updated 3/16/2004 12:48:33 PM ET 2004-03-16T17:48:33

Guests: Thomas Friedman, Hans Blix

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight the secret Richard Nixon tapes on John Kerry.  And the never before seen internal memo that shows why Republicans viewed Kerry as a threat more than 30 years ago. 

Plus, as the first anniversary of the war in Iraq approaches, where are those weapons of mass destruction?  We‘ll ask former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

We‘ll get to Hans Blix and David Kay and for the hunt for those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

But first, in 1971, John Kerry rose to prominence as the articulate young leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  In April of that year, Kerry‘s group came to Washington to protest the war and President Nixon. 

As NBC‘s Brian Williams reports, Nixon took notice and launched a secret campaign to discredit Kerry. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When I came back from Vietnam, I led thousands of veterans to Washington.  We camped on the mall.  We stood up to Richard Nixon. 

Someone has to die so that President Nixon won‘t be, and these are his words, the first president to lose a war. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This was the moment John Kerry arrived on the national stage, giving Senate testimony against a war he had seen firsthand. 

Kerry was a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  In Washington for a week, in April, 1971, to protest, lobby Congress, even to return hundreds of medals and service decorations thrown into a heap on Capitol Hill. 

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The American involvement in Vietnam is coming to an end. 

WILLIAMS:  Not quite, though President Nixon was gradually withdrawing American ground troops.  Not enough, said the veterans. 

The Nixon administration went to court to block them from camping out on the mall. 

KERRY:  There‘s been a lot of talk this afternoon from veterans and others about what is happening on this injunction. 

WILLIAMS:  John Kerry and his group stayed put.  Nixon‘s inner circle voiced real contempt for those veterans, privately calling them horrible, ratty looking, inarticulate, and worse. 

But John Kerry was presentable, politically astute and very articulate. 

KERRY:  How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? 

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

WILLIAMS:  He reached a national audience, including, we now know from once secret White House tapes, the president himself who brought it up with his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman. 

NIXON:  Apparently, this fellow that they put in the front row is that what you say, the front row, the real stars, Kerry.

BOB HALDEMAN, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR RICHARD NIXON:  Kerry, he is—he did a hell of a great job on the...

NIXON:  He was extremely effective.

HALDEMAN:  I think you‘ll find Kerry running for political office.

WILLIAMS:  John Kerry ended his week in Washington with a speech to a huge anti-war rally. 

KERRY:  This is a government which cares more about the legality of where men sleep than the legality of where we drop bombs and why men die. 

WILLIAMS:  The Nixon White House saw Kerry as a threat and set out to discredit him and infiltrate his organization.  Nixon is heard discussing Kerry with White House aide Charlie Colson. 

CHARLIE COLSON, WHITE HOUSE AIDE FOR NIXON:    This fellow Kerry that they had on last week...

NIXON:  Yes, yes.

COLSON:  Hell, he turns out to be, really quite a phony.

NIXON:  Well, he is sort of a phony, isn‘t he?

COLSON:  Well, he stayed, when he was here...

NIXON:  Stayed out in Georgetown.

COLSON:  Stayed in Georgetown, was out at the best restaurants every night and...

NIXON:  Sure.

COLSON:  You know, he‘s just the complete opportunist.

NIXON:  A racket, sure.

COLSON:  We‘ll keep hitting him, Mr. President.

WILLIAMS:  Colson was Nixon‘s point man against Kerry, and he found a weapon in another veteran, John O‘Neill. 

JOHN O‘NEILL, VIETNAM WAR VETERAN:  The president does our talking for us. 

WILLIAMS:  Fresh out of the Navy like John Kerry, O‘Neill was angry at Kerry for saying U.S. servicemen in Vietnam routinely committed war crimes. 

KERRY:  Yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones.  I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages.  All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. 

O‘NEILL:  Shall Mr. Kerry and his little group of 1,000 or 12,000 embittered man, be allow to represent their views as that of all veterans because they appear on every news program?  I hope not, for the country‘s sake. 

WILLIAMS:  After this news conference, O‘Neill met with Colson at the White House where the attack on Kerry was seen as a public relations coup.  In the conversation with the president, Haldeman gave the credit to Charles Colson. 

HALDEMAN:  Colson put this together.

WILLIAMS:  And he raved about John O‘Neill. 

HALDEMAN:  Crew cut, real sharp looking guy who is more articulate than Kerry.  He‘s not as eloquent; he isn‘t the ham that Kerry is.  But he‘s more believable.  This guy now is going to—he‘s going to move on Kerry.

WILLIAMS:  The White House pushed for and got a debate between O‘Neill and Kerry.  But first, President Nixon called O‘Neill in for a pep talk. 

NIXON:  That‘s great.  Give it to him.  Give it to him.  And you can do it, because you have a pleasant manner, too.  Because you‘ve got—and I think it‘s a—it‘s a great service to the country.

WILLIAMS:  Two weeks later, the veterans squared off on “The Dick Cavett Show.”

O‘NEILL:  Mr. Kerry is the type of person who lives and survives only on the war weariness and fears of the American people.  This is the same little man who on nationwide television in April spoke of, quote, “crimes committed on a day to day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

KERRY:  We believe that, as veterans who took part in this war, we have nothing to gain by coming back here and talking about those things that have happened except to try to point the way to America, to try and say, here is where we went wrong and we‘ve got to change. 

WILLIAMS:  Later that year, Kerry left the increasingly radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  The war continued. 

And the Nixon White House kept after John Kerry.  It‘s said that when Kerry ran for Congress in 1972, Nixon stayed up late on election night until he knew for sure that John Kerry had been defeated. 

Brian Williams, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan was in the Nixon White House back in ‘71. 

He‘s now an MSNBC contributor. 

You know all about this.  Tell me your memories of the Nixon attitude toward this young Vietnam veteran. 

PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER NIXON SPEECHWRITER:  Well, we had a number demonstrations, Chris, some of them very huge.  This was a relatively small group, but because they were veterans, you had to deal with them with kid gloves.  At least I felt so. 

And there was only about 1,000 of them but they were down on the mall.  And so we went through the court process and got an injunction.  They were to get off the mall.  And so I sent a memo.  That memo I think you‘ve got over there. 

MATTHEWS: Yes.  You said, “I trust we‘re not going to use force to throw them out if they refuse to go.  They‘re getting tremendous publicity.  They have an articulate spokesman,” him.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  “And they are being received in a far more sympathetic fashion than other demonstrators.”

BUCHANAN:  Well, sure.  These were veterans.  And so we treated them differently.  And my feeling was that you let them go ahead, hold their demonstrations, give their speeches and leave town. 

The week following, you had those May Day demonstrator who weren‘t demonstrator, who trashed Georgetown, who rolled the logs down on Canal Road, put barrels in the street.  These were a different group, as I point out. 

There had been a horrible mistake under Hoover with the Bonus Army, which came in after World War I and during the Depression and demanded their bonus.  And Hoover called the Pentagon and General MacArthur and Colonel Patton came riding up Pennsylvania Avenue. 

MATTHEWS:  On horseback. 

BUCHANAN:  On horseback and drove them...

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk about the way—first of all, what did you think about John Kerry back then?  Who did you think he was? 

BUCHANAN:  I thought he was a very extremely articulate veteran. 

There‘s no doubt about it.  You can see it there.  He was very impressive. 

But I thought then and I think now, the idea of throwing those medals over the fence was awful.  And frankly, the idea of calling the American soldiers and they‘re war criminals, and basically mad dogs in Vietnam, which he did was an outrage. 

And the reason was, I mean, a lot of us knew the guys over there.  And that simply was a lie.  It was not true. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think was his motive?  I mean, you‘re a political guy.  Even as a journalist, you‘re a political guy.  What do you think was he up to?

Running for office—We heard Colson on that tape.  Charles Colson, the president‘s counselor, was saying this guy‘s going to run for office.  That was pretty prescient.  I‘m sure Chuck would enjoy hearing that, his voice again, now. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think we all did, frankly.

MATTHEWS:  You thought he was a power, right?

BUCHANAN:  No, no.  Here‘s the thing.  He‘s a very articulate guy. 

He‘s fought in Vietnam.  He comes back.  The elites in the country have turned against the war...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... because Nixon inherited the war. 

The “Washington Post” and all the others that led us in there are now against it.  He‘s going to step out and be the young leader of this as a veteran.  I think he went a bridge too far with those awful charges. 

And you saw that fellow, John O‘Neill.  That is perfectly legitimate to do.  We needed an articulate veteran to stand up to him.  And as you can see, Chris, the president doesn‘t hesitate to bring them into the Oval Office and basically give them a presidential benediction and say this fellow represents the other side of this war, the guys who are still there. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he still tends to see the other side of an argument as evil?  I mean, we have a president who does that as well.  For example, the liars and crooks comment of the last week.  Do you think that is the same overstatement, overkill, that he sold back then?

BUCHANAN:  I do.  And I wrote a piece for “Human Events.”  I saw them night he did very well...

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of overkill. 

BUCHANAN:  In Wisconsin, he gets up and says, “I stood up against Nixon‘s war.”  That is a lie.  When Nixon left as V.P., there were 600 guys in Vietnam.  When we came in in 1969, there were 535,000, and 33,000 dead. 

It was Johnson‘s war. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  And Kennedy‘s war.  And liberalism‘s war.  But he wouldn‘t say that.  He said it‘s Nixon‘s war, although Nixon started removing troops almost from the day he took office. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the American liberal establishment turned so anti-war after their president had left office in ‘68 when they had been pro -war?

BUCHANAN:  One reason is they hated Richard Nixon.  Nixon had won.  They thought he was an illegitimate president.  They wanted him defeated and humiliated. 

And I‘ll tell you this.  One of the motives behind Watergate is, in 1973, people forget, every single provincial capital was in South Vietnamese hands.  North Vietnam was whipped.  We had mined and blockaded.  The POW‘s were coming home.

Nixon had won the war they couldn‘t win and they couldn‘t end.  Their hatred of Nixon knew no bounds.  And when Nixon stumbled in Watergate, they finished him off. 

MATTHEWS:  I always thought the war was the real reason for Watergate, the whole fight over... 

BUCHANAN:  The hatred of Nixon goes right to the war. 

MATTHEWS:  What is your sense, if you can step back from this, ideologically, for three seconds of John Kerry.  All these years of development.  This guy has been running for president, it seems to me, for a long time.  Colson was right, I think. 

NIXON:  I think there‘s a lot of Bill Clinton, in a sense.  Clinton at 15 years old was looking at the presidency of the United States. 

I think he was opportunistic, but there‘s no doubt he served bravely in Vietnam.  And there‘s nothing wrong with wanting to be president as a young man.  I just think he really ought to apologize for what he said about his comrades who served and died and only a tiny few of whom committed the crimes  he talks about. 

MATTHEWS:  Percentage wise, what percentage of John Kerry is a man of the left and what percentage is a man of opportunity?

BUCHANAN:  I think that Kerry is a...

MATTHEWS:  Is he a left?

BUCHANAN:  He‘s a lefty.  He‘s a left, and I think he‘s an authentic lefty.  But I do think he is a bit of an opportunist, frankly.  I mean, look at how he moves on the trade issue and things like that. 

But there‘s—Again, there‘s nothing wrong with a politician saying, look, the country has moved this way.  That‘s not working.  Let‘s try this.  But I think he is basically authentically of the left, but he sees where the main chance is. 

MATTHEWS:  Who was the man of greater character?  Richard Nixon or John Kerry?

BUCHANAN:  I think Nixon was a man of great personal character.  I think he was a man of flaws but he hung right in there to the end. 

MATTHEWS:  And Kerry is a man of flaws or a man of bad character with some positives?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I wish Kerry would stand up and say, that look, “I shouldn‘t have said that about these guys.”  He knows he shouldn‘t have said that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I haven‘t heard him say that. 

BUCHANAN:  Why doesn‘t he just say it? 

MATTHEWS:  The idea of atrocities, and “we all participated in atrocities.”  I don‘t think that would sell too well right now. 

BUCHANAN:  Why doesn‘t he say, “Look, I was angry.  I was against the war.  I said some things I shouldn‘t have.  They were honorable guys, but I was right to oppose the war.”  And many would say fine. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of politicians including Richard Nixon would be better off if they could apologize. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Patrick J. Buchanan, my colleague here at

MSNBC. 

Up next, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times” on the deadly terror attack in Spain, which is just bad news for everybody. 

And later, as we approach the first anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, where are those weapons of mass destruction?  Hans Blix and David Kay will be here to tell us about it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, did terrorists change the election results in Spain?  And could they do the same thing here?  Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times” will be here when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Thomas Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner with “The New York Times.”  He writes about foreign affairs.  And luckily we got him here today. 

What a big day, a terrible day.  I was downhearted after hearing what happened yesterday.  Whatever you think about this war, it has come to the situation where al Qaeda has become the enforcer of the anti-war sentiment. 

It‘s horrible, isn‘t it?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”  Well, you kind of...

MATTHEWS:  That was in Spain.

FRIEDMAN:  Two delusions, I think, have been exposed in Spain, Chris.  One is a Spanish delusion that you can somehow buy al Qaeda off by withdrawing 1,300 troop from Iraq, as if that‘s what they‘re after. 

This is a war of civilization.  I mean, Bin Laden himself said in his tape that he wanted to recover Andalusia...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FRIEDMAN:  ... from the Spanish.  He wanted to restore the Muslim empire there.  So let‘s start there.  That‘s an illusion.  I think that was exploded in Spain. 

MATTHEWS:  How was that exploded?  Because the opposition guy said we‘ll pull out of Iraq. 

FRIEDMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  The government—government party said, we‘ll stay in. 

Which way were the polls going before this horror that week?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, the polls were siding slightly with the government.  And clearly there was a backlash by the public in response to the terrorist attack.  And now they‘ve elected a government that is insisting on pulling their troops out of Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Will this give them a free—will this make them a safe harbor from attack in the future, because they buckled?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, that‘s the argument.  It‘s the axis of appeasement argument, basically, that they‘re making. 

But you know, at some point, one hopes that the Spaniards will step back and say, “Wait a minute.  How we got into this war was terrible.  How our—how the Americans made an argument for this war was dishonest.” 

But what this war is about now, Chris, is building a democracy in Iraq.  How—If we—we‘re not—when we pull out of Iraq, that‘s the project we‘re pulling out of.  We‘re not punishing George Bush.  We‘re punishing the Iraqi people, and we, Spain, live on the frontier of the Arab Muslim world.  What are we doing?  We‘d be shooting ourselves in the foot. 

So it‘s that illusion that I hope will be exposed here. 

At the same time, Chris, this attack exposed another illusion and the Spanish reaction to it.  It was the illusion peddled by this administration that we ever had a coalition.  We had a coalition of a few friendly governments. 

MATTHEWS:  British and the Spanish.

FRIEDMAN:  Ninety percent of the British people...

MATTHEWS:  Were against the war.

FRIEDMAN:  .... were against the war.  And the Spanish people.  Now we are paying a price for the—this administration‘s complete inability to make the case for this war with the European public. 

And one reason they have failed to do that is because they are so caught up in defending their argument about WMD.  “It‘s a big country, and we may still find it.”  That... 

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t the president—Everybody watching the show, and I would say most people who watch this program or any others who were for the war, still are, although they have questions. 

Why doesn‘t he come to the American people and say, “I had bad intel, but this war was right on its merits.” 

FRIEDMAN:  David Kay gave them the best advice.  Just say, “The intel wasn‘t there.  We regret that.  But there is a larger issue at stake here.  There‘s a good case for this war.” 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got Blix coming on the show to make these points. 

FRIEDMAN:  Building a democracy in Iraq. 

And by not getting this other argument out of the way, they can‘t make the good argument for the war.  Not for the American people and not for the Europeans.  That‘s what this is about. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me talk to you about, as a person who spends every night here arguing about it one way or the other, trying to understand it one way or the other.

If we do succeed in reconstructing Iraq along the lines of a moderate democracy, then the people who supported the intervention, the preemptive act, the preventive attack on that country, will say we were right.  That‘s the problem. 

As long as they are out there saying this shows we should do this in the future, pick a country out.  Whether it be Lebanon or whatever other country in that region, Iran, even, we should be able to go in there, knock it out, take it over and refit it like a car. 

People like—People like me are not willing to say, yes, that‘s a good idea. 

FRIEDMAN:  As someone who believes in this mission of trying to partner with the Iraqi people, to build a democracy in Iraq, all I can tell is this is a long-term project.  And before anyone can stand up and say I was right.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FRIEDMAN:  It‘s going to be three, four or five years. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s still possible that we can find a way—

And I‘m open to this.  I think it would be great if we could—to walk away from Iraq, leave behind a strong alliance of running the country that would keep the country from being nastily anti-Israeli?  Sure, they all say anti-Israeli stuff.  But not do anything against Israel.  And leave the other countries in the region alone as well.  Is that possible?

FRIEDMAN:  It is possible in the long, long run.  But in the intermediate run, there‘s going to have to be either an American, American-NATO, an American-NATO-U.N., an American-NATO-U.N.-Arab League force that is always over the horizon from Baghdad to assure all the parties there... 

MATTHEWS:  Play ball. 

FRIEDMAN:  And nobody is...

MATTHEWS:  So we will play a role similar to the neo-colonial—I‘m not knocking it—post-colonial French.  That when those government there were elected, or the stable governments are threatened by guerrilla forces coming into the capital, that we will come in there and be the effective gendarmes. 

FRIEDMAN:  To put in—the analogy I like is, Chris, we will be the Turkish army in Turkey.  The Turkish army is the guarantor.  It‘s always there over the horizon and if the politicians get too crazy, they‘ll step in and make sure nobody basically runs away with the county. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re in the barracks. We‘re in the barracks ready to go. 

FRIEDMAN:  Holding Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  An interesting development.  Anyway, we‘re coming back with more from “New York Times” Pulitzer Prize-winning three times, Thomas Friedman. 

And later, one year after the start of war in Iraq, where are the weapons of mass destruction?  Hans Blix is coming here and David Kay, our inspector, and the U.N. inspector, both, to sort out what happened and how we got it wrong.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times.” 

You know, sometimes you don‘t want friends when you get them.  This new guy just elected prime minister of Spain on basically the anti-war ticket said, “I think Kerry will win.  I want Kerry to win.  We‘re aligning ourselves with Kerry.” 

Now I don‘t think John Kerry wants to be known as the dove candidate.  He is skeptical of the war.  Is this good or bad news for the Democratic nominee?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, here‘s what I think is the logic that‘s playing out, Chris.  I think that the al Qaeda strategy is as follows. 

They are hoping to have—I think it‘s going to be a Tet offensive in September, October in Iraq with the objective of defeating George W. Bush in this election, with the hope of bringing John Kerry in, with the hope that Kerry, uninvested in the war, will withdraw from Iraq.  I think that is their clear strategy.

MATTHEWS:  Who are we talking about doing this?  The Iraqis?  Or al Qaeda?

FRIEDMAN:  It‘s a combination of al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgents, basically.  That is their strategy. 

Which is why I‘ve argued—I wrote a column to this effect that it is very important for Kerry for the safety of our troops, to be saying now, “I will not run.  OK?  So if you—if your objective is to kill enough Americans to defeat George Bush to get me to run, I will not run. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you see—Do you foreclose in that estimate an attack here?

FRIEDMAN:  You can‘t foreclose anything. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that could go, that could bite both ways.  In fact, an attack here could well cause the circle of wagons, being the country we are.

FRIEDMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not the Spanish.  We don‘t react passively to attack. 

FRIEDMAN:  What worries me is that the Spanish reaction could certainly whet the appetite and the imagination of those who say, “If we got that reaction out of Spain, why not go for the brass ring?”  Which is affecting the American election.

MATTHEWS:  And I also think it‘s in the interest of this country that John Kerry does win in a close election and not be seen as buckling.  That would be trouble for everybody.

Anyway, thank you, Thomas Friedman.

Coming up, it‘s been a year since the start of the Iraq war.  We‘ve said that before.  It‘s coming up this Saturday, actually, the 20th.  Well, where are Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction?  That‘s an old question, maybe new answers coming up with former weapons inspector Hans Blix and David Kay will be here. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, nearly one year after the start of the war in Iraq, why didn‘t weapons inspections work?  I‘ll talk to two weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and David Kay. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A year ago, the weapons inspector team of chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix continued its work on the ground in Iraq as the U.S. was just days away from waging war.  During the inspections process, Blix came under heavy criticism for failing to find Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction.  He has now written a book about his experience entitled “Disarming Iraq.”

Hans Blix, welcome. 

Let me ask you, if God were to have intervened, could he have stopped this war by giving perfect knowledge to both sides, knowledge to the Iraqi that we were coming to war if they didn‘t do certain things, knowledge to Americans that the Iraqis did not have those weapons of mass destruction?

HANS BLIX, FORMER CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR:  Well, either way, it might have helped to stop the war, because if the U.S. had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction, I think don‘t think they would have gone to war and Mr. Bush certainly could not have persuaded Congress about it. 

And if the Iraqis had known, if Saddam Hussein had known that he would have an army coming down, maybe he would then have been more forthcoming in stating more clearly and cooperating better with the inspectors that there wasn‘t anything.  He was a bit ambiguous about it during the ‘90s.  And he did not come out with any very clear declaration at the end. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I am trying to get to.  And you were much closer than I‘ll ever get the that situation.

On March 17 of a last year, a year ago this coming Wednesday, Saddam Hussein went on his son‘s TV network and said that he, in fact, had had, was the term—was the locution—he had had weapons of mass destruction through 1991, but he no longer had them.  Why do you think that communication was so feeble, so unsuccessful? 

BLIX:  Well, maybe he was proud. 

Also, in New York, the efforts that the British were making to get a declaration out of him, plus a number of steps that would demonstrate that five different disarmament measures had been taken, these efforts did not really succeed.  And maybe he didn‘t want to go or didn‘t feel he could go wholeheartedly for it.  It was sort of feeble.  It was a dud. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Do you think it was his fear that if he did not have apparent possession of weapons of mass destruction, he would not have the prestige he wanted in the region? 

BLIX:  Well, that‘s one possibility. 

Of course, now knowing that there weren‘t any weapons, we must wonder why did they deny access so often to the inspectors in the ‘90s?  What was the reasons?  After all, the country‘s economic backbone was crush by the sanctions. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BLIX:  And what you mention is one possibility. 

Another possibility is that he would often hear from the United States that cooperating with inspectors would not be enough.  The only thing that would end the sanctions would be that he would disappear himself.  And that was not much of an incentive. 

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t believe that premise. 

BLIX:  Yes, I think that was important.  But there might have been others as well. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But do you believe—you said so.  I want to clarify.

You believe that if he had known that simply making clear that he had destroyed the weapons or done something to remove them from his country, if that had been sufficient, you believe he would have done that.  But you don‘t believe that he felt that was sufficient. 

BLIX:  No.  He wasn‘t sure that—I think he was not quite sure that there really would be an invasion.  He didn‘t know about that.  If he had known about it, I‘m sure he would have preferred to humiliate himself somewhat, rather than to be invade and be captured. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Do you think our administration would have attacked if they could have gotten away with attacking under the premise there were weapons of mass destruction there, but there weren‘t any? 

BLIX:  No.  I think, if they had known there weren‘t any, they would have realized that the main premise upon which they went in would have been missing.  And they would not have done it. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the goals of the United Nations, ever since 1945, has been to avoid wars like this.  Is there any way, where there‘s misinformation, misinformation on the part of the tyrant, the dictator, Saddam Hussein, that the United States in the form of—in the person of President Bush meant business.  The people around the president in his Cabinet were very war-conscious or willing to go to war and he didn‘t know that. 

Do you know if that part of it is true, that he didn‘t believe we would pull the trigger? 

BLIX:  Yes.  I think he didn‘t believe that you would do that, because he has got away several time before.  In ‘91, he got away with it.  And earlier in his career, he had also gotten away with it.  So maybe his lieutenants didn‘t dare to tell him.  A dictator at the top, he doesn‘t—he may not get information that he needs. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you also—do you think it is also credible, plausible, that his people were so afraid of him that they told him he had weapons that he did not have? 

BLIX:  Well, that‘s possible.  That is possible. 

They might not have told him that it was as dangerous.  They tend to tell dictators what they think the dictators like to hear. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this—the dangers that were present or were not present.  Tell me about your evolution as an expert there and with a cold—a cold decision-making ruthlessness, which I hope you possess, the willingness to just face facts. 

Facing the facts, as you did, over the last 15 years or so, tell me how you evolved in your thinking about the dangers Saddam posed with his weapons. 

BLIX:  Well, of course, I was at the IEA in the 1980s.  And then up to 1991, when the Gulf War started, the IEA had not seen that they were developing nuclear weapons, because the inspection system that we operated was not adequate for it. 

In 1991, we did discover quite a lot and we dismantled the nuclear—the enrichment plants and the other things that belonged to the program.  And then, gradually, the program was traced and mapped by us.  And by 1997, when I left the IEA, we fully understood the program and we could say that there was nothing significant left of any infrastructure. 

But there were some questions left, like they had an offer, for instance, from a foreign country of technology.  And they wouldn‘t tell where it came from.  And now I would think it was Pakistan that did it.  Then, when I came here, I was still under the impression—I thought that they probably had weapons of mass destruction, like everybody else. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BLIX:  And I thought so in November, December 2002.  But my thinking evolved in January 2003, because we had been given many sites by intelligence, both U.S. and others, and we had been to these sites, quite a number of sites.  And in no case had we found any weapons of mass destruction. 

In a few cases, we found something else, but in no cases did we find weapons of mass destruction.  So, we said to ourselves, if this is the best, what is the rest?  And I think that, if we had been allowed to continue inspections in March and April, well, then we would have been able to go to all the sites that the U.K. and the U.S. had and we would have been able to register that there wasn‘t anything.  And perhaps that would have made an impression upon them, whereas, as it was now, they didn‘t really—they ignored what we had seen. 

MATTHEWS:  How much longer would it have taken you, sir, to know what we know now? 

BLIX:  Well, I think that, if we had gone to all these sites, then perhaps a couple months more, March, April, May, but not more than that.  Nevertheless, since—so long as you had a dictatorial regime and the country was under that control, you could not be 100 percent sure that they were not hiding something at someplace which was not known to intelligence. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BLIX:  So you couldn‘t be 100 percent sure.  It was only after the invasion, when the U.S. began to interview people and these people didn‘t have any reason to fear.  And then, on the contrary, I think they were probably offered advantages and offered money and other advantages by the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  Right.   

BLIX:  That they would have had an idea to come clear—to come clean and to explain where things were.  And they all unanimously, apparently, said that, no, there aren‘t any weapons of mass destruction.  At that stage, I think it was clear. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you.  We‘ll be right back. 

We‘re talking to Hans Blix, who was the U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq during the months before the Iraq war.  I‘m going to ask him what he thinks of the administration public position, the case for war from Colin Powell, from the vice president, etcetera, as he watching that case.  Did it measure up, did it match up with what he knew about weapons of mass destruction?

Later, we‘re going to be joined by David Kay, who led the inspections in Iraq for the Bush administration after the war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, weapons inspectors Hans Blix and David Kay on the Bush administration‘s justification for war in Iraq.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I‘m continuing with former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. 

Let me ask you, sir, about the—watching and listening to the administration leaders as they made the case for war with Iraq before we went to war a year ago this week.  Did you think there was anything unclear or dishonest even about the presentations made by the president, vice president and secretary of state? 

BLIX:  Well, I never felt that there was any bad faith.  I think they were convinced what they were saying. 

But I think that they were inclined to put exclamation marks where they should have a question mark.  And, of course, there were some scandals in the material.  The question of the contract that was alleged to have been concluded by Iraq with Niger about the import of uranium oxide turned out to be a forgery.  And already before I knew that, I was questioning it, because I couldn‘t quite see why the Iraqis should import uranium oxide, which is a very, very long way from a bomb. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the whole question of a nuclear threat, period, do you think that was overplayed by the vice president and others? 

BLIX:  Yes, I think the nuclear was the most overplayed.  It was also the most serious. 

But, already in the autumn of 2002, not only the inspectors, but also institutes in Washington were questioning whether this—the so-called aluminum tubes were for the—to make centrifuges.  And they said they could have other uses.  And I think it is now totally established that they were for rockets.  So the nuclear, which was the most important, was also the most overblown. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the nuances here, sir, because you‘re the expert and you speak to—you‘ve had the opportunity to speak to our leaders.  Was there a nuance of difference in approach to this war between the president and the vice president? 

BLIX:  You know, the vice president was extremely convinced.  Probably

·         he appeared from the quotes that I‘ve seen the most convinced.  But President Bush was also convinced.

In the autumn of 2002, for instance, he was referring to some pictures about a nuclear installation where they used to make centrifuges and they had seen on pictures that there was an extension on it.  And he said, what more evidence do we need?  Well, not long thereafter, they were looking into—inside this by both inspectors and journalists and they were empty.  So one has to be more cautious with the evidence.  Satellites see the roofs, but inspectors see the inside. 

MATTHEWS:  Did the vice president seem to be more or less supportive of your efforts to try to avoid war with inspections? 

BLIX:  Well, he was clearly very, not say disdainful, of inspections.

In a speech that he made in August of 2002, he said that inspection is useless, at best.  So I think he belonged to the group of people which presumably included people in the Pentagon, too, who really had no faith whatever in inspectors.  Regrettably, they probably had more faith in the defectors.  Mr. Rumsfeld has a great deal of faith in the defectors.  And that led them wrong. 

We were closer to the reality than the defectors were. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s a statement in “The London Daily Telegraph” by Ahmad Chalabi, one of—the key defector, who says, “We are heroes in error.”  He admits that he gave bad information to the Americans to justify the war so he could get his country back.  And he said: “As far as we‘re concerned, we‘ve been entirely successful.  That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad.  What was said before it is not important.” 

What do you make of that?  In other words, the ends justify the means. 

BLIX:  Well, not in my mind. 

I think it is cynical and I think is dishonest to do so.  But I think what‘s even worse is that the U.S. accepted it.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BLIX:  That they believed these things.  We knew, for instance, that Khidhir Hamza, who published a book here in the U.S. about being Saddam‘s bombmaker, and there are enormous errors in it.  And I‘m sure that CIA didn‘t—knew that as well.  But why didn‘t they pay more attention to what the inspectors had to say? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the gullibility of the American leaders, people in the Pentagon, you mentioned, Wolfowitz, I guess Feith, the others involved in this issue, the vice president‘s office, Scooter Libby. 

Do you think those people were so driven toward war by ideology that

they almost were responsible for the gullibility in accepting the case made

by Chalabi about weapons of mass destruction? 

BLIX:  Yes, I think we would like to ask more critical thinking on behalf of our leaders and our—people high up in the administration.  They were a little like the witch-hunters of past centuries.  They were so convinced that there were witches that it was only a question seeing whether—if you saw a black cat, that was evidence of a witch. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, sir, thank you very much for joining us.  Hans Blix, thank you, former U.N. weapons inspector.  Sir, thank you.  Good luck with the new book.  Thank you. 

Up next, former weapons inspector for the Bush administration David Kay reacts to our interview with Hans Blix. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Just sign up for the best political briefing around.  Log on to our newly redesigned Web site at HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former weapons inspector David Kay recently served as special adviser to the CIA on Iraq‘s alleged weapons of mass destruction program.  After leading a search for the weapons of mass destruction in post-Saddam Iraq, he declared that the prewar intelligence estimates on Iraq were wrong and that the weapons probably didn‘t exist—they don‘t exist, rather.  Kay is now an NBC analyst.  Don‘t exist now.  Let me get that straight.

Let me ask about Blix, who we just had on.  He points out to the fact that he felt that the vice president of the United States was disdainful of the efforts to prevent the war by inspections. 

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR:  Yes, he did.  He said that he thought the vice president didn‘t have great confidence that inspectors could ever find weapons there.  But, you know, also, Hans...

MATTHEWS:  Why would—why would anyone be disdainful of an effort that could prevent war?  I don‘t want to be argumentative, but what‘s the basis of the disdain, the thought that they wouldn‘t find them because they were well hidden? 

KAY:  Well, Chris, listen to what Hans said.  Hans said that, even if he had continued the inspection for another three or four months...

MATTHEWS:  Through May, he said.

KAY:  In a repression regime, there could always be hidden in places you couldn‘t find them.  So, I mean, there are things...

MATTHEWS:  Needle in a haystack, right? 

KAY:  Needle in a haystack, and you don‘t own the haystack. 

MATTHEWS:  What about all those palaces everybody wanted to get into because there was a thought that the palaces were simply cover terrain to cover up weapons programs? 

KAY:  I think all the...

MATTHEWS:  Did we get into all those?  You got into all of them. 

KAY:  We got into to all of them.

I think, actually, what they covered up is a great deal of corruption.  Apparently, about $4 billion of illegal oil-for-food funds went into palace construction. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened to this fellow that used to be on this show and sit in that seat all the time, months, and months before we went to war, Khidhir Hamza,  the bombmaker?  What ever—somebody told me he was back living in one of the palaces.  What is this guy?  Who was he?

KAY:  He is actually working in the Ministry of Science and Technology.

MATTHEWS:  In Iraq.

KAY:  In Iraq, responsible for what used to be their nuclear program. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he used to tell us all about the nuclear program.  It was hot and heavy.  We‘d better stop it. 

KAY:  Yes.  Well, he is there now. 

MATTHEWS:  But there wasn‘t one. 

KAY:  There was not one. 

MATTHEWS:  So what was he talking about when he came on the show saying you‘ve got to beware because the weapons are going to have a mushroom cloud coming at us?

KAY:  Well, I think he is another one of those heroes in error that you referred to, Chalabi. 

MATTHEWS:  I will refer to him—and this is Chalabi.  This is the guy who is the chief defector who apparently had the ear of everybody in the administration, especially the vice president‘s office. 

“We are heroes in error.  As far as we‘re concerned, we‘ve been entirely successful.  That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad.  What was said before it is not important.

There‘s a classic example of, well, we fed you a lot of stuff that may not be true—in fact, it isn‘t true, but it got you to give us back our country. 

KAY:  I think that‘s the position of a lot of the Iraqis, and we were taken in by them. 

But, you know, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  We were taken in by people who gave us bad information to get us in there. 

KAY:  And had their own agenda, which was to get rid of Saddam.  And we were interested in WMD.  They were interested in removing Saddam. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know the phrase stovepiping? 

KAY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What does it mean? 

KAY:  Well, if you‘re talking about Seymour Hersh‘s use of it, which is really a nonstandard use, it means intelligence that flows directly, raw intelligence, without analysis, directly to someone at a higher level, like the vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  And so if there was people over there the defectors we‘re talking about who wanted us to get in and get their tyrant out of there, so they could have their country back, they could have stovepiped all the way up through this administration the intel they wanted to give us that could get us in there. 

KAY:  Well, that‘s the claim, although I must say, I saw very few

examples that would support that.  I think

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Even Chalabi himself, this kind of statement by him admitting having done that? 

KAY:  No.  Most of that stuff was disseminated and argued about.  Now, I think some people believed Chalabi more than others.  That‘s certainly true. 

MATTHEWS:  And stuff like the Niger weapons, the Niger purchase of uranium, things like that.

KAY:  Well, that didn‘t come from Chalabi.  That came, among others, from our British friends. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Let me ask you, do you have any idea who this person is that George Tenet keeps talking about, this single source that sort of gave us the big case for war and he wasn‘t happy with that source now?  He kept saying this one source from an allied country. 

KAY:  Oh, I happen to know, but I can‘t tell you who it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

KAY:  Why?

MATTHEWS:  You work for NBC now. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re colleagues. 

KAY:  No.  I...

MATTHEWS:  Why can‘t you tell me who got us into the war and who was this person? 

KAY:  This single source is someone who I think no one is—very unhappy with now.  It is—it is a sad example of how little real intelligence we had in the war when there is some individual, a single person, supporting a major claim of mobile labs, in this case, and we knew very little about him.  And it turns out...

MATTHEWS:  Can you tell me what country he is from? 

KAY:  Oh, he is an Iraqi. 

MATTHEWS:  So we have an Iraqi guy who told us these were weapons of mass destruction mobile vehicles. 

KAY:  And told us there was a mobile production facility for biological weapons.

MATTHEWS:  And we didn‘t get—we didn‘t know that he was lying to us.  And he was lying to us, right? 

KAY:  Well, I think the best evidence now is that he certainly was disseminating...

MATTHEWS:  What was his motive for giving us bad intel? 

KAY:  Well, I think his motive may well have been personal.  That is, he lived a very—he is living a very good life, I think, because... 

MATTHEWS:  Right now? 

KAY:  Right now in a foreign country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Tenet is mad at him. 

KAY:  Well, we‘ll see.

MATTHEWS:  What is he going to do about it? 

KAY:  See if that makes any difference.  See if that makes any difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this guy going to pay for his crime or not?  He got a war out of this. 

If you had to write—and you‘re the expert on—if you—like, we were talking to you off-camera, which was a great conversation about how we got into some major wars in our history.  And one thing you learned even in grade school in this country, maybe by seventh grade or sixth grade, you start to get some preliminary information about why the United States went into different wars, because it is important why we went to war.

They used to call them the immediate cause of the war and the long-term cause of the war. 

KAY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And this was in Catholic grade school.  I‘m sure it‘s the same textbook.  Everybody else uses it.

KAY:  It‘s the same...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Now, we used to say—and you were talking about the immediate cause of the American involvement in the First World War of the 20th century, which was unrestricted submarine attacks on commercial shipping. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Merchant shipping.  What‘s the immediate cause of this war?  Why did we go to war, a year later this Saturday?  We‘re trying to get to this, so people watching this show can walk away and say, I know why we went to war.

KAY:  I think the immediate cause—the cause of justification was weapons of mass destruction.  I think it will turn out that that was in fact not—didn‘t exist.  And people 10 years from now will be talking about this war, if we‘re successful in the reconstruction of Iraq, as being a war to liberate Iraq from what was truly a world-class tyrant. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

But if we find ourselves in the weeds over there, with the Shiites, who are the majority, creating a government that looks too much like Iran, maybe the worst terrorist...

KAY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Worst—most dangerous country over there—will we then go back and say how did we get in this pit? 

KAY:  I think that‘s the danger the administration is running.  I don‘t think it will take 10 years.  That question may well be asked even before the election. 

MATTHEWS:  You know more than you say, Mr. Kay.  I hope, as we proceed with your participation on this program, we find out all the sources of this war. 

Anyway, thank you, David Kay.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  We‘ll check back with former POW Shoshana Johnson, who was held in Iraq.  Remember her?  There she is.

Now it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END   

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