ways that it might happen is when the Iraqis, who are around Saddam Hussein look out there and see this and say we cannot win any other way. We’ve got to take this guy out to save the country. The other thing, this time around...

MATTHEWS: Excuse me General, what’s the most bloodless way to win this war? To win with paratroopers or Special Forces, grab this guy, if we can find him, take him into custody or kill him, grab his top people and reduce the bloodletting, because isn’t one of the goals, as you suggested, of this war political? We don’t want to kill a lot of Arabs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: That’s not a good political campaign to win the hearts and minds of that part of the world. What’s the best way to reduce the casualties of both sides, as you see it, a lightning strike or a strong, heavy military campaign that scares the (EXPLETIVE DELTED) out of them and they break?

DOWNING: Well listen, the one thing you’ve got to have to go in there and get Saddam Hussein, is you’ve got to have the detailed intelligence to do it. I mean you’ve got to know where this guy is. This guy is a master. People have been trying to kill him for years and years and years. He doesn’t even sleep in the same place for the entire night sometimes, and he seldom sleeps in the same place day after day. So I mean, if you had that intelligence to go in there, believe me, we’ll do it, and if we get it, I know we’re going to do that, but we may not get it. So you’ve got to have this overwhelming power to neutralize the Iraqi armed forces, which I think is going to happen fairly quickly and then we’re going to have to deal with the Republican Guards, the Special...

MATTHEWS: Right.

DOWNING: ... Republican Guards, and his presidential bodyguards.

MATTHEWS: How do-General-both of you-you first, how do we get in there and grab his weapons of mass destruction, which we believe he has, particularly the biological, something he can throw at our troops in the field, the chemical, he can throw at our troops in the field. How do you decapitate that ability to strike our forces in the field as the people are amassing around Baghdad?

MCCAFFREY: Well first of all, you’ve got to put it in context.

There’s 400,000 regular army troops, they’re not going to fight. Psychological campaign, the natural (ph) amassing of power, we’re going to communicate with these guys directly, they’re going to take a hike on Saddam. However...

MATTHEWS: You believe they’re going to walk?

MCCAFFREY: However, there are 100,000 troops in the Republican Guard, maybe 15,000 in these four brigades of the S.R.G..

MATTHEWS: Right.

MCCAFFREY: They will fight with some degree of effectiveness.

MATTHEWS: Especially for their homeland, right?

MCCAFFREY: Well homeland...

MATTHEWS: Do you think they’ll fight harder for Iraq than they did for Kuwait?

MCCAFFREY: Twenty percent of this country is Sunni Muslim...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MCCAFFREY: ... and they know the vengeance that they are due from the Shiite, from the Kurds, from the Assyrians and others, so I think they’re going to fight out of sheer desperation (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But having said that, I don’t think they’ve got any good military options except weapons of mass destruction. I actually don’t think they’re going to employ them effectively...

MATTHEWS: How do we tactically get in there and decapitate that ability to use those weapons against our troops in the field or against Israel or the Saudis or the people in Qatar, who are letting us use them as bases.

MCCAFFREY: Well first of all, it seems to me the most likely weapon he’ll use is chemicals. They are ineffective against deployed U.S. Army and Marine units. They are enormous danger to civilians around the port of Kuwait, Tel Aviv, Ria (ph), the Kurds, the...

MATTHEWS: But those strikes back at our allies will not stop our offensive?

MCCAFFREY: No, that’s right. I don’t think the guy has got any good options. However, he could create mass mayhem if he got after the-you know a preemptive strike on the port of Kuwait. So I think all of us are concerned about a tool that we think he’ll employ.

MATTHEWS: So you’re basically-you agree with General Downing, large forces to intimidate them, Special Forces to decapitate them operating simultaneously?

MCCAFFREY: I think simultaneously. This is joint operations, air, land, sea, it’s going to start on hour one, there will be special ops in downtown Baghdad the first night, but there’ll be tanks at the gate on day three, four, or five. It’ll move very quickly in my judgment.

MATTHEWS: Let’s get some questions here. Young man, you’re first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Short question...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think has happened and/or changed in the past year to convince the Bush team that war in Iraq is necessary now?

MCCAFFREY: Well, let me offer my own view. I think there’s two changes that are worth taking of note. One is they’ve gone from 300 million bucks a year of Oil for Food revenue to probably three billion a year. In my judgment, left to his own devices, give him five years, 10 years, they’ll conventionally rearm, they’ll restart their nuclear program and achieve nuclear weapons status. I think that’s the biggest argument.

The second argument in my view is the suffering of the Iraqi people. It is unbelievable what this guy has done to 23 million people. Ten, 15 percent of the population fled the country. He’s killed 700,000 of them. It is a nightmare and it shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president has made his decision to go, General McCaffrey? Are we going to war?

MCCAFFREY: I think there’s irrevocable political decision to disarm the guy. That he won’t walk away from. I think the use of military power may be...

MATTHEWS: If the guy doesn’t give up his arms, we’re going?

MCCAFFREY: I think so.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree?

DOWNING: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: This war is going to happen unless this guy puts his hands up...

DOWNING: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... and leaves the country.

DOWNING: Unless he surrenders, it’s going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) U.S. troops are probably going to face is an entrenched Republican Guard in Baghdad as you alluded to. What do you think in a worse case scenario the casualty numbers will be due to urban warfare in Baghdad?

MCCAFFREY: Well you know, I bet Wayne and I both are reluctant to talk about casualty. I’ve been wounded three times. My son is an entry (ph) major. If there’s any more than two lightly wounded, it’s horrifying. These are all somebody’s...

MATTHEWS: We...

MCCAFFREY: ... boys and girls. Having said that, I doubt we will sustain serious casualties. Now, historically, the last time around, we did this, I told Secretary Cheney, my division alone would have 500 to 2,000 killed and wounded. We had eight killed and 36 wounded. So there was some families that got their boys home, maimed for life, but we had unbelievably light casualty.

MATTHEWS: Let’s come back and talk about the casualties on both sides in a war that may look like “Black Hawk Down” in the streets of Baghdad. We killed 15,000 civilians last time by air attack, 100,000 Iraqis died in combat. What will it look like next time on both sides?

Back with the HARDBALL “College Tour” in Georgetown.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Coming up, can President Bush pull back now? General McCaffrey and General Wayne Downing will answer that question when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at beautiful Georgetown University, and a personal note, sitting in the front row is my daughter Caroline, who’s 13 going on 14, and my wife Kathleen, beautiful as she is. Anyway, thank you for coming back.

Look, we talked about something really important here a minute ago, which is what this war is going to look like, and I want to get this out of the generals right now. The big issue is with the shape of the war, how many days of bombing. I see that General Franks, who’s leading the campaign, wanted up to two weeks of bombing, General.

Rumsfeld has agreed to only half that amount. How will the degree, the duration of bombing affect the casualties on both sides in this war? Is it better to just bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them first and then go in or go in quick?

DOWNING: Well I think what we want to do is go in there with the bombing campaign and take out the strategic targets. Now the last war, and remember I told you in the previous session, let’s not, you know, think this is going to be a rerun, but basically we want to take out the integrated air defense system, we want to take out the command and control system, those kind of nodes that help him keep control of the country.

Now that’s going to be different than the first time because some of those targets might not be specifically military. Certainly, as we’re gathering intelligence, if we find the opportunity to make a lightning strike, we’ll make that. But then once we’ve got that crippled, once we’ve got that softened, then we’re going to go, but as Barry McCaffrey has said, we don’t expect this big 400,000-man army is going to give us this much of a struggle. Instead, we’re going to be after specific units and probably even specific commanders, because if we can take them out, we weaken his hold on that security apparatus...

MATTHEWS: Is it weak enough...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it weak enough to level them and to soften them up?

DOWNING: I think it is.

MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Weak enough, because apparently...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Tommy Franks, his field commander want to have two weeks and the secretary of defense is holding him to a week. It seems to me you want to soften up your target before you move in and just like in any war situation-I’m not a warrior, but don’t you want to soften up the target before you send troops in?

MCCAFFREY: Well I think most of the Army and Marine units would hope the Air Force would win the war before we cross the line of departure and so the longer the bombing, the more the ground commanders would support it. I think this thing is going to start to unravel. The plan that’s on the books will not be executed, something different will happen and hopefully these people start coming apart and will go in deep, fast, early.

MATTHEWS: What about the notion that apparently general-president

Secretary Rumsfeld wants a blitz. He wants the Army to move fast, light movements, quick travel, get there, decapitate fast and apparently the generals are more of a moderate. They want to have a moderate pace, keep your supplies up, keep your fuel lines open, keep everything on a regular military cadence and apparently Rumsfeld wants to go in quick. Is that doable?

DOWNING: Well Chris...

MATTHEWS: Can you have a lightning war in Baghdad?

DOWNING: Absolutely, you can have a lightning war, but the thing is, you know, we keep painting this picture that the secretary of defense is at odds with his generals. You know this is a constant dialogue. Constantly, when you’re in combat operations, or when you’re planning them, you’re constantly going back and forth, talking to each other, how about this, how about that, can’t we do this?

You know these things are evolving plans and I can tell you, this thing is not going to get set right up until the actual instant that it happens. We keep thinking also that we’re going to get to pull the trigger. Now I hope that we do because it’s great to pick your own battlefield and pick your own time, but it doesn’t always happen that you get to pull the trigger. Something else could happen. Something external to Iraq could happen. He could do something that would be very, very provocative that would cause us to go...

MATTHEWS: Quick question, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the real-what do you see as like if we don’t take action against Iraq, what is the real U.S. security concern?

MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey.

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, first of all, I think we’re going to resolve this situation by this summer. We’re going to have 150 to 250,000 troops there within 45 days. We’re not going to accept a political fig leaf. We’re going to end up knowing the W.M.D. came out of there and probably that there’s a regime change. Now how that’s accomplished is a good question, but I-my own judgment is we will enter Iraq sometime prior to the early summer with military force, with 20, 30 nations involved, and take these people down. I think that’s the way it’s going to turn out.

MATTHEWS: Thank you General. When we come back on HARDBALL, the HARDBALL “College Tour”, I’m going to ask the Georgetown University students in this beautiful room to say where they stand on this war. Back with the HARDBALL “College Tour” right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at Georgetown University with General Wayne Downing and General Barry McCaffrey, both commanders from the Persian Gulf War of 1991. I want to ask everyone in this room the big question. I want you to cheer very loud to express your passions. How many in this room support the war against Iraq?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: How many oppose the war, clap if you oppose the war?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I want to-thank you. I want to thank you for your political opinion. Now I want to ask everybody to cheer and stand up who intends to participate in this war in any way. Stand up and cheer.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, guys. Thank you, lady-one. What do you, General, think of the fact that we’re going into war where the passions expressed in the polling are not reflected in the desire in any way to join the effort to participate, to sacrifice for it, either to take higher taxes or to join up and risk your life-so little participation, General.

MCCAFFREY: What do you mean so little participation? There’s 1.4 million mean and women in the active armed forces...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MCCAFFREY: ... 1.3 million in the Reserves, and my daughter and son are part of it.

MATTHEWS: How many have joined up to fight the war?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAFFREY: In our family...

MATTHEWS: They’re regular Army, they’re regular service people. How many people have joined in this great crusade that everybody was so enthusiastic about?

MCCAFFREY: They’re volunteers, almost three million of them, and...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MCCAFFREY: ... thank God for each and every one of them and...

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you...

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you, General, that the latest polling shows that this war, the combat guys are poor whites? They’re the ones doing the fighting? We’ll be right back to talk about that one. More on HARDBALL coming back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, the HARDBALL college tour continues. What kind of casualties are we going to see in Iraq? Peter Arnett joins us, also Bill Arkin. They’ll join the generals when the HARDBALL college tour returns from Georgetown University.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at Georgetown University. I think it’s clear to everybody watching tonight that in any war, there are casualties. There are civilian deaths. There are mistakes. Let’s take a look at this report from David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the first Gulf war, the death toll included 148 U.S. soldiers, about 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, and approximately 15,000 Iraqi civilians. Those civilians fall in the category the military calls collateral damage. In the coming conflict when such damage is inflicted, it may be difficult to tell whether the deaths were an unavoidable consequence of the chaos of war or the result of avoidable mistakes. In the current build up, there are only a few dozen military investigators joining the tens of thousands of troops preparing for battle and critics question the investigators’ objectivity.

CURT GOERING, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: In the eyes of the rest of the world, the United States does have a double standard. That is-that western lives are more important than Afghan lives or Iraqi lives.

SHUSTER: The critics point to the hearings underway against two Air Force pilots. The pilots bombed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and may face a court-martial, but in half a dozen other deadly incidents over the last year, investigations went nowhere. Last July, after an Air Force gun ship fired on an Afghan wedding party killing 54 people, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz would only say, quote, in a combat zone, unfortunately mistakes are made.

A year ago, when special forces raided a village north of Kandahar killing 21 Afghan soldiers who had had been helping the United States, the only U.S. response was an apology and money paid to the families of the Afghan victims. Five years ago, a Marine pilot sliced through the cables of an Italian ski lift killing 20 people. That pilot was convicted on obstruction of justice but was found not guilty of manslaughter.

Pentagon defenders though say a system that always looks for someone to blame lacks fairness and that in war or training, you don’t want soldiers worrying about what somebody in Washington may think.

EUGENE FIDELL, FMR. MILITARY DEFENSE LAWYER: It would be crazy to have pilots, for example, saying just a second, I’ve got to get my lawyer on the other line. You can’t conduct military operations like that.

SHUSTER (on-camera): The question is, does the military need to do more to hold itself accountable or are deadly mistakes just part of what happens when a nation chooses war? I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at Georgetown University, and General McCaffrey, General Downing and myself are now going to be joined by Peter Arnett, the veteran war correspondent and Bill Arkin our own MSNBC political, I should say, military analyst. I want to ask you both gentlemen, first of all Peter Arnett. The United States military, how good is it for taking responsibility for war mistakes?

PETER ARNETT, FMR. CNN WAR CORRESPONDENT: I think the record in Vietnam was pretty good. There were many court-martials. There was some attempted cover ups, These were basically resolved, but it is a difficult issue. What military in the world moves aggressively against its own people who are involved in action? It is a really tough call.

MATTHEWS: What about civilian cash casualties in this war, in the calculation as you see it, Bill Arkin, if we’re going in there in search of Saddam Hussein, we’re going into civilian populations. He’s hiding a lot of his chemical and biological weapons behind population centers, perhaps next to hospitals, we can assume a lot of civilian damage, expect collateral damage?

BILL ARKIN, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: I don’t expect that, not at all, Chris. I see it more that we’ve kind of entered an era of warfare in which we have created these expectations of perfection, that really challenge us to think about warfare in a different way. In the olden days, we could talk about tens of thousands of casualties, but the truth of the matter is, even in the show we just saw, they said 15,000 Iraqi civilian casualties in the Gulf war. I think that’s off by an enormous amount. I think there were probably no more than 3,500 Iraqi civilian casualties.

MATTHEWS: During the 39-day bombing campaign?

ARKIN: That’s correct. And so I think that we’ve entered an era in which there’s an expectation of perfection and I think when perfection isn’t reached, there’s a tremendous battle for hearts and minds between the two sides, but we should still remind ourselves as to the fact that the costs for the Iraqi civilian population of being under sanctions and being under Saddam Hussein is far more threatening than military action is going to take place. For them, military action and getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a far greater future than the threat of civilian casualties.

MATTHEWS: General Downing, is our air power more surgical than it was say 11, 12 years ago? Are we better at hitting the targets we have to hit?

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, RET, U.S. ARMY: Absolutely, Absolutely, Chris. I think during the last war, 1991, about 15 percent of the order ordinance is what we call smart. I think in this next go around, that smart ordnance is going to be about 90 percent. That’s an incredibly accurate weapon.

MATTHEWS: Last time we were trying to discourage them from staying in Kuwait. We were trying to basically smoke them out. This time, aren’t we trying to hit isolated targets within the community of Baghdad? We’re looking for a chemical cache. We’re looking for him and he’s hiding in a village or he’s hiding in a high rise with a couple hundred people living there, right?

DOWNING: Well, the thing is, you can put this thing through a smoke stack. It is that accurate.

MATTHEWS: What’s that weapon?

DOWNING: We’ve seen this in Afghanistan. We can put a 2,000-pound bomb down a smoke stack. You might get 10 percent of them are going to drift out...

MATTHEWS: How do we hit the Canadians?

DOWNING: We hit them exactly where they were aimed.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, RET., U.S. ARMY: That’s the problem.

MATTHEWS: That was a direct hit.

DOWNING: He got a direct hit on what he shot at and that’s why those guys are on trial.

MATTHEWS: So there is always human error in any war.

MCCAFFREY: And you look back-I was a rifle company commander in Vietnam. So was Wayne Downing. I’ve been attacked by United States Air Force, attack helicopters in the Army, U.S. artillery.

MATTHEWS: Do you shoot back?

MCCAFFREY: We wanted to, believe me.

DOWNING: Sometimes we did, yes.

MCCAFFREY: This is quite a different world now. Thank God, I think Bill is right on the money. I wouldn’t buy 100,000 Iraqi dead the last time around. I didn’t see that kind of-most of them fortunately took off. The violence was so overwhelming that resistance was chaotic, and I hope that happens this time around also. You got to feel for the population.

ARKIN: There’s another factor, Chris. We talk about a lightning strike by U.S. Army. We talk about air power, but in some way there’s a balancing act in the war plan that’s being currently designed and the balancing act is that ground forces have to go into Iraq quickly enough to demonstrate to the regular army of Iraq that the United States is serious this time, that this is real.

Because what you want to do is peel off the conscript army from the Republican guards and the security apparatus and to do so, ground forces have to be in there from day one, but they have to be carefully modulated in how quickly they move forward so you also give the Iraqis an opportunity to solve the problem for themselves.

MATTHEWS: To get out of the way?

ARKIN: To get out of the way or to in fact do regime change for themselves, which is to have the regular army attack the Republican guards.

MATTHEWS: Peter Arnett, you were there in Baghdad. I know because Michael Keaton was there in your place playing you in “Life in Baghdad.” Do you think we’ll have enough correspondents in the field to keep on eye on the military in these kinds of questions?

ARNETT: What I would like to see is the U.S. military being more responsive to acts of accidental bombing. There is a reluctance in the Pentagon, in the military, to even admit that these happened. It’s not a question of calling the soldiers to account, but what about the reality of what happens on the ground? During the Gulf war, there’s still argument over the baby milk plant that I reported the first three days of the war.

There was argument over whether the air raid shelter, which had 350 civilians in it, was a military target or not. Why not admit that you make mistakes, that you hurt people, and then move on. And I would like to think that this time if indeed there is going to be a war and that I’m there, when we report from Baghdad what we’re seeing, the U.S. military or the government won’t label us as traitors but that we’re really eyewitnesses reporting on what we think is an accurate assessment.

MATTHEWS: General Downing, do you think the military operates by a code of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or cover up or is it generally recognizing that mistakes are made and they’re willing to account for them?

DOWNING: No. I think we’re very willing to admit when mistakes are made, but the thing is, in the press of battle, we’ve got to get on with our jobs, and you know, I-I’m an American. I support our free press. It’s a wonderful, wonderful institution, but I can tell you, when I’m in combat.

That is not the number one thing that I’m thinking about is where I’m going to get a reporter or whether or not I’m going to get a dispatch out. I’ve got to fight that battle. We have this incident, I have to get through the incident because there’s probably 15 other tactical engagements going on that are probably more important than that unfortunate incident.

McCAFFREY: Let me add one other thing too. Peter Arnett is certainly an astute journalist, but the Iraqis are involved in a major deception and denial program, both pre-combat and during the war. That baby milk factory for God’s sake was actually a biological weapons site also. I am not buying half the stuff...

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that Peter?

ARNETT: No of course not, but that’s All right. Why don’t we just pass by that one?

MCCAFFREY: Well, we can pass by it, but somehow we ended up with thousands of tons of VX, mustard gas, biological weapons, for God’s sake, that’s actually up there and we’ll have it on TV 90 days after the war is over.

MATTHEWS: Let’s go to the next question. Sir.

QUESTION: Sounds like some pretty potent baby factory. Anyway, in the Gulf war, I heard reports that we deliberately attacked civilian water and electrical facilities in Iraq, and why did we do that and are we going to do it again?

MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey.

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the target list this time will look quite different than the last time. The last time there was an attempt to actually not damage the permanent infrastructure believe it or not. We took down the power generation but didn’t destroy the generators.

We took down the bridges but we didn’t go after the industrial base, so your point is a good one. We’re going to be in Iraq if military power is used and we don’t want to wreck the infrastructure that will be required to sustain the people. So I think there will be huge care given to try and do this with the least possible suffering on these poor people.

MATTHEWS: We’ll be back with more of our hard look at the war in Iraq, the war to come most likely here at Georgetown University. Back when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at Georgetown, founded by John Carroll back in 1789. Here’s the big question, generals and experts and journalists. Is it important that we catch Saddam Hussein, General?

DOWNING: Absolutely. I do think we have to take this guy out. He’s different from Osama bin Laden. I do think that we will, but I think we do have to take him out.

MATTHEWS: General?

MCCAFFREY: I think so. I think he needs to end up in the Hague standing trial in an international tribunal for sure.

MATTHEWS: Bill. Is it a big part of the war (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ARKIN: I doubt he’s going to end up in the Hague, Chris. I think he’s probably going to end up in the ground.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: As will we all.

ARKIN: I think that there’s two absolute objectives that the Bush administration needs to achieve in order for the world to believe that this was an important enough reason to go to war. One is that there needs to be clear smoking gun evidence after the war is over that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction, and that the war has accomplished the goal of finding them and getting rid of them.

Second, Saddam Hussein needs to be overthrown and there needs to be some semblance of Iraqi controlled democracy in that country, which means that we can’t install a puppet government or let some Londoners go in there and make believe like they are Iraqis. It’s going to have to be Iraqis...

MATTHEWS: You’re talking about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ARKIN: I’m talking about those who have not lived in Iraq for the last 20 years. The Iraqis themselves have to decide what their future is.

MATTHEWS: My concern is they’ll their first election and tell us to leave.

ARKIN: Chris, if weapons of mass destruction are gone, that’s OK.

MATTHEWS: Peter?

ARNETT: Don’t forget the administration has already invited Saddam to leave and promised him sort of exit opportunities if he wants to go, so that remains an alternative for Saddam Hussein, so it’s not necessary that he’ll be captured or killed. He could leave. I don’t think he will, but he could.

MATTHEWS: Let’s-next question.

QUESTION: We’ve seen in protests in D.C. and activism on college campuses throughout the country that war in Iraq is a fairly unpopular idea with young Americans. What’s the likelihood that the draft will be reinstated if enlistment doesn’t go up?

MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey.

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think it’s a moot point. There won’t be a draft. We’ve got volunteers. They’re terrific kids. They’re high school graduates, great young ROTC, Dan Morgan, Georgetown University, captain, 101st airborne. There won’t be a draft. If there was, from a civic government, it might be a good thing, but from a military perspective right now we just don’t need it.

MATTHEWS: Do you buy the first draft, what the secretary of defense said there’s no value to draftees before he corrected it for political reasons?

MCCAFFREY: Oh, my gosh, my rifle company in Vietnam were 19-year-old boys who were 100 percent draftees, for God’s sake.

MATTHEWS: So they had value.

MCCAFFREY: It was a misstatement that’s all. He didn’t really-he was arguing for the training enhancements of the volunteer army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the retention.

ARKIN: Chris, I can see a one scenario in which a draft might be created in America. And that is that if a war in Iraq so provokes a broader war on terrorism...

MATTHEWS: You mean the Arab world revolts around us?

ARKIN: Yes, yes, then I could see where the United States in a state of permanent war against a wide variety of countries just won’t have the military assets at its disposal...

MATTHEWS: So we’ll become like Israel and have everybody has to fight?

ARKIN: In a way, yes and I think that that’s the real strategic danger of going to war in Iraq, that in fact rather than eliminating the threat of terrorism, it spawns the next generation.

MATTHEWS: Isn’t that a reason not to go to war?

ARKIN: I think it is.

QUESTION: We always talk about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, but how come we never mention Israel, a country that we definitely know has weapons of mass destruction? It refuses to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and has violated over 60 U.N. resolutions in addition to its brutal occupation of the Palestinian people. How come there’s a double standard?

MATTHEWS: Does one of the booers want to answer that question? Does any one of the booers want to answer that question? That was a very profound response. If you got a problem, respond to the kid right now. Go ahead, stand up, you sir. What’s the difference between Israel and Iraq? Let’s get the answer from you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh-oh. The difference between Israel and Iraq...

MATTHEWS: Respond to his question, not mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’d say that the reason that we have not gone after Israel is that they are a democracy, that they are not threatening other countries in the world, and the fact it is unfortunately, they’ve been forced to put troops in civilian areas because of things like suicide bombings and the fact is until that stops, they’re going to continue to have troops in those areas and I think that they would like to pull them out and they would like a cessation of violence as much as anyone.

MATTHEWS: So your last word. Your response and then we’ll sit down on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean the last 20 years have proven that Israel is an oppressive country that threatens its neighbors and it presses its own Arab citizens.

MATTHEWS: We have rejoined the mideast war. Let’s go, next. Next.

Young lady, you’re next.

QUESTION: Will there be any long-term implications if the U.S. goes to war alone without the support of the U.N.?

MATTHEWS: Great question to General McCaffrey. We go there alone, no support from the United Nations, France vetoes, we go without the sanction of the United States, the United Nations permanent Security Council?

McCAFFREY: It would be a huge mistake in my judgment to not have the legitimacy of the United Nations behind us when we go to war and I think we will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we’re going to have it too.

MATTHEWS: Go without it or go alone or not go alone?

DOWNING: I saw we are going to go no matter what.

MATTHEWS: Big difference of opinion. I don’t think without the U.N.

Back with more HARDBALL, coming back from Georgetown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back at Georgetown University. Next Tuesday night of course is the state of the union address. The president will be addressing many of the points we’re trying to get to tonight. But also the night after that, a week from tonight, we’re going to Seton Hall University. By the way, that’s another basketball power.

We’re going to talk to that, have probably the best political panel you’re going to see on television that night, that’s next Wednesday from Seton Hall University. The college HARDBALL tour continues. Generals, I noticed as we went to break a disagreement. You, General McCaffrey, my friend, said we need the U.N. You General Downing said we don’t. Who wants to start first as we regain this argument? General McCaffrey.

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the bottom line is we will end up before we’re done with this gaining the support of most of the region, in my judgment, as well as the United Nations. We have to accommodate their wishes. I think it will add immeasurably to our ability to handle the post attack phase if that’s what we have to do.

MATTHEWS: If the French veto in the Security Council as a permanent...

MCCAFFREY: They won’t veto it.

MATTHEWS: They won’t do it?

MCCAFFREY: They’ll never do it.

MATTHEWS: So what’s Chirac talking about today?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think they’re going to try and dominate the political dialogue for the next 30 days they’ll probably do that.

MATTHEWS: What’s the French price?

MCCAFFREY: Oil.

DOWNING: The president exerts just tremendous moral leadership in the world. The president of the United States does this, and President Bush since 9/11 has demonstrated incredible leadership. When he gets out and decides to do this, if he would do this without the U.N.-and I’d like to see the U.N. in this, but if they’re not, he will do it and his moral suasion is going to bring a lot of people along with him.

MATTHEWS: Peter, do we need the United Nations?

ARNETT: The U.S. needs it but Saddam Hussein has won this first round of the media battle already, you know that.

MATTHEWS: Because he’s hid everything.

ARNETT: By opening up his businesses, his offices, his military headquarters to the U.N. inspectors. When I was in Europe last week the whole world really thinks the inspectors are doing their job and they can’t understand why America wants to go to war, and I think that what President Bush has to do is come out and better explain the reasons for the U.S. doing this.

MATTHEWS: Is it an Easter egg hunt where this guy’s really hidden the Easter eggs? Is that what it’s about? How do you explain it? What do you do if you go on national television? How do you explain-we said go inspect them. They’re inspecting. We don’t find anything. How do we justify the war? Bill.

ARKIN: I agree with General McCaffrey that there will be U.N. acquiescence. I’m not sure that there will be U.N. approval. I think there will be a carefully structured resolution in which people who oppose the war will be able to vote no, but there will not be enough votes for the U.N. to say no. But having said that, I think that the damage to the United States of sort of appearing to be-not appearing to be, actually being unilateral, has already been done, and so I think that the Europeans and others are already mad at us and the damage has already been done.

MATTHEWS: What a night. Sorry, sir. Next time we come through. Great. Georgetown University, the HARDBALL college tour next week at Seton Hall University, the political question. I want to thank everybody here at the great, oldest Catholic school in the country.

END

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