Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday, March 18th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Friday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Jim Maceda, Richard Engel, Barry McCaffrey, Steve Clemons, Dennis Kucinich, Hisham Melhem, Peter Barca
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
The stakes have been dramatically raised regarding the bloody struggle in Libya. Last night we reported that the U.N. Security Council had approved a no-fly zone over Libya. Today, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi responded by calling for an immediate cease-fire, but as one newspaper put it, Gadhafi is a master of propaganda and misinformation.
Late this afternoon, Al-Jazeera reported that pro-Gadhafi forces were still advancing anyway and were just 30 miles away from the rebel-held city of Benghazi, where Gadhafi had promised to show “no mercy.”
Just after 2:00 p.m. today, President Obama made a statement calling for Gadhafi to heed the U.N. resolution or else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, what does that mean? It appears to mean that the international community, led by the United States, would use all necessary force, including military options, against the Gadhafi regime. But the president was clear on what Gadhafi must do. He said he must stop all attack on civilians, he must pull his troops back from the eastern cities, and he must reestablish water and electricity and allow humanitarian aid to get through to people.
But the president said military action would not include a ground invasion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal. Specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Obviously, that raises some serious questions. Is it even possible to be able to do all the things that he laid out without using ground troops?
President Obama said the terms are not negotiable, but he‘s also not willing to use ground troops. This is a fascinating dichotomy. We‘ll talk about it more in a little bit.
And he also argued that change must be homegrown and not imposed by a foreign power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But I want to be clear, the change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power. Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Again, we have to figure out what that means, because it is a little unclear how we do that without using ground troops.
But to help me make sense of all of this, I‘m going to bring in my next guests. We‘ve got—joining me now is of course MSNBC and “Nightly News” military analyst, General Barry McCaffrey. Also, from the New America Foundation, Steven Clemons, publisher of “The Washington Note.”
General McCaffrey, let me ask you this. How do we get Gadhafi to leave the cities he already has under his control without using ground troops?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, it‘s a laudable goal, obviously, to bring down Gadhafi after 41 years of brutal dictatorship. But one needs to worry about fuzzy political rhetoric ending up with equally fuzzy military reaction.
Clearly, an air cap, whatever that means, has no impact at all on Gadhafi‘s ability to use armor, artillery, dismounted people, assassination to subdue the rebels not only in eastern zone, but in downtown Tripoli, for God‘s sakes, where they tried to rise up also. So the military measure is almost nonsensical.
The question at hand is, are we willing to use air power to break up the Libyan army, their armor, their artillery, to go after the command and control, to destroy their air defenses, to go after his air force? He has got no option but to fight. There‘s no out for him. He‘s a cornered rat.
So I think we‘re really not thinking clearly about the means required to achieve the end that I think we want, which is Gadhafi out of office.
UYGUR: That‘s really interesting. “Nonsensical” is a strong word, of course. I want to go to Steve and see what he thinks about this.
Steve, is it possible that we can accomplish this mission with just using a no-fly zone?
STEVEN CLEMONS, PUBLISHER, “THE WASHINGTON NOTE”: No. I have, in my own writing and commentary, objected from the beginning to a no-fly zone exclusively because, one, as Barry McCaffrey just said, you can‘t change the military equation on the ground. And it seemed to me whether you were John McCain, or on the neoconservative side of things, or you were John Kerry, you had a lot of Americans running to this as an emotional holding place to try and do something, anything, to help those brave people trying to rid themselves of Gadhafi, which many folks wanted to do.
But what I‘ve been disappointed in until recently is that there wasn‘t discussion of other kind of more efficacious things that could be done. And many of the Libyan opposition council figures were telling us what those were—scramble and jam communications. They were literally losing in some of these towns because they were out of ammunition, they were out of supplies, and they were not being supplied from sources quickly enough to be doing this.
The French though, recognizing the government were not helping to rearm and re-equip the opposition. And then, lastly, feeding them intelligence.
So, there are ways to help stand up the opposition so they can keep this their civil war rather than a civil war that we somehow all of a sudden own. So, no-fly zone, plus. And I was much less interested in the no-fly zone than the plus.
And the whole idea here is that you try to do things that help the opposition achieve their goals without such a large Western military footprint that you actually end up delegitimizing and undermining those people we‘re trying to help.
UYGUR: That‘s interesting. Both of you seem to be coming out fairly strongly against this. So let‘s understand the details a little bit.
General McCaffrey, how do you do a no-fly zone? What do you hit?
What are legitimate targets?
And today, Secretary Clinton talked about a no-drive zone. What does that mean? And what do we hit under those circumstances?
MCCAFFREY: Well, Secretary Clinton is a very experienced person. A no-drive zone gets closer to the heart of the matter, which is, how do you keep Gadhafi from using superior firepower, armored tanks, armored, personnel carriers, artillery, to go in after these beleaguered cities and bust up these rebels who are armed with light weapons? And so, are we willing to do that?
Clearly, the U.S. Air Force and naval air power can do that. And Gadhafi‘s air defenses are sort of primitive, still dangerous. But U.S. Air Force F-22s flying out of Europe—and the carrier enterprise is on hand with 40 F-18s—they can go in and take down the defenses. But are we politically willing to do something like a no-drive zone?
By the way, where‘s the Egyptian air force? We sold them 300 F-16s. The Saudis have the most modern air force in the Middle East. Where are the Arabs who voted to establish the no-fly zone?
UYGUR: Well, that‘s an interesting question.
Steve, who‘s playing for all of this? Are we paying all of it, or are they going to chip in at all?
CLEMONS: Well, right now, it‘s not clear. We haven‘t asked anyone to pay for it. I mean, there‘s been discussion about sharing the burden. And I think Vice President Biden and other members of Obama‘s team made the right call to make sure that this was not a unilateral, but a multilateral, effort. But that means a multilateral in all of the dimensions.
In my view, the French have been furthest out in what they‘ve been offering to do and say they‘re going to do. But there better be significant Arab participation from my vantage point in all aspects of this.
I think General McCaffrey is absolutely right that the Saudis, the Egyptians, and others—we now know that Qatar and the UAE said that they‘ll participate in some way. But these are small, significant, but boutique countries. You need the heavyweight nations in the region to participate to make this real.
And I think both in the cost—we already know. We‘re spending $120 billion a year right now in Afghanistan. It has $14 billion of GDP. And we‘re going to add to the till in yet another—what really is another war in the Middle East. And I think that we need to be careful of the downside risks of this and the costs.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, let‘s get to another layer of this, General.
So, is there a possibility—because it looks like we‘re almost acting as the air force of the rebels, right? Because if we take out the tanks and the air force of Gadhafi, aren‘t we just their air force?
MCCAFFREY: If we‘re willing to do that, that‘s what we‘d be doing. By the way, further complicating this, essentially this is tribal warfare going on.
Eastern Libya, you know, Gadhafi has played this in a masterful way for two generations now, keeping the tribes at each other instead of against the centralized government. But at the end of the day, are we really willing to step forward and do this?
And by the way, Gadhafi is a cornered rat. Will he strike against air bases? Will he go after shipping out in the Mediterranean? Will he go out after the Egyptian air base staging areas to do a no-fly zone?
UYGUR: Well, you know, I want to ask both of you guys that, because this is interesting. On the one hand, if we don‘t go in, it says to the dictators, hey, you know what? You can go ahead and do brutal suppression and that will work, because—
MCCAFFREY: It worked in Iran.
MCCAFFREY: Where was our rhetoric in Iran? And Bahrain is vitally important to us as a naval base.
MCCAFFREY: Two-thirds of the country is Shia. We‘re clearly not sending a no-fly zone over Bahrain.
UYGUR: There‘s no question about possible hypocrisy there, et cetera. But, you know, we‘re worried about the message it sends if Gadhafi prevails here, and what kind of effect that has on the democracy movements.
On the other hand, if one of our guys gets shot down, are we then sucked into a war? And how do we respond to that?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I don‘t think having—the armed forces are willing to take casualties. I don‘t think that‘s going to be the factor. The question is, what force are we willing to use?
And by the way, have we told the American people that there‘s a vital national security issue at stake in freeing Libya, or half of Libya to fight the other half of it? They‘re two percent of the world‘s global oil. There is no vital national interest at stake in Libya. So another challenge that public rhetoric has to match the war planning.
So, Steve, I‘m hearing from you guys you‘re not buying this and that you‘re worried that this is not the right move, that it‘s kind of a half measure that might not do it.
CLEMONS: Well, I mean, I‘m not entirely there. I mean, I do believe that Gadhafi needs to go. But one of the rules about a lot of revolutions is they don‘t always end up on the side of the people. And this is a particularly horrific case.
And I think what the Obama administration and I think the United Nations itself is trying to show is trying to—how do you actualize a responsibility to protect before you see massive and likely humanitarian atrocities? And I think they‘re working very hard.
And I think the Obama administration has been criticized for moving slowly. I think they‘ve actually been moving at warp speed compared to what we did in Bosnia and what we did in Rwanda.
CLEMONS: But at the same time, you can‘t have such an exposed flank that you undermine your own interest and you undermine your own security in the prospect of what you‘re trying to do. So I think there needs to be a balance here of approach.
UYGUR: Right. All right. Very interesting conversation.
General Barry McCaffrey and Steve Clemons, thank you both for your time tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, Dennis Kucinich has called President Obama‘s statement today “an act of war.” That‘s also a strong statement. He joins me next to explain that.
UYGUR: And what is happening on the ground in Libya right now? We‘re going to try to find out. Is Gadhafi breaking the cease-fire and shelling towns anyway? Are the rebels encouraged by international support?
NBC News report Jim Maceda is on the ground in Tripoli. His report is next.
UYGUR: Even though President Obama had called for Moammar Gadhafi to implement an immediate cease-fire, Al-Jazeera is reporting that forces loyal to him are still advancing and are now just 30 miles from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Now, despite their proximity to that key city, the Libyan government has said that its forces will not actually enter Benghazi. Now, we‘ll have to see if that‘s true. They‘re saying that they want to comply with the cease-fire.
And this evening, Libya‘s deputy foreign minister has gone as far as to say that crimes against humanity have been committed. Not by Gadhafi, but by the rebels. That‘s an interesting charge.
Joining me now from the Libyan capital of Tripoli is NBC‘s Jim Maceda, who‘s been covering the conflict there.
Jim, let me start with this—what‘s been Colonel Gadhafi‘s response to the U.N. ultimatum so far?
JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he‘s been compliant on one level, no question. He and his ministers, his deputy foreign minister, his foreign minister today, have been saying the right things over the past 24 hours. And as you just mentioned, again, there was a press conference a little while ago, and the government was asking Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, to send in not just a fact-finding mission, but to send in observers who could see, could verify whether the cease-fire is being held or not.
It‘s the government‘s contention that it‘s the rebels that are triggering these firefights, and that the pro-Gadhafi loyalists, if you will, are simply reacting and defending themselves. So, so far, they‘re saying the right things, but we know for a fact that the reality on the ground is very different.
The government, this morning said—and again this evening—said that there had been absolutely no cease-fire violations today, that when they said unilaterally and immediately that they would cease their fire, they meant it. Meanwhile, in places—at least three or four places across the government, both in the west, here where we are, and in the east, there have been verified eyewitness accounts with sounds of shelling and artillery in the background of phone conversations to prove hours after the cease-fire was declared that there was no cease-fire in these places.
So, again, on one level, it sounds compliant. But when you dig a little deeper, you see that it‘s probably more about buying some time and giving the regime a chance and breathing room to try to figure out their next move—Cenk.
UYGUR: OK. So when we talk about those important cities likes Misrata and Benghazi, in Misrata there are some reports that I‘ve seen that they have 20 tanks in there firing indiscriminately. And then, of course, Benghazi is a rebel stronghold.
So tell us about those two critical cities in Libya.
MACEDA: There‘s no fighting in Benghazi right now. I heard the Al-Jazeera report as well suggesting that the front line is now 30 miles to its south. My sources are saying that it‘s further than that. It‘s more closer to 60 or 70 miles to the south, closer to Ajdabiya than to Benghazi.
In terms of Misrata, there‘s no question. I was in those phone conversations where we actually hear shelling in the background. That came from Misrata.
There‘s a group of doctors in Misrata who are relaying constantly—constant information, almost like tweetering, on to friends, doctor friends back in the states, and they‘re relaying information to the media here. And they‘re saying that, yes, there were a dozen or two tanks in the center of town shooting indiscriminately.
They have seen dozens upon dozens of civilian casualties and fatalities, as many as 40 killed today in Misrata. And it‘s important, Misrata, because it‘s probably the last significant rebel-held town.
And as Gadhafi buys more time over the next critical day or two or three before any no-fly zone is in place, he is pummeling the center of Misrata to—from those rebels so that he can consolidate the whole of the western part of the country and perhaps sit on that, try to negotiate a rump, western, pro-Gadhafi state out of the situation right now.
Back to you.
UYGUR: I think that‘s excellent insight. I think that‘s almost certainly what‘s happening there. He wants to consolidate. And then maybe he‘ll bring in U.N. forces and help him shore up that territory that he‘s now trying to win over.
Jim Maceda, great reporting from Tripoli, Libya. We really appreciate it tonight.
MACEDA: My pleasure.
UYGUR: The questions are now also being raised, does our decision in Libya mean that we are potentially getting ourselves involved in a third war in the Middle East?
Congressman Dennis Kucinich certainly thinks so. He‘s already issued a statement saying, “While the action is billed as protecting the civilians of Libya, a no-fly zone begins with an attack on the air defenses of Libya and Gadhafi forces. It is an act of war—war from the air is still war.”
Is he right? And should Congress be called back into session to authorize our country‘s involvement in this military strike? Well, let‘s ask him.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich from Ohio.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Thank you, Cenk.
UYGUR: Congressman, what exactly do you mean—thank you for joining us.
What exactly do you mean that it is an act of war? Let‘s get perfect clarity on that.
KUCINICH: Well, you have to visualize what it means to participate and establish a no-fly zone. It means that you first have to knock out the air defenses of Libya in this case, and anything that would support those air defenses.
That means bombing. It also may mean cruise missile strikes. And so that‘s an act of war by definition.
And my concern, in addition to opposing this as a matter of policy, is that the Congress of the United States, under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, has the responsibility to ultimately make this decision. It is not the president‘s to make. And so that‘s why I sent letters to all congressional leaders this afternoon asking them to call Congress back into session so that we can debate and make a decision as to what we should do.
UYGUR: Well, Congressman, a lot of people will say, hey, listen, if we don‘t support the rebel forces in Libya, that will send a message to all the dictators throughout the Middle East, you know you what? You can do brutal oppression of your people and that will work. That‘s what they call the Libya model at this point.
Are you concerned that that would be the message if we did not do a no-fly zone?
KUCINICH: Well, I‘m concerned that if we do a no-fly zone and become entrenched in a third war in that area, in the Muslim world, that we‘re sending another message. We‘re sending a message that says the U.S. is ready to pursue aggression against anybody we don‘t agree with in that region. That‘s a very dangerous message to send.
We don‘t have the money to pursue this, Cenk. We don‘t have the resources, militarily, to pursue this.
We‘ve got great pilots, we‘ve got people who can do their job. But essentially, we‘re spreading ourselves so thin already.
And one has to ask, what are they thinking in the White House about this? I wonder—you know, when you see Secretary Gates having weighed in, apparently in opposition to this, although as a good secretary will support his president, you have to wonder what they‘re thinking of in terms of the bigger picture here.
And that‘s why Congress has to get into this debate. We have to bring the Congress back. Congress has to make the decision. It‘s our constitutional responsibility, and it‘s time that we stop passing it off to presidents.
UYGUR: You know, Congressman Kucinich, it brings up an interesting point. I‘m not entirely clear where liberals stand on this or conservatives stand on this, and I want to get a sense of the Congress from you. Have you seen that yet, where the two camps are going? Or is there no camps in this case and it‘s just wide open?
KUCINICH: I think it‘s wide open, Cenk. You know, “liberal” and “conservative” keeps getting redefined. In our debate on Afghanistan yesterday, we had some of the most conservative members of Congress, Ron Paul, Jason Chaffetz, and others—and Walter Jones—join us in trying to get out of Afghanistan.
I think that members of Congress are concerned about our troops. We‘re concerned about spreading ourselves too thin. And we‘re concerned about the costs.
And so this ought to be debated in the Congress. It should not be for the president of the United States to make this very powerful statement that sends a signal to the world that we‘re ready to get engaged in a no-fly zone without Congress having the chance to make the decision. It‘s not up to the president. He can‘t make that decision.
There‘s no vital interest to the United States directly at stake here. He cannot tell the American people there‘s an imminent threat to the United States.
And frankly, President Obama himself—listen to this quote—
December 20, 2007, as Senator Obama, he said, “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Now, he can‘t meet his own test. That‘s why he needs to come back to the Congress and ask for permission.
UYGUR: Right. But Congressman, that was as candidate Obama. So we‘ve learned that sometimes those are different.
All right. But real quick, last question for you, so do you think that President Clinton made a mistake when he did something similar in Bosnia?
KUCINICH: Well, I challenged the president with the Senate joint resolution—I believe it was 21, where he wanted continuing authority to bomb Serbia. I think that was a different case, and let me explain why. Because there was powerful opposition in the streets of Serbia.
We didn‘t support it. We actually set back the opposition movement by bombing Milosevic. But in this case, there‘s more of a real civil war going on, and we have to be very careful about getting in the middle of this.
A third war, a third front, the loss of lives of our people, the innocent civilians, this becomes a nightmare. And that‘s why all of those who are urging caution right now should be listened to. But even more than that, we need to bring the United States Congress, which has a constitutional responsibility to make the decision as to whether to go to war. It‘s not up to the president.
UYGUR: All right. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, very clear. And we want to thank you for your time tonight.
KUCINICH: Thank you, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, the other big story that we‘re following, of course, is the disaster in Japan. And the crisis level has been raised. Now Japanese engineers are talking about a Chernobyl-style fix. That does not sound good.
We‘ll tell you what that is next.
UYGUR: In Japan, signs the crisis may be getting worse.
Today, the country‘s nuclear agency upgraded the crisis to level 5. Now, that puts it on par with Three Mile Island. Level 4 is defined as having local consequences. And level 5 is having wider consequences.
But come on. Keep it real. It was already at least at a level 5. This is simply the Japanese government catching up a little bit with the facts on the ground.
And there are new questions about just how close workers are to restoring the power to the plant‘s cooling systems. Yesterday, there was hope that the project was almost complete. But Tokyo Electric now says, it‘s still working on reconnecting the power lines which of course is disappointing. And some nuclear regulators caution that restoring power may not even help if the cooling systems have already sustained extensive damage.
Still, dozens of firefighters, engineers, and plant workers are continuing to work on restoring electricity, rotating shifts as they put their lives on the line. It‘s very heroic action there. And Tokyo Electric says, they could be finished by this weekend. Let‘s hope that‘s true. Now, if that doesn‘t work, Japanese engineers are now considering that they may have to turn to a last resort to contain the radiation. That does not sound good. After dumping water on to the plant from above and spraying water at the ground level, all to no avail, there is now talk of burying the plant in sand and concrete. That method was last used to seal leakages at Chernobyl in 1986. If they use this method, that area could be uninhabitable for many years to come.
But there is some good news today, though. The ratings from U.S. data collection flights are showing that the worst of the radioactive contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range that Japanese authorities cite is their greatest concern. That‘s definitely good. Now, all this is happening as the first traces of radiation are detected in California. But, but, but—those readings are far below the level considered to be hazardous to human health. So, now we are going to tell you a little bit more about the unrest in Libya and how that‘s spreading across the Middle East. Will we be stuck in the middle when it does?
Richard Engel on the U.S.-Mideast policy. And later Governor Scott Walker is under fire. And judge blasted anti-union bill, a new embarrassing e-mails by Walker are revealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Gadhafi will commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilize, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of Libyan people for help would go unanswered. Democratic values that we stand for would be overrun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was President Obama today saying, we have to support democratic values in Libya. But look at what else is happening in the Middle East right now, as we speak, in Yemen, snipers opened fire from roof tops on pro-democracy protesters today. Those snipers are reportedly security forces for the Yemeni government. At least 40 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. And in Bahrain, there was a brutal show of force as the government destroyed a symbolic monument at the center of Pearl Square, it‘s the latest in the crackdown since the Bahraini government declared martial law earlier this week.
And in Syria, two demonstrators were shot dead at a pro democracy rally. So, what are the implications of our actions in Libya? If we‘re insisting on democracy in Libya, should we also insist on it in Yemen and Bahrain? And what would that mean? I‘m hoping that my next guest can help me provide some answers to those questions.
Joining me now from Cairo is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard, let‘s start with Libya. What is the situation on the ground in terms of momentum for Gadhafi or the rebel, are the rebels encouraged by what they‘re hearing about international support? And does that matter at this point?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: They are incredibly encouraged by what they‘re hearing. They are relieved. They now believe they have a degree of air cover that Gadhafi‘s forces won‘t be able to commit some sort of massacre or gas bomb. A lot of people in Benghazi worry that there could even be a chemical attack unless they had some sort of international safeguards. A no-fly zone, however, doesn‘t give them a lot of offensive capability. It‘s protective by its nature. So they are still in Benghazi. They are still hundreds of miles away from Tripoli. Gadhafi has a great deal of support in Tripoli itself. So this no-fly zone protects them, prevents potential massacres. But it doesn‘t help them get much closer to Tripoli.
UYGUR: So it seems like the both sides might, at this point, dig in if there‘s a no-fly zone. Where Gadhafi consolidates his gains and the rebels hold on to the territories they already have. Is that what it looks like on the situation on the ground right now?
ENGEL: The—you know, in war, things change very quickly. And there could be an incident that could trigger a massive international retaliation. But as it looks right now, yes, the two sides are digging in. You have the rebels consolidating in Benghazi hundreds of miles away in Tripoli. You have Gadhafi‘s forces also gaining ground. And with this umbrella now imposed by the international community telling Gadhafi that he can‘t use the most lethal of his weapons on civilians. But Gadhafi does, and is making it clear, have the right to defend himself if attacked and Gadhafi‘s spokespeople were out today, the deputy foreign ministry saying that these are not just pro-democracy students and activists, this is an armed rebellion. And if the armed rebels move around in armored vehicles carrying rockets, that they are not civilians anymore, but legitimate combatants. So, if you have—it could have becoming quite a protracted conflict with the worst weapons and the worst atrocities in civilian areas at least under check by the international community.
UYGUR: Richard, here‘s an interesting question. Why did the Arab League throw Gadhafi under the bus? Why would they so insisting that Gadhafi had to go.
ENGEL: Well, the Arab League has had a long and terrible relationship with Gadhafi. Gadhafi is often been at the Arab League. He calls the other leaders a bunch of poodles to the—to the west, to America, to Israel. He‘s resigned from the Arab League repeatedly and then come back. So, he is been a—something of a loose cannon or a lot of Arab leaders think a complete mad man for a long time. So, he doesn‘t have a lot of collective goodwill, particularly among the Gulf States which he has been so incredibly insulting towards their influence and behavior really for the last four decades.
UYGUR: Richard, what are the people on the ground thinking? You know, as we go to Libya, at least in a no-fly zone way and we supported eventually the protesters in Egypt, but yet, we did not support, it seems, the outwardly what‘s going on in Bahrain or even in Yemen. Is there a sense of hypocrisy there? Can you sense that at all or no?
ENGEL: There certainly is that perception. But each movement is different. And I think we‘re calling everyone who‘s out there a pro-democracy protester as if they all have the exact same wishes and that they‘re all, you know, on Twitter and Facebook just want their own bill of rights and that their little Thomas Jefferson‘s everywhere across the Arab world. It‘s not the case. In Libya, this is an armed rebellion, mostly by people in Benghazi who have long suffered and long been neglected by the government in Tripoli. The people in Tripoli? A lot of them benefit from Gadhafi‘s regime and are relatively happy with his very quixotic but fairy wealthy system that has been put in place. Libya has a tiny population. And a lot of people benefit from the oil wealth.
In Bahrain, yes, there are people calling for more democracy, but it is caught up also, in an entire sectarian conflict. The people who are calling for more rights and more representation are Shiites. And they are also being backed openly now by Iran. And that is why you Saudi Arabia so nervous, why you see Saudi Arabia so aggressive. Look at Saudi Arabia for a second. And a lot of this going back a little bit, has to go to the Iraq war. The war that, you know, the U.S. launched the Iraq war against Saddam Hussein. In Bahrain and in Saudi—in Saudi Arabia, just to the north of Saudi Arabia, you have Iraq, which was formerly a Sunni country which now because of the Iraq war is dominated by Shiites.
Saudi Arabia does not want to see Bahrain also dominated by Shiites. And that‘s why you Saudi Arabia so actively involved in the crackdown in Bahrain. So every conflict while we are calling them democracy movements, have their own new answers. And Yemen, they want—people are protesting against the president of 32-years Ali Abdullah Saleh. But there are tribes in Yemen that are armed. There are tribes that are aligned with Al Qaeda. They‘re not necessarily democratic in their leanings either. So they do want the government to go. But there‘s not a sense that the people who are protesting necessarily want women‘s rights and parliamentary democracy and equal representation for the minorities which a lot of people in the west might perceive with a call for democracy.
UYGUR: All right. Very good perspective. NBC‘s Richard Engel in Cairo. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
UYGUR: And joining me now is Hisham Melhem, he is the Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya News Channel. Hisham, there‘s been a lot of people on the show today who seem like they‘re not in favor of this action. Do you think it‘s a good idea to do this no-fly zone?
HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA NEWS CHANNEL: I think so. Look, the president essentially trapped himself. He said Gadhafi should go. Gadhafi lost his legitimacy. And therefore we‘re not dealing with him and has to leave. Then, what do you do? You have to act on it. That‘s one. The other thing is, everybody wants American leadership to help the Libyans. Obviously, as the president keeps saying correctly, all of the countries are somewhat different from each other. They have different social, political, economic structures and different histories and that weighs heavily on how dissent is dealt with and how decent it‘s viewed. But the United States can shape events in the Middle East. And I think the United States, particularly this president, can recoup America‘s reputation by not making the same mistakes in Iraq, but by helping the Arabs and the Europeans to help the Libyans do the heavy lifting to get rid of one of the worst regimes in the Middle East.
UYGUR: But the problem is, a lot of people seem to be skeptical that we can do it with just a no-fly zone alone. They‘re worried that you‘re eventually going to need ground troops. Do you think the president is hedging and do you think that‘s a problem?
MELHEM: I think he‘s right not to commit the United States to a ground war in the third Muslim country. I mean, you have enough in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he‘s absolutely correct. This time, you are helping the people who are already rose up against this regime. By the way, this began as a peaceful opposition movement. It turned violent. It became—because of the fire that was unleashed indiscriminate firing and killing by Gadhafi. And that‘s why it turned into an insurrection. If the United States ten days ago jammed his communication as it did in 1986 when Ronald Reagan attacked, he would be completely blinded and there were many calls to do so. Let me tell you, Cenk something, in the 1990s, people would have killed en masse in Bosnia and Kosovo only because of their religious backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds. The first mass killing on European soil since the holocaust. Europeans themselves did nothing. Only when the Americans showed leadership, that mass killing stopped.
UYGUR: But let‘s talk about the down side. What if, you know, we wind up killing civilians? When you do air bombings, you got to have collateral damage. What if the local population turns on us? How do we know the local population has turned on us? There‘s a lot of complications there.
MELHEM: There are a lot of complications and questions that are unanswered at these days and a lot of valuables when you go into arm conflict. I agree with you. But there are civilians who are being dying en masse. I heard Clinton, President Clinton on three occasions saying how sorry he was because he did not intervene on time in Bosnia, how sorry he was because he did not do anything in Rwanda to stop the killing. Like it or not, call it the burden of leadership, call it the burden of empire. Now, certain things that only this exceptional country can do. This is the only country that can stop North Korea which is the political equivalent of a runaway freight train.
This is the only country that can show leadership. Today, the president was hedging. He said, you provide the support, the infrastructure for the Europeans and the—to enforce the no-fly zone. Gadhafi doesn‘t care about that. He‘s not afraid of the Brits or the French or the Arabs. He despises them. He looks down on them. He‘s afraid only of the Americans. And there‘s only one leadership that should be, you know, displayed now and that‘s the American leadership.
UYGUR: I understand. And by the way, Gadhafi man, he‘s been leading the country for forty-years and he‘s still a Colonel. What does it take to be a general in Libya?
MELHEM: But he‘s a great leader, he calls himself the king of kings of Africa.
UYGUR: King of kings, you shouldn‘t be a colonel. You have to be at least a general.
MELHEM: If you ask Gadhafi, Gadhafi will tell you, one word, majnoon, crazy.
UYGUR: Yes. Well, that‘s true. You look like an Austin Powers character. All right. Hisham Melhem, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
MELHEM: Thank you, Sean.
UYGUR: All right. Now, ahead, it‘s not a good day for Governor Scott Walker. His anti-union law gets a major blow. Does that mean that the democratic senators have to leave the state again? Oh, boy. But Walker‘s e-mails are also revealed and it turns out, they aren‘t quite how he characterized them. That‘s next.
UYGUR: Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin has been stopped. At least for now. We‘ll going to explain that in a second. And also, here he goes again. Glenn Beck calls the president, a terrorist sympathizer. We‘ll explain.
UYGUR: A Wisconsin judge dealt a blow to Governor Scott Walker‘s anti-union law today. Dane County Circuit Judge Mary Ann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order that will stop the law from going into effect until she can make a definitive ruling. The lawsuit accused Republicans of violating the state‘s open meetings law when they held a quick vote on the bill last week. The law says that you have to give 24 hours‘ notice before holding a committee meeting. The Republicans have of course gave less than two hours‘ notice. Because why bother following the law. But it‘s not just of the course that Governor Walker has to worry about. Vice President Joe Biden has also joined the union fight. Uh-oh, he made it crystal clear whose side he was on during a virtual town hall. Meetings set up by the AFL-CIO yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: You guys built the middle class. We don‘t see the value of collective bargaining, we see the absolute positive necessity of collective bargaining. Let‘s get something straight—the only people who have the capacity, the organizational capacity and the muscle to keep as they say the barbarians from the gate, is organized labor. And make no mistake about it, the guys on the other team get it. They know if they cripple labor, then the gate is open, man, the gate is wide open. And we know that too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Wow! Barbarians at the gate. That‘s serious. And finally, they‘re here. As some might choice, they‘re a little late to the game. But, hey, at least they showed up in some form. Now the question is, will the White House act on that commitment as local Democrats and unions continue to fight for their rights across the country.
Joining me now is the democratic leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Peter Barca. And he‘s just one of those local democrats. You were the guy who stood up to the Republicans and said that they were breaking the law. Do you feel vindicated by this decision today?
STATE REP. PETER BARCA (D), WISCONSIN: Well, it‘s a big victory for the people of Wisconsin, Cenk. There is no question about it. Wisconsin has a tradition of clean, open, and honest government. And we‘re finally back on track once again. We take very seriously our open meetings and laws. And I was so pleased that Judge Sumi had the courage to issue that temporary restraining order.
UYGUR: All right, now, how about the idea that, hey, if you overturn this, well, then, they still have quorum if the Democrats are in the state. So, do the state senators have to go back out of the state now?
BARCA: Well, you know, support has been dwindling for this bill all along. You know, poll after poll, even by conservative groups show that over two-thirds of the people of Wisconsin do not support permanently taking away people‘s basic worker rights. And I think they‘re going to have a difficult time if they go back to trying to pass this same law once again. You know, it was put forward as a presumption for a budget repair bill. We can repair the budget without permanently taking away people‘s rights. So I‘m hoping during this pause, while we had the emergency break on this law that maybe cooler heads will prevail. And maybe for once, we can work on a bipartisan basis. And actually pass a budget repair bill that doesn‘t take away basic worker rights that we‘ve enjoyed for over a half century in Wisconsin. It actually started, Cenk, right here in Wisconsin, collective bargaining for workers.
UYGUR: That‘s right. That‘s right. Now, Governor Walker is also in trouble over these e-mails. He had said earlier that oh, once I did this, I had a ton of e-mails telling me how wonderful I am or how right I am. So, some reporters say, hey, you know what? Can you see those e-mails? Because you have to show them by law to us. So, now finally they‘re out, and it turns out, yes, he got some support. And he got a flood of criticism instead. Let me read you one quick one here. It‘s one of the guys wrote it, “Why are you trying to take what we have worked so hard for? We all have families and have children of our own to feed. Times are hard enough with the economy the way it is.” Is this yet another deception by Governor Walker?
BARCA: Well, you know, they‘ve tried to squelch public opposition from day one. They shut down the legislative hot line for the first time that we know of where he deliberately cut off public input. They actually closed the doors of the capitol. And we had to have a court order to require it to be opened. They—they tried to—they cut off our microphones in the assembly. They cut short a vote. They, you know, broke the open meetings law based on Judge Sumi‘s ruling today. And, you know, every step of the way they tried to squelch the public. And it‘s obvious. The polls are so clear. And I‘m sure Governor Walker must have heard the same thing in his e-mails that people have been saying through polls and through all of that records that we‘ve seen.
UYGUR: I know. But he doesn‘t care about the e-mails, he doesn‘t care about the polls. So, we‘ll see how it turns out. It‘s a very interesting story, of course. State Representative Peter Barca. Thank you for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
BARCA: Thank you very much.
UYGUR: And now, up next, Beck‘s at it again, this time saying the president sympathizes with terrorists.
UYGUR: Glenn Beck is at it again. He just when you thought he called the president every dirty word in the book, well, he takes it to another level again. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He just sees us as the oppressor nation. He just sees us as a nation who is and has oppressed the Native Americans and the Muslim communities around the world. And so he‘s—he‘s not with the terrorist. I‘m not saying that. But he is sympathetic to their cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, Obama is sympathetic to terrorists. By the way, I like the reference to Native Americans. Is Obama sympathetic to the cause of nonexistent Native American terrorists? But to the core of the issue, look, we have an ironic development here. Beck has gone so far over the top. So many times that it‘s becoming a bit blase. They used to be a line that you didn‘t cross. But they‘ve crossed it so many times over and over. This is how many references now to him being a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer or palling around with terrorists as Sarah Palin said. Now, the right wing‘s viciousness has become so predictable that it‘s almost mundane. Look, maybe we‘re not their audience. Maybe their audience is a few people that they want something to do about it. And that‘s what they keep drilling this into their heads. That is unacceptable. And of course, later, they‘ll say, no one could have seen it coming.
All right, that‘s our show. Thank you for watching. And “HARDBALL” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2011 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: