'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 4, 2013
Guests: Chris Murphy, Edwin Lyman
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The verdict is in, and the verdict is bipartisan support, and also
bipartisan opposition. A 10-7 vote today, close vote today, in the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee with Democrats and Republicans on both sides of
that unexpectedly close vote, as Congress does its job and starts voting
and keeps debating whether the United States military should become the
newest player in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
That two and a half year long war which has already killed over
100,000 people or for which some of the most recent 1,429 deaths according
to U.S. estimates have a special international significance. Those deaths
alleged that the results of a chemical weapons attack two weeks ago in the
suburbs of Damascus, those deaths have led not so much to an international
debate about how the world should respond to that kind of alleged attack.
It`s more like now an international debate about how the United States
should respond to that kind of alleged attack.
And that kind of juxtaposition of a world response on one hand and an
American response on the other hand, that was very clear today, as
President Obama held a press conference in Sweden, alongside the Swedish
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRIK REINFELDT, SWEDEN PRIME MINISTER: Sweden believes that
serious matters concerning international peace and security should be
handled by the United Nations. But I also understand the potential
consequences of letting a violation like this go unanswered. In the long
term, I know that we both agree that the situation in Syria needs a
So, thank you once again, Mr. President, for coming to Sweden. I look
forward to our program together this afternoon.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you so much.
Hej. I`ve just exhausted my Swedish. The prime minister and I are in
agreement that in the face of such barbarism, the international community
cannot be silent and failing to respond to this attack would only increase
the risk of more attacks. And that possibility that other countries would
use these weapons as well. I respect and I`ve said this to the prime
minister, the U.N. process. Obviously, the U.N. investigation team has
done heroic work under very difficult circumstances.
But we believe very strongly with high confidence that, in fact,
chemical weapons were used and that Mr. Assad was the source. And we want
to join with the international community in an effective response that
deters such use in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining with the international community. That is not
actually an option. At least that is not an option yet. To the
international community is pledging no such support for any military
response to what is happening in Syria. We`re going to have more on that
coming up in just a moment.
Here at home, though, two senators from the president`s even party
joined with five Republican senators in voting today against U.S. military
intervention in Syria, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took
their vote on the issue.
One senator, the new Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey,
he voted neither yes nor no. He voted present today, saying he needed more
time to learn about the issue and make up his mind. He said he would make
up his mind before the full Senate took a vote on the issue.
This debate has been joined, not only in the halls of Congress, but
also in the public. The skepticism and opposition to the United States
military getting involved in that war is deep and wide, and I have to say
This is the new polling that came out today from Pew on the matter.
Overall, Americans are opposed to the U.S. military getting involved in
Syria. When you break it down by party -- yes, it turns out party doesn`t
much matter either, Americans left, right and neither are pretty much
opposed to us getting involved in Syria.
That pretty much dove tails the latest round of national polling on
the issue by NBC News, which found overall opposition -- opposition among
Republicans, Democrats, and independents. So in terms of public opinion,
this may change over time. But right now, public opinion is pretty
strongly and pretty widely against getting the U.S. military involved in
that war in anyway.
But as I mentioned, the opposition is not just strong and broad, it is
also in some places, weird. The conservative media has now decided they
have figured out who was behind this alleged chemical weapons attack in
Syria. And when they figured it out, it turns out it was exactly who you
would think would do something like that.
It was President Obama. He arranged the whole thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Hs article here is, that there is
evidence, mounting evidence that the rebels in Syria did indeed frame Assad
for the chemical attack. Not only that, that Obama, the regime may have
been complicit in it. Mounting evidence that the White House knew and
possibly helped plan the Syrian chemical weapon attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Obama, the regime. So, if you were thinking that the lack of
partisan identification on this issue might mean that the conservative
movement, conservative media may be some help. It may be a rational actor
in this discussion. Their answer so far is that Syria did not use chemical
weapons. Obama did in Syria somehow. Yes, thanks. You guys, cheers.
Meanwhile, back in fact land, there remain the scientists, the actual
U.N. weapons inspectors who are investigating these allegations in Syria,
that have given rise to this whole international fight. Just like they
were in the lead-up to the Iraq war, the U.N. inspections team in Syria
this year, is led by a Swede. The Swedish prime minister kept mentioning
today, the Swedes are proud of that.
Remember it was Swedish guy Hans Blix before in the lead-up to the
Iraq war. Now, it is Ake Sellstrom leading Swedes do this, apparently.
The evidence that the inspectors collected the samples they collected, the
report they`re putting together will be trying to confirm whether this
chemical weapons attack, this alleged chemical attack in the suburbs of
Damascus happened, and if it did happen, what chemicals were used.
And that, of course, is key, and Syria continues to deny that they did
it, and that Syria`s allies, who are Russia and China, continue to say that
they have no reason to disagree with their friend Syria, when Syria denies
that it had anything to do with this. In two to three weeks, we will have
the U.N. inspectors report, if they can definitively say that chemical
weapons were used and if they can say it and prove it in a way that makes
clear to the world that it was the Syrian government, that`s not
specifically in their remit, but if they prove this happened, honestly, it
should be clear who done it.
If they are able to prove it to the international gold standard
threshold that we expect from U.N. weapons inspectors. And, frankly, that
is the only chance there ever will be of getting any actual international
action. Actual international enforcement of what`s supposed to be an
international rule against the use of chemical weapons.
It may be hard to get international agreement on something like this,
but there is a point to rules like this being international rules that are
enforced by an international regime. And although President Obama is
arguing that the United States alone will enforce this alone, even if
nobody else will, there is a reason why no one country, us or anybody, is
supposed to be responsible for enforcing an international rule. That is
because you do not want to give any would-be rogue nation and any would-be
rogue nation anywhere in the world, any more excuses, any more
justifications than they already have for breaking that rule.
It`s uncomfortable to admit it, and surely presidents don`t like to
talk about it. But lots of countries all around the world hate us, for
lots of different reasons. Every country has enemies, even nice old
Sweden, with their lending all of their scientists to the U.N. all the
time. Every country has enemies. We have more than most.
Every country has some countries in the world that have a beef with
them. We really, really do more than most. Some of it is deserved, you
could argue, and some of it is really not deserved, but it`s true. And if
the punishment for violating the rule against chemical weapons use is a
punishment that is delivered by the United States, not by the international
community but by us, then lots of places around the world, flouting that
rule and inviting the condemnation and the retaliation of the United States
will honestly be seen as some sort of perverse badge of honor.
It`s not smart to create a situation in the Arab world or anywhere
else, where countries that hate us see the use of chemical weapons as now
having the added bonus of kicking sand in our faces, kicking sand in the
face of the great Satan.
President Obama wants there to be an international response. What
he`s arguing for now is why the U.S. should respond alone anyway, even if
the international community will not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I would argue that when I see 400 children subjected to gas,
or 1,400 innocent civilians dying senselessly in an environment in which
you already have tens of thousands dying, and we have the opportunity to
take some action, that is meaningful, even if it doesn`t solve the entire
problem, may at least mitigate this particular problem. Then the moral
thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There`s a case to be made that doing nothing is a bad
response to this alleged large scale use of chemical weapons.
There`s also a case to be made that it is a bad response to not
exhaust every possibility of getting a true international response to that
kind of alleged attack. Why not wait for the U.N. weapons inspectors?
There`s also a case to be made that even if you do wait for the U.N.
weapons inspectors, whether we are alone or in some sort of international
coalition, that military force may not be some action that is meaningful,
in the president`s words. Might not be something that would mitigate this
It might be that military force is the kind of intervention that will
make this problem any better. That will alleviate the threat of chemical
weapons use in the future or deter anyone else who feels like using them.
It is a world of bad options. Why choose the one that involves cruise
Joining us now is one of the Democratic senators who voted no on the
authorization to use military force in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee today, is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy.
Senator Murphy, thank you very for your time tonight. I really
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why did you vote no against using -- authorizing the use of
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, let me tell you, it was a
close call for me. When I talked to people back in Connecticut, it`s a
close call for many of them as well.
I`m amongst the millions of people who watch those videos and saw
those pictures, and saw them in abhorrence. Clearly, Assad has used
chemical weapons on his own people, and he`s violated an international
norm. But I think there is always a belief, a want, a need to believe that
when there is a problem in the world that there is an American button we
can press to solve it.
I don`t think there`s a direct parallel between Iraq, Afghanistan and
Syria. One of the lessons learned is that we are not very good to the
United States in using our military power to try to change the political
realities on the ground in the Middle East.
And I really worry, the reason for my no vote today, is that one, I
think the military action could perhaps actually make the situation worse,
could just lend more chaos to an already volatile situation. And second,
today`s action not only committed us to a potential military strike, but
also committed the Congress to supporting arming of the rebels. And those
two actions together, I think bind us to this conflict for as long as it
will last, which in a lot of commentators mind might be a decade. That`s
not something I think the American public can stand by.
I understand where the president is here. This was an egregious act
and sometimes it is the United States that unfortunately has to stand up to
uphold these international norms. I think it was a close call. But in the
end, I worry these actions actually could move the situation backward in
Syria rather than forward.
MADDOW: Aside from the issue you raised about ongoing entanglement
and getting further involved on the rebel side of that civil war, thinking
specifically about the response to the alleged chemical weapons attack, do
you think there`s a case to be made that the Senate should wait, that the
Congress should wait broadly, that the country should wait for those U.N.
weapons inspectors to come back with their results before voting on a
course of action here.
Do you think that would be any more likely to bring in more of an
international coalition that might change the effect of what a military
intervention might do?
MURPHY: I think we have to be sober about what can happen at the U.N.
When the United Nations was set up, the process was established by which
you have to have consensus, you have to have unanimous agreement on the
Security Council. The nations we included happens to now include Syria`s
primary backer, Russia has great security interests in keeping Assad in
power. And I`m not sure there is any evidence that is going to change
Would it be preferable to have international support here? Yes.
Would it be preferable to have the U.N. with us? Yes.
But ultimately, I made my decision not based on the lack of
international agreement, because I really do think that there`s a potential
-- 50 percent or more that our actions could make the situation worse for
the Syrian people.
I`m not convinced we`re going to get U.N. agreement here. I think we
have to make this decision based on what`s best for the Syrian people, and
what`s best for U.S. national security interests.
MADDOW: Senator, I can see it in your face, having had difficult
conversations with you about other policy matters. I can see it in your
face that you are moved by the videos you saw of this alleged chemical
weapons attack. The suffering we have seen, that the president is
responding today. You can see it in his face today too, in Sweden, when he
was talking about why he feels there has to be a response.
In your view, is there something that could be done by the United
States, besides military action, that might be a better or more appropriate
response in terms of achieving American goals here?
MURPHY: Well, we clearly have not used all the tools at our disposal
to try to rally that international community. I think it will be difficult
in the end. But I think the president is right not to give up on it.
Of course, there`s so much more we can do with respect to humanitarian
aid. There are going to be a lot more people fleeing into Syria, in
Jordan, and Turkey, into Iraq. We have done much, but we could do much
So, I would urge the president to continue to work diplomatically and
then to step up our humanitarian efforts. I just know that there`s always
this need to find that leverage that the United States can press to try to
make the situation better around the world. And I just think we have to
have some very sober conversation about the limits of U.S. power. I`ll
tell you quickly, Rachel, when I saw that video of the president, the look
in his face reminded me of the look in his eyes when he came to Newtown
shortly after that shooting.
I know he`s moved here, I know the American people are moved. But I
think the reason why you see the American people lining up against this
action, is because they`re wary of war, and they really question whether we
can make the difference. And make the difference as you mentioned, almost
MADDOW: I was thinking the same thing, when I was watching that
video. It`s interesting that you saw the same way.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you very much for your time
and explaining your vote with us tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. How many parties does it take to make a community of
nations? That and other questions that aren`t about angels in the head of
a pin, but basically the same conclusion, straight ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In British politics, as in American politics, a whip is a
member of parliament or a member of the House of Lords whose job it is to
round up the troops, to make sure that enough party members stick together
and show up and vote together when the party really needs them in order to
get something passed. Some votes are not whipped and people just get to
vote their conscience or vote how their district wants them to vote.
But some votes are whipped. And that means the party wants you to do
what the party is telling you to do. So, the whip is a person who rounds
up members who rounds up votes. And in Britain, when the parties send
around their agenda to their members about upcoming votes, that agenda
ranks the upcoming votes. The importance of an issue is indicated
specifically by the number of times the whip underlines that issue on the
So, if an issue is underlined once, that means it`s important enough
to be whipped, but in the great scheme of things, it`s not all that
important. If it`s underlined twice, it`s not only being whipped. It
really is quite important.
And in the rare case that a particular agenda item is underlined three
times, (a), your paper`s very crowded, (b), that means it`s super
important. It`s important enough that if you defy your party on a three-
line whip, the Web site of the British parliament says you could
effectively get kicked out of your party. If you defy a three-line whip,
that is heresy, that is never supposed to happen, that is important
background to know about our friend as cross the pond, because last week
when David Cameron went to the British parliament to make his case for
military intervention in Syria, that vote was a three-line whip.
So, to everybody in his party, to everybody in the conservative party,
they had the instruction there that, (a), you must attend, and (b), you
must vote with the prime minister. And (c), if you do not attend and vote
with the prime minister, you could face consequences up to and including
being expelled from the party. It`s a three-line whip, be there.
So, David Cameron went to parliament, he made his best case for war.
The debate went on for eight hours, in the end parliament did not buy it,
and they voted against. But more than two dozen members of David Cameron`s
own conservative party showed up and voted no. And more than two dozen
members of his own party didn`t bother to show up. They defied the three-
line whip -- so many of them that they can`t be kicked out of the party.
And David Cameron lost, and the news was so shocking to David Cameron
and to everybody that gasps were heard around the chamber when the vote was
tallied. And having lost a three-line whip, having had dozens of his
members defy him on a three-line whip, that is a rare enough and stunning
enough defeat for a prime minister, that the opposition party called out in
parliament in response to the vote, that the prime minister should resign.
He does not seem to be resigning. But Prime Minister David Cameron`s
original plan had been to go back to parliament for a second vote after the
U.N. weapons inspectors had released their report. Now, there are no plans
for him to go back to parliament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is very clear tonight that
while the house has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British
parliament, reflecting the views of the British people does not want to see
British military action. I get that, and the government will act
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And it`s done. This is now a really interesting
international situation, I think it`s food for thought that this means
unequivocally that arguably that our closest ally in the world, Great
Britain, is out, in terms of military action against Syria. And if you
were going to argue the point about Great Britain being our closest ally,
it might be because you argue Canada is our closest ally. Well, Canada has
also ruled itself out of military action in Syria.
And so, has Italy, our (INAUDIBLE) in France have decided not to ask
their parliament about it. They will not go it alone. Although you will
recall that in Libya, they were gung-ho ready to go, the same with Mali and
West Africa. They might go if we go, but they won`t go without us
definitely. And they may not go.
And then there`s the countries right there in the region. The Arab
League signed on to military action in Libya. They have not done the same
thing here. It is not because they like the Assad government in Syria.
The Arab League has already kicked Assad out of the Arab League. They say
they want him removed from power for two years now, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
and other members of the Arab League have been arming the rebels and
funding the rebels fighting against Assad. They have essentially joined
the civil war against him.
And a week ago, the Arab League put out a statement put a statement
flat out blaming Assad for that alleged chemical weapons attack outside
Damascus, they said they wanted international response to that attack, and
they wanted the U.N. to get over its differences so the U.N. could lead to
a response. But unlike in Libya, the Arab League did not say, OK to a
Western military invention.
And why is that?
The United States really is all alone in the world on this. Maybe
France, OK, but pretty much all alone in the world. If the Congress says
no, it`s not going to be the United States all alone in the world. It`s
going to be the White House all alone in the world o this.
Why is that?
Today the White House did a call to try to whip their own Democratic
vote on this issue, as reported by Greg Sargent in "The Washington Post".
The White House held a call with progressive Democratic members of Congress
to try to bring progressive Democrats around to the president`s way of
thinking on this issue. The liberal Congresswoman Barbara Lee of
California told Greg Sargent after that call that they have been very
persuasive about the intelligence, about the fact that we must do
She said, though, they were not persuasive that the only option right
now is a military option. Will military strikes, quote, "put Assad in
check? I`m just not persuaded that that is the case."
There is the argument about whether something terrible and over the
line just happened in Syria. And there`s the argument about whether the
U.S. shooting missiles in Syria will alleviate that problem or stop it from
happening again. If there are no good options, why pick the one that
involves cruise missiles?
Food for thought: looking at that vote in the Arab League in
particular, if it is such a good idea for the U.S. to shoot missiles in
Syria, if it will make such a difference in the dangerousness and
recklessness of the Assad government, then why don`t his neighboring
countries who are literally invested in opposing him, who are literally
funding an arming against him in the civil war, if it`s going to work so
well to make him less dangerous and less of a threat, why don`t the
countries nearest to him who are most oppose to him want us to do it?
MADDOW: Just in case you missed them, the gang who brought us all the
war in Iraq, they`re back with opinions about the wisdom of U.S. military
action in the Middle East. They have thoughts on the matter. Would you
like to hear them? If the choices between hearing those opinions from
those people and sticking pins in your eyes, are you sure which one you
Hold on. There`s more ahead.
MADDOW: So, President Obama was in Sweden today. He`s on his way to
Russia, or he`s not going to meet with the president of Russia. The G-20
summit this year is in St. Petersburg, the White House announced publicly
that the U.S. will officially snub Vladimir Putin and Russia, by refusing
to set up a one-on-one meeting between our president and their president
while our president is in their country anyway. Both men will be present
at the big G-20 meeting everyone goes to, there`s going to be no one-on-one
meeting between Obama and Putin.
To add injury to that insult, President Obama will just not meet with
Vladimir Putin, he`s also reportedly going out of his way to meet with
Russian gay people. Oh, no.
It was reported yesterday in BuzzFeed and confirmed today by the White
House that President Obama will meet with opposition figures -- people who
are fighting the Putin government on human rights issues, and specifically
on gay rights issues.
So, on top of the big clash of the titans headlines fight that we are
having with Russia about at to do in Syria, and the public snub of Putin,
this meeting with his domestic enemies effectively is a reminder of the
international kerfuffle that surrounds Russia`s hosting of the upcoming
winter Olympics in Sochi in February. But if you are in the mood for an
Olympics mess, that is not the only Olympics mess the world has on its
Whatever you think about your job and its difficulties, be thankful
that your job has nothing to do with the next big decision that has to be
made about the Olympics. So we know that next year 2014, those Olympics
are going to be in Sochi, in Russia, right? Then, it`s Rio, two years
after that. Then, it`s Pyeongchang in South Korea two years after that.
But then, it`s 2020, the 2020 Summer Olympics are yet to be decided.
This is the week when the International Olympic Committee is deciding who
gets to host the Olympics in 2020. They`re going to make the announcement
There are three sights that are in contention. The first one is
Madrid, in Spain. Which is in the fifth year of a crippling economic
crisis, where the unemployment rate is 26 percent overall, and for young
people in Spain right now, it is a gobsmacking 56 percent unemployment.
The latest world news headline for NBC News on Spain is this one.
It`s basically about how anybody entering adulthood and trying to enter the
workforce right now in Spain is a lost cause, that whole generation a lost
cause. So that`s option one. A country in abject economic crisis.
Option two, Turkey. Istanbul in Turkey to be exact, which is -- and
Turkey`s fine, it`s lovely, really. Turkey also shares a long, hot
furiously dangerous border with the country called Syria. Which is
currently issuing for the role of Archduke Ferdinand of World War III.
You`re comfortable with that border with Syria, the other just to right of
that is Turkey`s border with Iraq. So, that`s option number two.
There is however option number three, which is Japan. Tokyo, Japan.
Japan, who`s the government official in charge of luring the Olympics to
Japan just recently wrote to the International Olympic Committee, wrote
this weekend to say that the committee should be confident that everything
in Japan is fine. Everything is fine, especially with that whole nuclear
situation just a couple hours outside Tokyo.
The Japanese official wrote that letter to the International Olympic
Committee on the same day that these guys in this tape here from the BBC
took a radiation leak reading at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant
which said, anyone standing in that spot for a few hours would find
themselves in a dangerous enough place, a radioactive enough place that
they would be dead in four hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Just how worried should the outside world be about the
latest radiation readings coming from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
On Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power said it had taken a reading close to
water storage tanks of 1,800 millisieverts an hour. That is 18 times
higher, than a reading taken at the same spot two weeks ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Eighteen hundred millisieverts an hour, enough to kill you in
four hours, and 18 times what that reading was two weeks ago.
But do not worry, Olympic Committee, everything is totally under
control in Japan, except for the out of control nuclear disaster. But
other than that, everything else is totally under control. We got this.
As the Japanese government bucks for the Olympics, the Japanese prime
minister is leaving the G-20 early to go lobby the International Olympic
Committee in person. The Japanese government is also announcing that it as
the government will take over the management of the ongoing catastrophe at
Fukushima. They had up to this point left in the hands of essentially the
power company that owned and operated the plant when all this happened in
the first place. But now, the government will take over.
Is that reason to feel more hopeful about them getting that situation
For context, yesterday, there was another earthquake in Japan, a 6.99
magnitude earthquake. And also yesterday, the same workers from the BBC
clip went out and took another radiation leak reading at the site of the
nuclear plant. And what had been an 1,800 millisieverts reading this
weekend is now a 2,200 millisieverts reading.
This is now two and a half years long -- a two and a half year long
ongoing accumulating ecological disaster. Why is it still getting worse
and when will it stop getting worse?
Joining us now is Edwin Lyman. He`s a senior global security
scientist specializing in nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned
Dr. Lyman, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
EDWIN LYMAN, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the Japanese government says it is taking over. Do we
have any reason to believe that they have better ideas about how to make
this situation better than the people who have been handling it thus far?
LYMAN: I`m afraid not. Because the Japanese government is as
culpable as TEPCO was in the genesis of this crisis to begin with. And the
government is scrambling to try to come up with a solution so they can tell
the world that everything`s fine and bring the Olympics here, and I think
they`re being too hasty.
MADDOW: What about this plan that we`ve been seeing written up in the
press about creating an underground ice wall to try to seal up the highly
contaminated areas of the plant from groundwater, from any water flow
through that`s resulting in all of this radioactive water leaking into the
LYMAN: Well, the ice wall isn`t as crazy as it sounds. It isn`t
technology that`s been used in other applications, but it`s never been used
for a nuclear disaster like this one. It`s never been uses to contain this
much radioactivity. And it`s never been used for a periods of time that
may require decades before the site is cleaned up.
So, I think it is actually a very risky plan and a lot more
complicated than just digging trenches and packing them full with clay.
MADDOW: On that point, I mean, I don`t mean to be blunt, but what`s
the better idea? Are there solutions that are either more proven or more
sustainable that the government and TEPCO haven`t tried that you think
might make sense?
LYMAN: Well, as they say in so many other contexts. There are no
good options. And the frozen won`t -- maybe as good as the others. The
problem is that it requires a continuous power source to keep that soil
frozen. And I think I would prefer a simpler more straightforward method
of simply constructing a permeable material wall, that you don`t have to
worry it`s going to melt if you lose power for an extended period of time.
MADDOW: We are told and the press reports differ on this, we`re told
in at least some press reports of hundreds of tons of radioactive
contaminated water that are leaking into the Pacific Ocean daily from this
site. And obviously, the ocean is a big thing. And delusion is a big
But what do you see as the potential impact of all of this
contaminated water leaking into the ocean overtime? How worrying is it?
LYMAN: It is true that the missions that are going on now from the
site are much, much smaller than they were. In the weeks after the
reactors exploded. But it is a continuous low level leak of radioactive
material. And there are -- there is safe food that concentrates
So, the fishing industry in the region has been devastated and it
looks like it`s not going to come back any time soon. And there will be
occasional levels of contamination in seafood much further away, that will
be unacceptable. So, people are going o be slowly consuming the
radioactive material coming out of Fukushima.
MADDOW: It has been two and a half years since this happened. This
is the biggest disaster since Chernobyl. The response after the initial
declaration that this was a cold shutdown and everything was fine has now
been ramped up from a one to a three on the nuclear accident scale. And it
doesn`t feel like they`ve got it under control.
Do you think there should be some sort of international parachute in,
international expert effort to help Japan out here that this is beyond --
that this is a problem that is bigger than that one country and they need
more help than they`re getting?
LYMAN: One of the problems that has been around since the beginning,
Japan has been very reluctant to seek international help. It waited for
several days after the accident started, because it was hoping it could
just stabilize the situation, and then tell the world that there was no
It`s that kind of pride, I think, which is also continuing to be a
problem. Certainly they should be trying to get the best ideas from anyone
they can find. Unfortunately, I think the range is very limited and the
ice wall is an idea which has been applied in the United States, for
So, it is worth examination, but the fact is, that their options are
limited. You have a radioactive soggy mess at the site. What really needs
to be done is purification of the water, packaging of the radioactive
material, and stable -- in a stabling form so it can eventually be disposed
of in a way that`s isolated from the environment.
MADDOW: Dr. David Lyman, nuclear power and security expert with the
Union of Concerned Scientists, it`s nice to have you back even though we`re
always talking about super depressing things -- thank you, sir.
LYMAN: I know, tell me about it.
MADDOW: I`m sorry, this is your life, I know.
We will be back in just a moment. I will warn you that there`s little
tiny bit of Donald Rumsfeld ahead, but I promise I`ll make it OK.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The boy who cried wolf, the enduring fable which proves the
point of just why nobody trusts a liar. And had Aesop of Aesop`s Fable
fame run a cable news network, it seems clear that Aesop would not have
booked the boy who cried wolf on his cable news network to talk about the
imminent threat of wolves. Aesop would have known better.
Twenty-five hundreds years later, we apparently do not know better.
The band of foreign policy experts who completely and comprehensively blew
it for us and the world with the Iraq war is back. They have formed a new
chorus to advice the country on what to do about Syria. How should we
handle that as a country? That story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m very mindful that around the world and in Europe, here in
particular, there are still memories of Iraq and weapons of mass
destruction accusations, and people being concerned about how accurate this
Keep in mind: I`m somebody who opposed the war in Iraq. And I`m not
interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the first Friday of October, 2002, the Bush White House
announced that President George W. Bush would make a speech in Cincinnati,
in the only union terminal there, an old train station that had been fixed
up and made into part of the Cincinnati Museum Center. The speech would be
about whether or not Bush wanted to wage war on Iraq.
He had not announced it yet. We know that from the press accounts at
that time that Cincinnati luminaries lined up for tickets of the speech,
industrialists and lobbyists and elected officials all trying to get in.
Interestingly, though, the big broadcast TV networks didn`t cover that
speech. They said the White House didn`t ask them to.
The preview from the local paper said President Bush wasn`t expected
to say anything new. But the night in Cincinnati became a significant
event in U.S. history because it was the first time President Bush made his
case for war quite like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: We know Iraq and al Qaeda share a
common enemy, the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda
have high-level contacts that go back a decade. Iraq could decide on any
given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group,
or individual terrorist.
Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack
America without leaving any fingerprints.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That became the central argument for the Bush White House,
for going to war in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.
He is going to give them to al Qaeda and al Qaeda will use them to attack
us. That became their central argument. It remained their central
argument all the way into that decade-long war.
Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, he is going to give them to al
Qaeda, al Qaeda is going to attack us with them.
None of that not true, none of it. Saddam did not have weapons of
mass destruction. Al Qaeda hated him and his regime. Saddam in no way
posed a clear and present threat to the United States. And to the extent
that al Qaeda did pose a threat, that threat had nothing to do with Saddam
The Bush White House made a case for war that was not true, not of it
in any of its salient parts. They lied our country into war with so many
lies that the Center for Public Integrity started charting them by months.
The arguments that the Bush administration made for the war were built
on lies of such magnitude that they were marked not just by frequently, but
ultimately by utter moral abandon. And in trying to make that case about
the United States, having that kind of personal stake and WMDs being used
around the world, or countries possessing the WMDs, or a country having the
lack of control of its WMDs, President Bush and is administration, with the
way they use that argument, they broke it. They broke that bone.
They used that argument disingenuously, and in so doing, they broke it
maybe forever. Here is the thing, though, we still have the question of
what to do if some regime somewhere seems capable of slipping very bad
weapons out the back door terrorists. We still have a question and we used
to have an argument for how to handle that, except now, it`s in 5,000
pieces, because the Bush administration bent it in half, and rolled
elephants over it, and then set it to (INAUDIBLE) and waited for a terrible
We cannot use that argument anymore. When you hear it, it makes your
skin crawl, but in dealing with the question now of Syria having and
allegedly chemical weapons, President Obama is trying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the American people who will look at this and
say, why are we getting involved, how to justify taking action -- I know
you talked about international norms because of chemical weapon use and not
because of the 100,000 people who were killed there in the past, the 2
million refugees who fled across the border.
OBAMA: Well, what is happening has been heartbreaking. But when you
start to talk about chemical weapons in a country that has the largest
stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where over time their control
over chemical weapons may erode, where they`re allied to known terrorist
organization that in the past has targeted the United States, then there is
the prospect, a possibility in which chemical weapons that can have
devastating effects could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that
does not happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe you think the U.S. should make a military strike
against Syria, maybe you think the U.S. shouldn`t. I think the debate
should happen. As a citizen, I am heartened that Congress is having the
debate, more debate is better, the more vigorous debate, the better. If
you can`t come up with arguments good enough to convince the Congress and
the people to go to war, you shouldn`t go to way. It`s too important.
And so, President Obama is making his case. And at the same time, he
is saying, he knows the American people around the world is skeptical of
what U.S. leaders have to say when they talk about going to war on account
of what happened last time.
The president`s argument about the risk to the United States posed by
WMDs, it is hard to hear because of its echo, it`s not because of the way
he is making that argument. It`s because of the way the other guys broke
that exact same argument by misusing it, by lying when they made it.
And now, even while the debate is going on, on Syria, the Bush
administration is apparently staging a real time reunion in TV land to
weigh in on this next possibility of U.S. military intervention in the
On Donald Rumsfeld`s appearance on the FOX News Channel, when he
called President Obama a so-called commander-in-chief, criticized him for
not making a good enough case for war, not like George Bush did, in that
long discussion with Donald Rumsfeld hosted today on the FOX News Channel,
the word "Iraq" was not mentioned. Not even once.
You know, nobody called Michael Brown this past weekend on the
anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to ask how he thinks we`re doing now on
the hurricane preparedness. Nobody called Lance Armstrong any time
recently to ask how we`re doing handling steroid use in sports.
Nobody seeks the advice of Bob Ney or Rod Blagojevich from prison, to
talk to them about ethics and public officials. You might ask them about
prison or hair care, or how they feel about the Red Sox versus the Tigers
tonight. But no, you would not seek their counsel, their advice, their
wisdom on the thing that ended their careers in ignominious humiliation.
You would not ask their opinion on that.
If you`re an architect or a conspirator or one of the primary actors
in the Iraq war, and arguably the grandest and most craven foreign policy
disaster in American history, your opinion is no longer required on matters
of war and peace. Please enjoy painting portraits of dogs or something.
Printing portraits of yourself in the bathroom, trying to get clean.
Please enjoy the forgiving company of your family, your loved ones, and
But we as a country never ever need to hear from you about war ever
again. You can go now.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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