THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
July 18, 2014
Guest: Michael Weiss; Ziad Asali; Sheera Frankel; Carolyn Van Cole; James
Kirchick; Michael Weiss; William Taylor
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: The efforts to
investigate so far, let alone the efforts to get those bodies out of the
field, those efforts have been complicated, but they are to resume shortly.
And MSNBC is going to continue our coverage of the downing of flight 17
tonight and all weekend. Stay with us.
Now, it`s time for the LAST WORD. Ari Melber is sitting in for Lawrence
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thank you very much, Rachel.
We are live tonight with the special edition of the "Last Word" with the
latest on the downing of that flight 17 and reports from day two of the
ground innovation of Gaza. These remain two of the biggest stories in the
world today and that`s why, of course, as you`ve seen by now, nearly every
newspaper on earth put flight 17 on the front page expect for one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two major stories.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the eyes of the world are
on this in Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, we were all shocked by the downing of
Malaysian airlines flight 17.
OBAMA: MH 17 took off from Amsterdam. It was shot down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was operating it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pro-Russian separatists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russian-backed separatists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is giving the orders?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is unlikely the separatists could effectively
operate the system without assistance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are Russian finger prints all over this
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world is watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Ukraine to the Middle East.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On our other major story of the day, another foreign
policy crisis half a world away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Greek humanitarian cease-fire ended.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gaza city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel`s ground I invasion of Gaza.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel`s aim to destroy the rocket launching sites
and the underground tunnels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our goal remains the same which sustain peace to the
people of Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rockets being fired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is claimed the lives of 25 Palestinians and one
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quote a few of the casualties are women and children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leaving parents and leaving families.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Families are mourning the victims of Malaysia
airlines flight 17.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Innocent infants, children, women and men.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The search begins for answers and accountability.
MELBER: Tonight, the world is still mourning and trying to make sense of
the tragic downing of Malaysian airlines flight 17. And many countries
followed reports on the flight closely today. The story was on the front
page of just about every newspaper. But this was the front page of
(INAUDIBLE), Russia`s most famous newspaper, no mention of the plane crash
in this language website. It does include a report of the disaster. But
just like Vladimir Putin`s first response, that story intents to shift the
blame to the Ukrainian government. There is also a bizarre op-ed in there
asking if NATO was actually trying to chill Vladimir Putin.
Now this is more than propaganda. The message is encounter charges
emanating from Russia have many U.S. national security experts concern that
Russia will miss an opportunity here to pivot off this tragedy and dialed
down some of the dangerous game of escalation that has been playing the
proxy fighters in eastern Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My concern is obviously that
there`s been a lot of misinformation generated in eastern Ukraine
generally. This should snap everybody`s heads to attention and make sure
that we don`t have time for propaganda. We don`t have time for games. We
need to know exactly what happened and everybody needs to make sure that
we`re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: On this second night since the crash, many questions remain to
both Ukrainian and U.S. government sources say the plane was brought by a
surface to air missile fired by either Russian-backed separatists or
potentially Russian personnel themselves. The U.N. Security Council held
an emergency meeting today where U.S. ambassador Samantha Power, a long
time foreign policy adviser to barrack Obama through a direct line back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: We assess Malaysian
Airlines flight 17 carrying these 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur
was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a
separatist held location in eastern Ukraine. Because of the technical come
complexity of the Sa-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could
effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable
personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian
personnel in operating the systems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: However, Russia`s foreign minister dismissed those accusations
saying quote, "regarding those claims from Kiev that we allegedly did it
ourselves, I have not heard a truthful statement from Kiev for months."
The disputes are not limited to what down the aircraft, either it`s been a
tense scene, you can see there at the debris field in eastern Ukraine today
and this is the second night of the bodies of the victims of the Malaysia
plane disaster remain on the ground. Pro Russian rebels who control the
area are only giving limited access to people that are trying to remove
those bodies and passenger`s belongings. Making matter worse, there are
reports the crash site has also been looted.
At the Kremlin meeting, Russian president Vladimir Putin urged that all
sides in the conflict should halt their fighting and enter into peaceful
talks. But about 20 civilians were killed in more fighting just about 60
miles from that crash site, there are still uncertainty tonight over where
flight 17 flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered and
Joining me now, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor and
former NBC News aviation correspondent Robert Hager. Good evening to you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, Ari.
MELBER: Bob, let`s start with this kind of investigation. You know a lot
about this. Disputes about getting those black boxes, the disputes about
processing the material and the bodies on the ground, what is the space
between how this investigation should look and what`s actually happening on
the ground there at the crash site?
ROBERT HAGER, FORMER NBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it were a
normal investigation, I mean, it would be well underway with the
examination and the wreckage and presumably, the black boxes and begin to
send them to a lab and read them out.
Having said that, they are not the most vital part of this investigation.
I don`t know how much we`re going to learn from these black boxes, but we
could learn something. Maybe the pilot of the downed plane saw them and so
approached the plane, we can`t tell. There might be that. And in the
wreckage, it would be valuable to look at it, see if there are explosives
or something that would provide missile. But with all the rest of the talk
about how we seem to be so positive it is a missile. That doesn`t really
seem to be, you know, a question that needs to be solved ultimately by
looking at wreckage on the ground.
MELBER: Right. And that question, Ambassador, goes to what Ukraine has
been doing, which is putting out information for its side of the story,
blaming the Russian separatists or as the president said, potentially
Russian personnel directly overseeing it.
Walk us through how to distinguish what Ukraine is saying that`s simply in
their interest and their ongoing conflict with Vladimir Putin and what they
put out that is credible evidence for the international community to
understand what happened to this flight shot right out of the sky
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, I think we have
to look at if who is putting out what kind of information. In Ukraine,
there is a real press. There is a real media that is able to dig in to
statements by their government.
In Russia, there is no real press. There is no media who is able to dig to
that. So, Mr. Putin is able to say things and Mr. Lavrov is able to say
things that later we find completely untrue. We just recall how Mr. Putin
said there were no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Only two weeks later they
admitted that there were Russian soldiers and Mr. Lavrov played the same
game. So, the difference is clear between a country where there is free
press and where country, there is no free press. And the Ukrainians have a
press that can dig into these questions and identify troops and the
MELBER: And Ambassador, part of the argument made by President Obama today
was logical and circumstantial in blaming the Russians and talking about
what separatists can do. They can`t just shoot down transport planes. Let
me play that. Take a listen to the President blaming Russia here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A group of separatists can`t shoot down military transport planes
or they claim shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment and
sophisticated training and that is coming from Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In terms of the diplomatic peace and getting Europe on board, is
that argument enough to carry the day?
TAYLOR: I think it will be. I think the Europeans have tried to avoid
this problem. They have economic interests and other interests that have
kept them from assigning blame and from taking real steps to deter Mr.
Putin from these acts of aggression against Crimea, against Ukraine. So
the Europeans have not wanted to take these steps. The Americans have been
the first step. The Europeans then followed. The American have taken now
are harsher set of steps on sanctions just this week. Europeans now have
no choice but to follow in that step.
MELBER: And Bob, when you look at this happening, the U.S. hasn`t put a
lot of personnel on the ground, a handful of folks, really. Why do you
think that is based on your experience in these kinds of aviation?
HAGER: Those professionals, particularly the NTSB is the (INAUDIBLE) that
I know well, they don`t look at themselves as people who investigate
criminal acts. I mean, when they thought it was a missile that shot down
the TWA airliner that crashed off the coast of Long Island, when they
thought initially it might have been a missile or bomb, NTSB was right to
get out of it right away, turn it over to the FBI. That`s been the
The state department took over the investigation when the Soviets shutdown
the Korean airliner some years back in, you know, late 1980s. The NTSB was
taken out of it. So I think their attitude is, boy, when it comes to
shooting a plane down with a missile, this is not our ball game. We know
about planes and mechanical systems and pilot error, things like that, but
(INAUDIBLE) is not out business. I think that`s what the agency is
MELBER: Right, so that it`s almost a category issue of when they`re
triggering and when they pull back if it is a different kind of event.
Ambassador, when you look at the days ahead and Vladimir Putin playing a
very dangerous game here, how do you decode as we mentioned here in the
news report the way Russia is been minimizing this to their own people and
he has struck a note that is highly provocative, highly bellicose and just
simply trying to blame Ukraine. But does that mean that we should rule out
the prospect that he might dial down in the coming days?
TAYLOR: We can`t rule out any prospect. No one is been able to predict
what Mr. Putin will do. No one understands this man. Sometimes, he does
things that are reasonable, sometimes he does things that are totally
unreasonable. I mean, who would have predicted that in this century,
Russia or any country would have been invaded their border, an annex apart
of the sovereign state right on their border as Mr. Putin did with Crimea.
So don`t think we can tell. I think there is an opportunity if he wants to
take it to distance himself to these separatists in Ukraine. If you can
say, you can disavow them, his people have clearly trained them as his
special forces, have provided them weapons and leadership and equipment and
training and he can back down from that. The other big thing he can do is
seal the border so that no more of the troops and equipment can go across
the border from Russian in to the Ukraine.
MELBER: Right. And any kind of (INAUDIBLE) like that would be the one
silver ling to what all geopolitics aside has been such a terrible human
tragedy in the downing of this plane.
Ambassador William Taylor and Bob Hager, thank you both tonight.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Coming up, we are going to talk more about that question, the Vladimir
Putin factor. Why he looks bad and why that might be good for the United
And also, the other big story. It is just after 5:00 a.m. in Gaza. You
can see there, dawn, on what is now the third day of the ground invasion.
We will hear from reporters in Gaza and in director.
MELBER: The intense outcry over the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight
17 is unleashing some major foreign policy consequences and it is serving
two isolate Vladimir Putin among many nations who believe he was at least,
at least an accomplice to this mass murder.
But Putin`s initial response to the news was to believe Ukraine, as we have
been reporting, even though many believe the missile that was launched from
an area controlled by Russian backed separatists would make Russia a lot
Now Putin said earlier quote, "this tragedy would not have happened if
military operations in Saudis and Ukraine have not been renewed. And
certainly, the government of the territory of which it happened bears
responsibility for this frightening tragedy.
That response antagonized many European leaders who had been holding back
from even more serious potential sanctions against Russia.
Now Putin shift to tears a bit today. He used an appearance before some
cameras and clergy to call for peace talks in the region. But as he called
for peace, the Russian military was participating in exercises that
emphasized their country`s air power. You can see there.
President Obama has been much more delivered and he didn`t directly blame
Vladimir Putin for yesterday`s tragedy. But he did say the ongoing
violence in Ukraine would not be happening without the support of one
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We know they are heavily armed and trained and we know that that`s
not an accident. That it`s happening because of Russian support. A group
of separatists can`t shoot down military transport planes or they claimed
shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated
training and that is coming from Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Vladimir Putin blames Ukraine for yesterday`s tragedy. President
Obama blames Russia for today`s instability. And while most world leaders
share President Obama`s assessment, it looks like the only person who left
who really agrees with Vladimir Putin right now is Vladimir Putin.
Joining me now, editor for the "Interpreter" columnist for foreign policy,
Michael Weiss, and a contributor for "the Daily Beast" and fellow at the
Foreign Policy Initiative, James Kirchick.
Good evening, Evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.
MELBER: James, how isolated is Vladimir Putin and does it matter at this
JAMES KIRCHICK, FELLOW, FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVE: I`d say he`s pretty
isolated. But I think it`s too soon to tell. I mean, we haven`t seen
increased support and we haven`t seen increase support from European
governments for sectoral sanctions. We got frankly what is needed now and
we haven`t seen support from the administration her in Washington for these
sectoral sanctions. So, I think it`s too soon to tell just how isolated he
is on an international stage.
MELBER: Yes. And let me read to you, Michael, something that Josh Marshal
wrote just about the swift of this. He says for months, Putin has been
playing with fire, making trouble and having it work mainly to his
advantage. But the whole thing blew up in his face. Malign intent is one
thing, so is aggression. But gobs of this magnitude basically arguing of
the separatists aired and did this without his approval by someone who
controls a massive military arsenal and nuclear weapons are in a way more
threatened. If this whole thing lands on a mistaken act of essentially
counter civilian terrorism, how scary is that?
MICHAEL WEISS, EDITOR, THE INTERPRETER: Hugely scary. And I think what
worries me the most is I would call this separatist movement a wholly
owned, but not necessarily wholly operated subsidiary, the Russian
government. What I mean by that is the leader of the insurgency Colonel
Igor Strelkov. He is a declared GRU agent, which is to say an agent to the
Russian military intelligence agency. The European Union sanctioned him on
exactly those grounds. Today, he came out and said this incident is going
to stop or hinder re-supplies from Russia, meaning heavy material, tanks,
But also he said something else that was really interesting. He said --
and this was a complete implicit critique of Vladimir Putin himself, energy
from the Russian air forces. He said that remember what happened to
Sloviansk and Balkans. He didn`t supply the surge with enough troops and
then he died in my steps and imprisoned under international justice system.
To make that kind of a provocation against the president of Russia,
especially coming from a Russian spy and control of a vast arsenal and
running the proxies of the Russian government, means there seems to be a
kind of breakaway faction amongst the breakaway factions, if you see what I
mean. So to what extent, Putin is still calling the shots on his guys that
he is armed to the teeth on the ground in East Ukraine remains to be seen.
I think that is incredibly worry some state and affairs.
And James echoes a political dynamic. Sometimes we look into Russia and we
say well, this is basically authoritarian type of dictatorship anyway, he`s
all in charge. But he has done a lot of this to increase his standing and
protect his right flank in Russia. And yet, has that kind of political
gamesmanship at home, left him a little bit out of control as it all
KIRCHICK: Well, certainly has to extent but I saw a poll today showing
that his approval ratings are the highest they have been in a very long
time. So clearly, the chaos and the violence that he has been sawing in
Ukraine is unfortunately very popular within Russian itself. And that`s
why I think he started in the first place. And that is ultimately the
calculation that is driving him, is to keep himself and his regime in power
and having a democratic Ukraine that`s sovereign, that wants to be part of
the west. That is a very bad example if you are Vladimir Putin for your
owned people. So he is going to continue to do what he can, to basically
maintain Ukraine as a failed state on Europe`s (INAUDIBLE). And it`s
frankly up to European leaders to respond to this.
MELBER: Right. And so, there`s almost an informational piece of this,
Michael, where the response from the European leaders, and whether they are
showing what happened here as oppose to domestic coverage.
WEISS: Yes. I mean, look. Where Putin is most vulnerable in Russia, and
we saw this with the protest movement that broke out in 2001, is in matters
of corruptions, state corruption, stolen money from the Russian taxpayer,
and also the sifting off that money and the investing of it into -- in
Europe. Real estates, bank accounts, offshore holding, you know, this is
where Europe can play a crucial role. They are essentially the money
laundering content for Vladimir Putin`s Russia, right? And this is one of
the reasons they don`t want to impose sanctions because they know, hitting
the ruble means hitting the Euro and whatever currency they might use.
But yes, I agree with James 100 percent. Europe has to step up and realize
this was a European flight, OK. I mean, Malaysian Airlines, but leaving
from Amsterdam, full of Europeans, you know, blown up in the sky of
European territory. I mean, this is right on their doorstep. They have to
take command now. And indeed, impose that total sanctions on Russia. Or
at the very least, you know, end this horrid feted relationship, this
interdependent, economic interdependence with what not -- it is not just a
failed state, but a Mafia state on their own state department once called.
MELBER: And let me get your thoughts because you have written so much
about this. When you look at separatist like Alexander (INAUDIBLE) and
this picture that`s been going around quite dramatically of him on the
scene, and yet, they`re like flanked as we see on the screen by some
soldiers. They are disrupting the crash site. What is your view of their
actual holdup power?
WEISS: Wednesday, they did three things reportedly that were very
disturbing. Number one, they prevented OSCE monitors from inspecting the
crash site and the remains. Number two, there are reports that they were
looting the belongings, personal belongings of the victims of the airliner
crash. And three, they were apparently removing 30 or so corpses from the
This site -- I mean, the president of the United States said we need an
international independent investigation. That is a fantasy at this point.
This is site is completely contaminated. We don`t know where the black box
is which might lend some -- get some light into exactly what happened. It
could be in Russia.
If it`s in Russia, by the way, the idea that the Kremlin will corporate in
any way, shape or form, when the polish government, most of the polish
government, their plane, crashed in Russian territory in 2012, the remnants
and the wreckage of that flight, Holland`s air force one has yet to be
returned to the polish government. So that gives you an indication of just
how willing Vladimir Putin will be to cooperate.
MELBER: Right. And how many questions will swirl around that site and go
back again to the Russian culpability.
Michael Weiss and James Kirchick, thank you very much for joining us here
on our special live coverage tonight.
And coming up, the latest as day three of that ground offensive in Gaza
begins. We`ll bring it to you with reporting from the region.
MELBER: We are looking here as the sun is just coming up in Gaza, live
shots of the third day of the Israeli ground offensive there. Day two
brought 30 more deaths in Gaza as well as the death of a second Israeli
soldier killed by friendly fire.
The Israeli government says it has intercepted now about 1600 rockets sent
into Israel since this round of hostilities began July 8th. And then
Israel has struck more than 150 targets including over 20 tunnels that the
government says are used by Hamas militants to cross the border into
Now, tonight, Chris Hayes put a key question to Israeli spokesman, Mark
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: How long will those
Israel will forces be in Gaza?
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI SPOKESMAN: As long as it takes. I mean, ultimately,
if you can tell me that tomorrow, the civilian population of Israel can
leave safely without fear of these incoming rockets, they can leave
(END VIDEO CLIP)\
MELBER: That statement coming tomorrow night while Israel contents the
mission here being conducted is precise. That`s the center of Obama
administration has urgently called for. But in Gaza, estimates of the
death toll are about 300 including 2200 wounded in addition. The death
toll also includes more than 50 children.
Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon are in
route to the region. And the U.N. today, the Palestinian and Israeli
envoys told very different accounts of what is pushing the current crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not self-defense. It is eventful military
aggression, intentionally planned and perpetrated by the occupying power
against the civilian population under its occupation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each and every missile constitutes a crime against
humanity where it hits or misses because it`s directed at civilian targets.
I hope the Palestinian delegate will remember that. This wasn`t what we
wanted. We`ve sent our children, our sons and our daughters, to face an
enemy who lives by violence and celebrates death. I want to be clear, our
forces are fighting in Gaza, but they`re not fighting the people of Gaza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Our live coverage begins in Gaza city. Carolyn Van Cole, a photo
journalist for the "Los Angeles Times" is there. She joins us by phone.
What are you seeing on the ground at this point?
CAROLYN VAN COLE, PHOTO JOURNALIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES (via phone): Well,
it`s too early now. The sun`s just coming up. It`s 5:30 in the morning.
I did hear some rockets being fired about 4:00 a.m., at the same time the
call of prayer happened. But so far, I haven`t been outside.
MELBER: And what about in the photos in the reporting you were doing
before nightfall and we`re showing some of those earlier photos you`ve
taken. And speak, if you will, from your own anecdotal observations of
whether it does feels precise and whether civilians there are able to stay
safe in any way and stay out of the way.
VAN COLE: Well, on Thursday and soon after that, I heard a loud explosion,
so I went directly to the Gaza city hospital. I believe the photo you`re
referring to is of children in the morgue. There were four children
brought in wrapped in sheets there on Thursday. All were hit in one rocket
attack. And very distressed family members were coming in to view the
This has been sort of a common theme in the last few days. In fact then
here, that happened as well, the day before that. You know, sometimes, the
rockets seem like they are, you know, very targeted and other times, that
So, yesterday, I also witnessed a building that was targeted, a pharmacy
where the Israeli army actually called in advanced warning and people knew
that the building was going to blow up. So in that case, it was very
clear. People cleared out. They all stood around and watched. And even a
warning explosion happened, so that they knew when the incoming. But you
know, in most instances, it`s been you know, there`s just been a lot of
victims coming into the hospital.
MELBER: All right, Carolyn Cole of the "Los Angeles Times," thanks for
sharing some of your reporting with us from Gaza.
We are going to go out 45 miles north now to Tel Aviv which Sheera Frankel,
the Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed can join us via Skype.
Good morning to you there in Tel Aviv local time. What is the mood like
and how Israel reacting to the (INAUDIBLE) at this point?
SHEERA FRANKEL, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, BUZZFEED: Well, Israelis at
this point are wondering when this is going to end and where it is really
going. At that (INAUDIBLE) has a various times come to bring Hamas to its
needs to end it entirely. Various other members of this government have
said that they`re going to end rocket fire. But Israel`s military said
that`s not entirely possible and that Israelis will need to somewhat lower
their expectations. At the moment, Israeli offensive into Gaza is focusing
on the tunnels. They`re trying to dismantle that sort of the elaborate
tunnel network, especially the one that is between the border of Israeli
and Gaza. And military operations, at this point, aside from doing that,
hasn`t made any other promises.
MELBER: And Prime Minister Netanyahu has faced domestic criticism within
Israel for waiting in terms of how long he began this counteroffensive and
waiting as Hamas basically declined some of the cease fire offers, although
they claimed that Egypt hasn`t really consulted them and negotiating them.
Has this incursion now quieted those criticisms domestically of Netanyahu`s
FRANKEL: Well, Prime minister or a president in time of war is always
going to have a little bit more domestic peace. But Israeli officials that
I have spoken to have said that`s probably only temporary. The knives are
out for Netanyahu from some of his closest coalition partners. People like
Abu Lieberman and Bennett. And we have heard about them in the news a lot.
Those are right wing ministers in Netanyahu`s party who have already said
that come the next election they are going the use this against Netanyahu.
And they are going t be saying to the Israeli public, he promised us no
more wars with Hamas, he promised us quiet and did he deliver.
MELBER: All right, Sheera Frankel, thank you for joining us here early in
the morning your time.
And now, we turn back to Ambassador William Taylor.
Ambassador, thanks for rejoining us. Of course, people know you from your
work as ambassador of Ukraine, but also, you`ve done diplomacy with the
quartet regarding clearing out some of the problems in Gaza back in 2006.
What is your assessment here as how this incursion is going and whether
Israel is achieving its objectives without too much collateral damage?
TAYLOR: Well, it does appear that the Israelis have set a lower bar.
They`ve set more reasonable goals for this incursion. That is, as you`ve
reported, it`s the tunnels. So that means that they don`t have to go very
far into Gaza. They can stay closer to the border. The people, the
Gaza`s, the Palestinians who live close to the border can evacuate and get
out of the way of the military action. So, it is somewhat less intense
than some of the previous incursion.
MELBER: Does anyone expect the United States to have a big impact here
right now? We talked about folks going to the region. But the entire
Obama era has not seen any, even senior U.S. diplomats make headway on this
TAYLOR: They don`t have they don`t have leverage on this issue, this
specific issue. However, this conflict is a symptom of the much broader
conflict between Palestinians and Israelis that the United States has spent
a lot of time, effort and energy on trying to help the negotiation.
Those negotiations as we all know have stalled. As they have stalled, the
violence has now risen. It suggests to me that the negotiation which can
succeed, we`ve seen instances in the past where the Israelis and the
Palestinians have been able to negotiate in the presence of the quartet, as
you pointed out, and come to some agreements on some of the smaller issues.
These are the big issues that are now facing the Israelis and Palestinians.
But that`s what it`s going take in order to reduce this violence.
MELBER: Understood. And these are issues, I know you worked inside the
arena on for a long time.
Ambassador William Taylor, thanks again for being with us tonight.
TAYLOR: Glad to be here.
MELBER: Now, coming up, why were there any commercial flights using that
Ukrainian air space? A lot of people asking that question and who
determines these flight plans? What are the safeguards? Robert Hager
joins us, next.
MELBER: We have an update for you on some other international developments
The U.S., Iran and five countries negotiating Iran`s nuclear future have
now agreed as of today to a four-month extension of those important talks.
Secretary of state John Kerry said in a statement about this to turn our
back prematurely on diplomatic efforts with significant progress has been
made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully
and to maintain the international unit that we built. While we`ve made
clear no clear is better than a bad deal, the very real prospect of
reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we
need more time.
That announcement coming from the state department today. The U.S. will
continue to suspend some sanctions as part of this and Iran has agreed to
dilute the remainder of its 20 percent enrich uranium.
Now up next, we`re going to talk about the danger when you go in the air,
who decides where your plane flies?
MELBER: Welcome back.
In the wake of this tragic crash of Malaysia Airline flight 17, there`s a
big question many people are asking. Why was this jet even flying over a
war zone in the first place? The flight took off just after midday local
time. It was in the air for three hours before it was shot down by what
authorities now believe was a surface to air missile. The jet was at an
altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit. NBC News reports that flight 17
was just 31 miles from the Russian border when it went down.
Now, the route MH-17 was taking is known as airway L980. You can think of
it as sort of a highway in the sky connecting Europe and Asia. The
conflict around Crimea was no secret, of course. The air space above and
around it remain fairly open before this crash. The FAA did restrict
American flights from flying over Crimea and that part of the region.
But it wasn`t until after the crash that the flight ban was extended across
eastern Ukraine. You can see here`s another look at the route. Flight 17
took out Amsterdam before authorities lost contact with Boeing 777 over
In hindsight, that route may look like a very bad idea or even reckless
route. But here is the thing. On this Thursday alone, 55 other flights
took that very path, 55. In fact, British airways, Air France, Luftansa,
KLM, they have all used that route over the past few days. Only a few
carriers including Korean air, Australia`s Quanta`s airline have restricted
flight over Ukraine altogether.
So when something this terrible happens, which is also something
exceedingly rare, how do we know if airlines and governments are doing
everything they can to protect us when we fly?
Joining me now again is Bob Hager, NBC News retired aviation correspondent.
Should something change here?
HAGER: Boy, I think it should. I think that is one thing that will come
out of this, is that the international community realizes that they need to
deal with this. I can see that what they think, first of all, an economic
issue here. It is to cost more fuel to go around and you`ve got to
negotiate over flight rights with the other countries that you now are
going to go through (INAUDIBLE).
But I think this has shown, it just can`t have this. They`re thinking was
no attack had ever gone that high. No missile was -- 33,000 feet. So they
are all getting away with it. But -- and to sort of follows the leader,
you know because most of the other airlines were doing it only if you
weren`t. But I think it`s got to stop.
MELBER: Right. And you say they`re getting away with it. They are also
in business. They are making money off a certain bet.
Here is what one aviation expert told NBC News quote, "Malaysian Airlines
chose the most direct and economic flight route possible, which keeps their
fuel costs down and is something we expect. As customers, they were no
different from any other international airline."
And that there is that aspect to this that what`s everyone doing in a
competitive pricing context?
HAGER: Yes. And a mob psychology, I mean, why should I go around and cost
my airline more money wherein my competitor is going through. And so, he
is going to have to charge less for his ticket. So, if you have some
international organization such as the international civil aviation
authority up in Montreal, that is the United Nations headquarters for
supervising aviation. If they say, OK, now, everybody should not fly to
this place, then it makes it easier for each individual airline to say,
yes, we`re going to do it.
MELBER: Right. Well, that you`re putting your finger on something so
important, which is the way the regulations can be helpful by setting a
Let me read what Qantas airline, former head of safety said, which is a
different take. H said look, you can use the analogy of a policeman who
can`t be there to tell you when the cross the road and when not to. It`s
up to the individual in the case of airlines to make that assessment. So
that`s sort of the business perspective there.
HAGER: Sure. Lows a fare.
MELBER: Right. My problem with that is, in the speeding analogy, that`s
each person making their own decision. But when you get put in that, too,
and put into the air which people worry about, they worry about danger,
they worry about dying, we have to trust someone else to make all those
critical decision, Right?
HAGER: That`s a big fear of flying is that you will have n personal
control at all. But I think -- I just believe that this has to change and
I think it will.
MELBER: Yes. And the other part and when we were researching this, I
thought was really striking, we talk about flying over vulnerable nations,
warzones, this actually flight was also going to pass over and you can see
this up on the screen, Iran and Afghanistan on its way to Kuala Lumpur and
there has been reporting this week that a lot of commercial flights go over
HAGER: Yes. It`s interesting, I imagine, how they`ve been going all over
Afghanistan at this time. But what you have here is a situation where, you
know, two planes that had already been shot down, about a week before this.
So, I mean, there`s warning that things are not normal in this area. You
might get away with it over Afghanistan.
MELBER: Exactly. Lawrence was talking about that earlier this week.
Rachel Maddow also tonight was talking about that. That there was this
predicate of the military shots.
Now, I also want to mention the numbers here, because on the news, we look
at the bad news. And sometimes we don`t look at the total news. It`s one
in 98, your chance of death over a lifetime in a car and 1 in 7,178 in a
We worry so much about the plane. It is dramatic. It is terrible what
happened this week. And yet, the larger contest is, it`s one of the safest
ways to get around.
HAGER: Absolutely, yes. And do you know that statistic has gotten
remarkably better. And over the time I was in aviation reporter, it was
night and day when I began and there would be one of two major crashes in
the U.S. a year. And it is years go by now without a major crash.
MELBER: Yes. That has gone better. Appreciate that point as well.
Bob Hager, always nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.
HAGER: Good to see you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, what former president Bill Clinton had to say this is
new about the escalation in Israel.
MELBER: We are back with our live coverage here. You are looking at
images of Gaza just before 6:00 a.m. And we`re watching the sun begin to
rise on what is day three of Israel`s incursion there and day 12 in a
conflict between Hamas and Israel. Nearly 300 Palestinians have been
killed so far. And Israel reported its first military casualty.
As the deaths continue to mount, there`s an open question whether
Palestinians will focus their blame solely on Israel here conducting this
offensive or also to some degree on Hamas, which has escalated the conflict
in several ways up to this point.
Now, in an interview with Indian new channel, MDTV, President Clinton
warned Thursday that Hamas can achieve a strategic edge by creating the
conditions that ultimately endanger Palestinian civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the long run,
it`s not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from world opinion
because of the absence of a violent-peace process. But in the short and
median term, its Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on
Israel by forcing it to kill -- Israel to kill Palestinian civilians to
counter Hamas. But it`s a crass strategy. That takes our eyes off the
real objective which is a peace that gets Israel, security recognition and
a peace that gets the Palestinians their state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Hamas reached what many would call the height of its political
power in 2006 when it swept Palestinian parliamentary elections and won 76
of 132 seats six years later. During local elections, Hamas boycotted the
polls and Fatah, the long dominant Palestinian party, claimed the victory.
Today, the legitimacy and utility of Hamas, a Sunni offshore to the Muslim
brotherhood is a matter of intense debate among Palestinians and Arab
Joining me now is Doctor Ziad Asali, president and founder of the American
task force on Palestine. Thanks for being with me tonight.
DOCTOR ZIAD ASALI, PRESIDENT/ FOUNDER, AMERICAN TASK FORCE ON PALESTINE:
MELBER: You know, we talked a lot -- absolutely. We talk a lot in the
news about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and we
certainly reported on that all day and this evening on MSNBC. We want to
talk to you about Hamas` standing here, specifically as this incursion
continues within Gaza, your thoughts.
ASALI: Well, I think it`s fair to say that the longer that the incursion
lasts and the longer the victims pile up and pictures and destruction, the
more Hamas was the popular, at least to the Palestinians and the Arab world
at large, heroic and standing up like David against Goliath.
But at the same time, it will be experiencing diminishing support which is
already not very much amongst the people in Gaza itself, who are themselves
directly paying the price for the war with Israel. So, it is a balance
that Hamas has to think of. And I think it is a long standing issue with
Its fortunes inversely related to the fortunes of the PLO. The PLO is
moderate, PA is moderate, wants to make a deal, wants to negotiate a way
out. When they fail to accomplish anything or to deliver to the public,
then, folks who claim resistance like Hamas, then, appear more appealing to
the public and they would just talk about delivering through confrontation.
MELBER: Yes. And Doctor, Israel has emphasized the measures it takes to
try to minimize a civilian casualties there during this incursion. As they
say they`re focused on tunnels, focus on objectives relating to logistics
and military threat. We had a reporting earlier from an "L.A. Times,"
photographer saying in some instances, she saw warning shots fired,
allowing people to exit. The pamphlets that have been distributed and yet,
the complaint yet again from folks inside Gaza, and not only Hamas
sympathizers, is that look, you have civilians dying, you have children
dying in numbers that are in no way comparable to what`s happened inside
Israel at this point.
ASALI: Yes, of course. Only two people died inside of Israel and 240 by
now, more than that, in Palestine. What, you know, despite the repeated
statements that are made on behalf of Israel that they`re trying to
exercise caution and we will have to take their word for it, the end result
is that there are these deaths, there are these pictures and especially
devastating, I think, for Israel from a PR point of view, are the children
and families. And they just happen to have, you know, four or five members
of a family all together dying at the same time.
And there are pictures, there are reporters in the area. This is not an
isolated, an uncovered area. So, I do not expect the words said will cover
for the damage done. And this is a, I will say that good part of the
outcome of this whole conflict, how it`s settled, what conditions that
would lead to a cease-fire, would depend on the perception of Israel as a
ruthless intruder here and killing children or as Hamas, as a defiance and,
you know, uncaring and pity about his own people.
MELBER: Yes, Doctor. You say defiant, pictures obviously, are powerful,
powerful in these kinds of conflicts. There may not be a single picture
though of Hamas refusing repeatedly to take a cease-fire deal here. Will
that, however, eventually cause more blame against them by Palestinians
looking at this damage.
ASALI: Look. There is no question that everybody knows Hamas is the one
who said no to the cease-fire. And any deaths from now on have answer to
explain why it has allowed this to go on to cause more deaths, so there is
in vulnerability. There is also the rising criticism of Hamas, not just in
Palestine and in the west bank, as well as Gaza. But in the Arab world,
there is a muted enthusiasm for this war and war in general. Usually, if
they are between the Palestinians and Israelis, everybody across the Arab
land routing for the Palestinian and identifying with their vulnerabilities
and their killing.
MELBER: And briefly, why do you think it`s different this time?
ASALI: I think part of it is this rejection of the compromise and the
other part is there is a sense we`ve been there before. This is the third
time in six years and we`ll go back to the same condition having offered
more sacrifices and victims.
MELBER: Yes. And that`s a question that is going to continue as we follow
Doctor Ziad Asali, thanks for joining us. You get tonight`s "Last Word."
ASALI: Thank you.
MELBER: At home, you have been watching MSNBC`s special international
coverage tonight. I am Ari Melber. I have been for Lawrence O`Donnell.
You can reach me at Ari@MSNBC.com.
I want you to also know, Lawrence will be back at 10:00 p.m. Monday.
Our live coverage of these events will pick up tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.
Thank you for joining us tonight.
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>