August 8, 2014
Guest: Capt. Wes Moore, John Garamendi, Dana Rohrabacher
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Genocide.
This is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with a word, "genocide." If there`s one word
in our language, one word that should cut off the partisan drivel (ph),
this should be it. Once you see that a religious or other group of human
beings is in the process of being exterminated, we need to try and stop it.
Is there another view of this? Is there a moral position I`ve missed
here, a case for not acting when you hear that an army of zealots is out
there marching in and killing, crucifying or beheading people because they
don`t like their religion? If so, let me hear it loud and clear that
you`re willing to let people be exterminated for being who they are.
Well, this is how I`m looking at this decision by the president to
strike at the ISIS militants marauding their way through Iraq, killing all
in their way. And what disappoints me right now is the incapability of the
speaker of the House, for example, and others like John McCain, to just get
behind the president and say, We Americans will not stand by in the face of
Why does petty politics and potshots and all the rest of the cheap
stuff have to invade every national conversation? Why can`t we just for a
day or two get together to do what we all agree is the right, the morally
necessary thing to do?
Well, now to the question of what`s to come. Tonight, we`re going to
look at where this is heading. The president has authorized limited
bombing of ISIS to keep the militants from our consulate in Erbil and from
the religious minorities they`ve trapped on a hill in northern Iraq. How
long will this continue? Will it eliminate ISIS as a military threat? And
who will pick up the fight once ISIS -- against ISIS, rather, once we stop?
In other words, how do we avoid getting sucked back into Iraq for the long
Andrea Mitchell is chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News
and host of "THE ANDREA MITCHELL REPORT" on MSNBC. Michael Leiter is a
terrorist expert for NBC News. And MSNBC political analyst Eugene
Robinson is a columnist for "The Washington Post."
Well, the U.S. military started dropping bombs on ISIS today at 6:45
AM, Washington time. There were two separate rounds, according to the
Pentagon. The first targeted a mobile artillery piece that was being used
to shell Kurdish forces. A few hours later, drones and U.S. jets struck a
mortar position and vehicle convoy outside Erbil.
Let me go to you, Andrea, first. This seems like we`ve got a very
good bead on our targets. We`re not shooting at areas or groups or
whatever. We got one vehicle at a time we`re hitting. So this is
precision bombing, which raises the question. We got to go in low. And
then the question is, how vulnerable is American forces and engaged even in
this limited humanitarian effort?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, what some have suggested --
Barry McCaffrey, among other military experts -- is that it`s too precise,
too targeted, too simple, that it`s a piece offer artillery here, a convoy
here, that you`re not really getting at the heart of ISIL, not even getting
at the ISIL terrorists who are surrounding that mountaintop.
MATTHEWS: Can you break their assault with these kinds pinprick
attacks? Will they stop marching on and killing?
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: No. You can slow them. And
then through other support of the Kurds, I think you can actually provide
the Kurds the ability to push them back. But I think Andrea is exactly
right. No matter how much you do around Erbil, you can`t roll ISIS back
without a much, much larger campaign. And that`s the big strategic
question for the president going forward.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no,
I think that`s the question. Is the idea to contain ISIS and to stop them
right there so they don`t take Erbil and they don`t go any further, which I
think these attacks could do, or is it to, frankly, destroy this genocidal
radical group that has -- that has taken over a huge swathe of territory
and provides a huge threat for that -- for that...
MATTHEWS: Well, who...
ROBINSON: ... and, ultimately, for the United States?
MATTHEWS: Who are we talking to with these attacks? We`ve obviously
not trying to eliminate or exterminate the enemy. We`re trying to talk to
them -- Stop. We`re shooting at them in a way that says like a shot across
the bow. Stop, or we`ll keep shooting.
MITCHELL: That`s the signal. But we`re also -- at the same time,
we`re told that the Iraqi air force has been operational today. Now, we
have long had...
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that air force?
MITCHELL: Oh, it`s not much.
MITCHELL: And in fact, weeks and weeks ago, when we first started
talking about ISIS`s advance into Iraq, they said, Look, we can`t get
involved. Giving them Hellfire missiles isn`t going to help because they
can`t even run the planes.
MITCHELL: They could barely run a Cessna. So now we`re told by the
Pentagon, Well, the Iraqi air force is up there. Well, what does that
amount to? That`s number one question.
And number two, you know, where -- what is Turkey doing? They`re
getting humanitarian supplies. But where is everyone else? David Cameron
said today, We`ll do humanitarian efforts, but it`s clear the Brits are not
going to get back involved in any kind of military action in Iraq. The
same thing for Hollande in France. We haven`t even heard from the Saudis.
So where is the rest of the world?
MATTHEWS: Let`s go through the three points -- I`m sorry, Michael --
the three points raised by Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman. The
first one -- we`re in there to defend U.S. personnel, especially the people
in the consulate in Erbil. Well, there`s a couple hundred people there,
some of them military? Why didn`t they just evacuate, if that was the
LEITER: The real answer is...
MITCHELL: They started to downsize them today, by the way.
LEITER: ... we don`t want to because the Kurds are really our closest
friends in Iraq today, and we have backed them up, they have backed us up
for over 20 years. And that is about the most secure place we have...
MATTHEWS: So an honest statement by the president would have been,
We`re not there to defend our personnel, we`re there to defend the Kurds
with our personnel.
LEITER: Absolutely. We are not pulling out of Kurdistan. We are
staying and standing tall with...
MATTHEWS: So this is geopolitical ambition here. It`s not just
humanitarian or purely defensive.
ROBINSON: Exactly. This is to sort of build a wall in front of the
Kurdish area and...
MATTHEWS: OK, back to my question...
ROBINSON: ... certainly go no further. There`s...
MATTHEWS: You and I were...
MATTHEWS: ... Cuban missile crisis. We were talking to one person,
MATTHEWS: Who are we talking to here that will listen and say, You
know what? This U.S. superpower is to be dealt with. We can`t beat them.
We`re going to pull back.
ROBINSON: Well, I`m not -- I`m not...
MATTHEWS: Is there such a person?
ROBINSON: ... aware that there`s any such person to talk to.
ROBINSON: I don`t think there is any such person to talk to.
MATTHEWS: In ISIS.
ROBINSON: You know, one interesting question about our military
personnel in Erbil -- are they providing spotting help to the air strikes?
Because these are very -- these were very, very precise strikes. That`s
harder to do just from the air than it is...
MITCHELL: Well, we have drones...
ROBINSON: ... when you have somebody on the ground pointing the laser
at the -- at the...
LEITER: Well, in truth -- this goes back to my years as a naval
aviator. These aren`t especially hard targets. They are largely out in
the open. You can do this from 25,000, 30,000 feet, laser-guided bombs.
So the risk to American airmen is really pretty slim. You can always have
What we have to do is really increase that partnership with the with
Kurds, though. We have held back on supporting the Kurds with heavy
weapons, other intelligence because we wanted a unified Iraq. And what
we`re seeing now is Iraq is not unified, won`t be unified.
MATTHEWS: Michael, we`re throwing -- we`re blowing up armored
personnel carriers with 500-pound bombs? Isn`t that a lot of explosive
device there for...
LEITER: ... what you use.
MATTHEWS: It seems like a lot.
LEITER: The attacks today have been really small and really pinprick.
MATTHEWS: OK, well...
LEITER: And I think ISIS -- they`ll take this, and they still very
much feel like they are winning.
MATTHEWS: I think they want to take casualties. That`s been part of
their -- their appeal, that they`re not afraid to die.
MITCHELL: Well, the travel warning that went out tonight warned
Americans in Iraq about the potential for kidnapping. That`s their MO.
They kidnap and then they demand ransom, and also the terrorizing of the
civilian populations. But also, they`re beginning to take Americans out of
Erbil. They are worried (INAUDIBLE) worried enough that they`re
MATTHEWS: I`m worried...
MITCHELL: ... the consulate.
MATTHEWS: ... about those pilots. I must be thinking about them.
Maybe I`m getting to be a parent about this, but I`m thinking, Pilots, you
don`t want to get captured by this crowd.
Anyway, today, Secretary of State John Kerry cited fear of genocide,
as I said, as the reason for this action today. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: ISIL`s campaign of terror against the
innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque,
targeted acts of violence show all the warning signs of genocide. For
anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last night, the president also talked about the fear
of genocide. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We face a situation
like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of
violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help, in this case,
a request from the Iraqi government, and when we have the unique
capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of
America cannot turn a blind eye.
We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of
genocide. That`s what we`re doing on that mountain.
Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, There is
no one coming to help. Well, today, America is coming to help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Someone said recently the president is a realist with a
conscience. He likes to stay out of these countries. He`s in no way a
neocon who has this "freedom agenda," a grand agenda for U.S. forces. But
he can`t resist this because of -- is this an echo of Rwanda, where Bill
Clinton said, I should have done something...
MITCHELL: Well, it`s funny you should say that...
MATTHEWS: ... or an echo of Kosovo, where he did something, or of the
MITCHELL: You know, Bill Clinton told you, told me after he left
office, My biggest mistake in foreign policy was not responding to Rwanda.
And you`ve got Samantha Power and Susan Rice and people who were involved
in that, who care passionately about that issue, in the White House and at
The U.N. has not said a word about this today. This is extraordinary!
The U.N. Security Council not meeting, not talking about this, to my
knowledge. You know, they`ve talked about Ukraine. They`ve got other
crises. They`re worried about Gaza.
Look, this president said only on Friday, We can`t be everywhere in
the world. Saturday, they saw what was happening on the ground. I
interviewed Brent McGuirk (ph) today at the State Department...
MITCHELL: ... the point guy on Iraq. And he said, On Saturday, we
saw ISIL moving with incredible proficiency, moving strategically, with
command and control and routing the Peshmergas. We never expected that to
happen. And that`s when they went into -- into...
ROBINSON: You know, it`s clear...
MITCHELL: ... another gear.
ROBINSON: Yes, there`s no joy in the White House that I can perceive
MITCHELL: They`re hating it.
MATTHEWS: Have you figured out...
MATTHEWS: What kind of debate was there, Gene, do you know?
ROBINSON: I`m not sure. But I think it`s, basically, that -- you
know, Do we do something or not? And if we do something, what is it? And
I`m not under the impression that actually everyone is agreed on exactly
what it is we`re doing or...
MATTHEWS: They shot down not doing anything.
ROBINSON: ... save the Yazidis, right? So everyone can agree that we
want to prevent genocide. I don`t have the sense that there is a sort of
full-throated agreement on -- or even a full-throated sense, really, of how
far beyond that we go in terms of combating...
MATTHEWS: How many days ahead have they planned for, Gene, do you
ROBINSON: I don`t know.
LEITER: I really think this goes beyond the Yazidis and genocide.
The reason is, with all due respect to the Yazidis and stopping genocide...
MATTHEWS: ... minority group there.
LEITER: ... we`ve lost 150,000 people already in the Syrian civil
MITCHELL: And done nothing.
LEITER: People have been slaughtered in Syria. ISIS was slaughtering
Sunnis as they came in. I think this is the reality of Iraq crumbling
slapping the administration in the face so hard, they realize they can`t
stand back any longer.
MITCHELL: This is the Kurdish core, the heartland of what could be
Kurdistan, collapsing. If that happens, Iraq breaks apart. Jordan goes.
Lebanon goes. Then you see ISIS spreading like a cancer throughout the
I think that this was the president having to make a decision he
really did not want to make. We saw an animated conversation yesterday
right before the decision was announced between the president and Denis
McDonough as he was leaving for the veterans bill signing. I wouldn`t be
surprised that there was some disagreement about what the pitfalls here --
and that`s what a chief of staff does is warn -- former deputy national
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Last word, Gene. No, no, no. This -- you know, who could
warn President Obama? President Obama circa five years ago. You know, he
can go back to his speeches, and there he would get the warning of what --
what bad things can happen when you -- you know, when you...
MITCHELL: And could still happen.
ROBINSON: ... intervene. Yet I think he reached a point where he
LEITER: ... trying to say is, bad things happen when you don`t
intervene, as well. And that`s what they`re facing now. Passivity in the
region is not making the region better.
MATTHEWS: Or invasion in the first place may have caused this
instability that led to all this. We could go back to any day and blame
MATTHEWS: I`m going to focus on -- ironically, I don`t want to talk
politics right now.
Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell. Thank you, Gene Robinson and
Michael Leiter. Thank you all for coming.
Coming up here, we`re looking to take a look at our renewed
involvement in Iraq from all the angles tonight. What are the American
military options right now? Who`s the enemy? These ISIS fighters who seem
bent on either slaughtering anyone in their path or being killed
themselves? The reluctant warrior, as we said, President Obama. He was
elected in large part, as he says, because of his opposition to the war in
Iraq. Now he`s the fourth straight American president to order military
action in that country.
And what`s been the congressional reaction? Well, most of it on the
Republican side has been, let`s agree, small-minded and deeply politicized.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with what we`re heading into in Iraq
and the urgent question of how we get out.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, we`re going to take a look
now at America`s military options in the battle against ISIS. So let`s
start by reviewing what action the U.S. has taken so far today.
Well, this morning, two U.S. Navy F-18s took off from the USS George
Herbert Walker Bush. That`s an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. At
6:45 AM Eastern time -- that`s Washington time -- they struck ISIS military
artillery positions actually near Erbil with 500-pound laser-guided bombs.
Well, just a few hours later, shortly after 10:00 AM Eastern time, a
drone struck an ISIS mortar position, killing ISIS fighters. At 11:30 AM,
four F-18 fighters, also from the USS George H.W. Bush, struck a convoy of
seven vehicles and a mortar position near Erbil. They made two passes,
dropping a total of eight laser-guided bombs.
Well, the target ISIS an insurgent group straight from hell, you might
say, that`s executing innocent civilians in its way and amassing
frightening amounts of power in a vacuum that the United States helped
create. But for how long can we continue these strikes? What are these
young pilots facing on these missions, and what happens next?
Well, retired Army general Barry McCaffrey commanded the 24th Infantry
Division during the first Gulf war, and Wes Moore is a retired captain and
an Afghanistan combat veteran. Gentlemen, thank you for this.
General, thank you. Just give me a sense of how you began to see this
mission from the beginning, what its limits are, what can it get done in a
couple of days?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, no question there`s a
huge tragedy unfolding, a couple hundred thousand refugees in the last few
weeks, families isolated up on a mountaintop without nutrition or access to
water. It`s a real tragedy. It`s a shock to everybody to see the
Peshmerga Kurdish forces evaporate.
So we got a problem. We got to support the Kurds. I have argued
strongly we should have been providing them significant military equipment
a year, two years ago. We`re trying to artificially hold together an Iraqi
state that`s already come apart.
So I think my concern is, except for Navy air -- thank God for Navy
carrier battle groups -- we have very few forces in the region. You can`t
protect 1.5 million refugees or supply them with humanitarian aid from the
air. So these are political gestures, not serious military operations.
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens when you`re on the ground and you`re
ISIS and you`re a zealot, you`ve religiously committed to your goal of
killing everybody else? Why would a few pinprick, as they`re called,
attacks on some of your vehicles stop your advance? General, stay with
that question. Would they stop your advance?
MCCAFFREY: Of course not. For God`s sakes. And by the way, right
next door in Syria, where ISIS has its preponderance of forces, 180,000
dead, mostly perpetrated by Shi`ite, Christian and other minorities against
a Sunni majority. So all throughout this Middle Eastern area, particularly
Syria, Iraq, and parts of Lebanon, this is now coming apart. It`s a giant
civil war, ethnic and religious minorities struggling. It`s going to get
solved through violence. It`s hard to imagine modest uses of U.S. military
power making much difference.
MATTHEWS: Captain, your view. Can a pinprick attack stop an army of
zealots that doesn`t even duck? They`re there for God, and they`re not
really worried about getting killed, so I wonder whether a limited military
strike against people who have unlimited zealotry will have any effect
whatsoever. Your thoughts.
CAPT. WES MOORE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think General McCaffrey is
exactly right. We can`t understand this in isolation.
This is not just about Northern Iraq. This is not even just about
Iraq. This is about things that are happening throughout the entire
region. And I remember one thing that we were told during captain`s
training is one of the greatest oxymorons in the world is limited military
operations, because inherently military operations can`t be limited.
You`re always are now stepping on the doorstep of something that could
be much, much larger. I think what we have seen particularly over the past
week has really uncovered two things. One is that lack of stability, is
this idea that there is no military solution that is going to ever be able
to fix what`s happening in Iraq.
We have now had the past four presidents that have had some type of
military involvement in Iraq. And the second thing that I think this has
really show which could be the most dangerous is there is no Iraqi national
military, that the Iraqi military is very regional. It`s very fractious.
You saw the way that the ISIL was able to cut through Western Iraq,
western -- Western Iraq, cut through Mosul like a hot knife through butter.
The idea of a national military Iraqi response doesn`t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the point, General. I want to go back to your
thought about arming the Kurds.
We have a 200,000-person -- or 200,000-man Iraqi army up against 7,000
ISIS forces. And yet they are running from them. What would stop them
from running? What sort of mechanized force, what kind of military armor,
what can we give them, what weapon can we give them that would give them
the stuff to stand and fight?
MCCAFFREY: Well, Wes made a very important point, by the way.
The Iraq army and police force has largely turned into a Shiite body
that is widely hated. When ISIS "moved like a military juggernaut," the
Wehrmacht of the Middle East, most of that was nonsense. There are a few
thousand fighters. The Sunni tribesmen rose up against the hated Shia-
dominated army and police force.
The Kurds, we -- the president said an Iraqi called, who`s going to
help us? That wasn`t an Iraqi. That was a Kurd. They won`t let the Iraqi
army back in Kurdistan for the next hundred years. So the Kurds are worthy
of being supported.
We need to give them the technology to defend themselves. Possibly,
we`d support them with airpower, but basically again a giant civil war, 10
years of violence. And the American people I don`t think have the
political will to try and turn any of this around.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s start with the pinprick, the purpose. One goal
is to defend our facility in Irbil. Can we do it with Naval air alone,
General, Naval air alone?
And then Captain, what -- Captain.
MCCAFFREY: Oh, it`s nonsense. It`s a giant city, it`s the capital of
Kurdistan. For God`s sakes, if they won`t defend their own capital, all is
lost. I think they will.
It sounded like the Turner Joy in Vietnam or something. We are
conducting carrier airstrikes to protect the 200 people we just put into a
giant city? That`s nonsense.
MCCAFFREY: If you want the Kurds to protect themselves, we got to
give them the tools to do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me got to you, Captain, Captain Moore on that.
Will the United States need to use or is our statement that we will use
military face and Naval air at least to defend Irbil and our facility
there, is that something that will work? It seems like that`s one thing
that will work here in coordination with the Kurds.
MOORE: Well, think about it.
Whenever you talk about the application of military force, you think
about how is the application of military force, how is that going to deter
the enemy, how is that going to deter what you actually have to face?
MOORE: ISIS isn`t making pin-printed military attacks on civilians.
They are not making strategic attacks on specific villages.
So, I`m not sure how to understand that strategic pinprick military
reaction to that is then going to counter what they are going to do. In
order to make a military action effective, you have to first understand
your enemy and see how that is going to actually impact their actions.
MCCAFFREY: Hear, hear. ISIS isn`t into nuanced signaling. They are
crucifying people, they`re beheading them, they`re trying to terrorize
them, for God`s sake.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: They are killers, not thinkers.
Thank you so much, General Barry McCaffrey.
And thank you, Captain Wes Moore, for coming on the program on Friday
Up next, much more on ISIS, the violent extremist group that is
running through Iraq. You are going to hear the horror stories. Hold your
ears for what is coming here. This is one frightening group of people.
Who are they? Can they be stopped by U.S. airstrikes or do they want to
die for God?
And that`s ahead. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
What and who exactly are we fighting in Iraq? As journalist Bobby
Ghosh said on our program last night, they are a nightmarish vision from
hell. Here he is describing who we are up against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY GHOSH, MANAGING EDITOR, QUARTZ: They enjoy the act of
slaughter. These aren`t religious people. They are people who are
They have got oil in that territory. They have seized weapons, some
of them our weapons, the weapons we left for the Iraqis. They have seized
weapons from the Iraqis, from the Syrians, from the Lebanese.
These are -- these are a nightmarish vision from hell of the likes we
have not seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And that`s not even the scariest part.
This might give you a sense of how the radical insurgent group known
as ISIS operates. They catalog their atrocities, like a corporation
catalogues profits. As "The Financial Times" recently reported -- quote --
"The military success and brutality of ISIS has been recorded with the
level of precision often reserved for company accounts, 10,000 operations
in Iraq, 1,000 assassinations, 4,000 -- hundreds of radical prisoners
Well, this is a group that the terrorist group al Qaeda has disavowed.
As one analyst put it, they were a liability to the al Qaeda brand they
were so bad. And here`s another scary part. They`re gaining ground. They
have quickly swept across vast regions of Iraq, while amassing stockpiles
of weapons from defeated Iraqi military forces and capturing critically
important targets like the country`s Mosul dam.
They have got that under their control now. All this doesn`t even
include the unspeakable acts of horror that drove those 40,000 Iraqi
civilians, Christians, Kurds and Yazidis up to the Mount Sinjar, where they
remain stranded surrounded by a group hell-bent on converting or killing
It`s this group ISIS that on the verge of overtaking one of the last
remaining functioning areas of Iraq. It`s this group that we are now
fighting from the air.
Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American progress.
and Kevin Sutcliffe is head of programming at VICE News, where And one of
their reporters has spent three weeks embedded with ISIS.
We will get to you, Kevin.
Let me go with you, Brian.
How many are there in the field right now fighting for the control of
Iraq and what do they want?
BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, if
you add them up, Iraq and Syria, because there is effectively no border
between Iraq and Syria now, you got anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 are most
estimates. Among them, a couple hundred of them from the United States and
MATTHEWS: And those people who are from the United States here are
ethnic Muslims, they come from that part of the world, or...
KATULIS: No, there is a mix of them. There`s actually people who
MATTHEWS: You they`re European backgrounds who have converted to
KATULIS: Yes. And this is a...
MATTHEWS: How many of them are there of those who actually joined
this sort of thing?
KATULIS: There`s a couple dozen the U.S. are most estimates.
MATTHEWS: Well, those couple dozens, are they from Middle Eastern
KATULIS: It`s a mix. Some are Americans who were not Middle Eastern
background who converted.
MATTHEWS: It`s important to me to have this question answered. How
many people have joined that Islamic cause who were not born Muslim?
KATULIS: Well, we don`t have precise figures on that.
MATTHEWS: Five, 10?
KATULIS: But it`s several dozen at least. And this is a big problem.
MATTHEWS: So, it`s a proselytizing organization, and it`s not just an
ethnic group you can kill of, in other words. It will regrow.
KATULIS: Right. I think that`s right. And it`s grounded in a
religion, but a distorted...
MATTHEWS: OK, 15,000 in the field in Iraq and Syria. What do they
want in Iraq? What are they doing in Northern Iraq right now?
Well, they`re tapping into this grievance that Sunnis have against the
Shiite-led government inside of Iraq.
And what is interesting here is that, yes, they are the vanguard. But
there`s also a bunch of ex-Baathists, people who supported Saddam Hussein.
MATTHEWS: But ex-Baathists don`t crucify people and behead them.
KATULIS: But they`re still tactically coordinating with this group.
MATTHEWS: Why do people, reasonable political people who are just
ethnically united around being Sunni against the Shiite control of the new
government over there, why are they supporting this barbarism?
KATULIS: Well, I think they are not supporting it.
MATTHEWS: Well, they are living with it.
KATULIS: Well, they are living with it. But they`re not fighting
back against it because this group is so brutal and it`s so vicious, as
Bobby said in the run-up here, that they actually strike fear in the hearts
of many people, both in Iraq and Syria. And it`s hard to fight back
MATTHEWS: It sounds like the Nazis.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this clip from the VICE News
documentary on ISIS. We should note that VICE has no affiliation with us
and NBC News and has not verified the interviews or video in this
But this interview said to be with an ISIS fighter should give you a
portrait of the mind-set we are fighting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I say to America that the
Islamic caliphate has been established. Don`t be cowards and attack us
with drones. Instead, send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq.
We will humiliate them anywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of
Allah in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kevin, what do you know about this they humiliated us in
Iraq? What are they talking about? I don`t remember that. Is that some
part of the propaganda they`re instilled with or what, the idea they have
already beaten the United States in the field?
KEVIN SUTCLIFFE, VICE NEWS: I think they feel they did that in Iraq.
I think their world view is an expansionist, fundamentalist Muslim
world view is what they are high on. We spent three weeks in Syria and
Iraq in the emerging caliphate, as they call it, trying to understand what
motivates them, why they are doing it, how powerful they are.
And I think, more interestingly, what`s it like to live under their
control? And we have got a portrait that`s both chilling and terrifying
and very scary.
MATTHEWS: But just back to that point, when did they humiliate the
United States? What they are talking about? I don`t know what they are
SUTCLIFFE: I think that their view will be they are referencing
Afghanistan, and they`re referencing Iraq. It`s their narrative that they
MATTHEWS: Well, what is the narrative that they`re selling themselves
about Iraq? We left Iraq in Shiite hands, in Maliki`s hands, and walked
out, but we left it in the control of a government adversarial to them.
How can they see that as humiliating us?
SUTCLIFFE: Well, they got have their own propaganda, they got have
their own view of the world that they are telling everyone, they are
telling their supporters. And it chimes. It chimes.
They are viciously anti-American. And it chimes. It doesn`t matter
whether it`s correct. It`s just that that has taken hold. And it`s
spreading as well. And it finds support in many parts of that region.
Earlier on, people were talking about this being a regional crisis.
There is a real, real crisis now, where this entity is spreading
outwards to the Turkish border, Syrian border, Jordan, Lebanon. This is a
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what you have learned with your embed.
SUTCLIFFE: Well, what we learned was that -- we were in Raqqa, which
is the power base. We saw the weaponry that has been looted from Iraq,
American weaponry paraded in the streets.
We saw indoctrination of children, boys as young as 9, by older men,
who were asking them -- one father asked his child, would he like to be a
jihadist or a suicide bomber? The child replied jihadist.
They talk about the caliphate, the Islamic state. And we went in the
prisons where people have been arrested for possessing alcohol. They have
been waiting to be with whipped. It`s a very chilling portrait of what a
society will look like run by hard-line, armed Islamic militants.
MATTHEWS: Was your embed present during any of the crucifixions or
SUTCLIFFE: No. The filmmaker was escorted around by armed men. He
went to Raqqa. He went into the edge of Iraq as well.
But he wasn`t present at any of the brutality. The brutality, as was
mentioned before, they publish it themselves. They have got a very
MATTHEWS: It`s horrible beyond belief. We are not going to show it,
but it`s all out there. Thank you so much, Kevin.
Let me go back to you, Brian.
This situation, we have all -- my complaint against some of the W.
Bush policy has always been the idea that you can eliminate your enemy by
killing them all.
MATTHEWS: And all that -- all it does is show us killing Arabs and
Islamic people on international television. And to me, it just breeds more
KATULIS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: I just think this is one of these catch-22s. You kill them
and they are replaced by more zealots. If you don`t them, they are zealots
who kill your allies.
KATULIS: There are no easy solutions here, but I think a key part is
to get actors is the region like Jordan to actually work with us to do
They have done this before. If you remember, Abu Musab al Zarqawi...
MATTHEWS: Well, Black September.
KATULIS: Abu Musab al Zarqawi back in Iraq in 2006, the head of al
Qaeda in Iraq, the Jordanians were instrumental in helping us get him.
The Saudis and some of these Gulf states, including Kuwait. Remember
Kuwait? We went in and saved Kuwait. They have got private financiers now
that are supporting groups like ISIS. And working with them to cut off
that funding and also deal with this cancer, because that`s what it is.
Deal with it and cut it off.
MATTHEWS: Where was the U.N. today?
KATULIS: The United States is AWOL. I don`t know what it`s doing.
MATTHEWS: Where is Turkey? Is Turkey going to do something?
KATULIS: Turkey is sort of wringing its hands. That`s what it`s been
doing for the last two or three years on this. They claim to be offering
humanitarian assistance to some of the Kurds up in the north, but it`s
And again I think that`s what President Obama is trying to do is to
get this region...
MATTHEWS: OK. Once again, we are the Gurkha army of everybody else.
We are the Gurkha army. We go in there with our banded legs and run around
and march for somebody else. We do it.
Thank you, Brian Katulis and thank you, Kevin Sutcliffe.
KATULIS: Great. Thanks.
MATTHEWS: Up next, when he was running for president, Barack Obama
campaigned on getting the United States out of Iraq. Now he finds himself
sucked back in. I wonder what he wanted to do and what he`s going to have
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ran for office in
part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home. That`s what we`ve
done. As commander-in-chief, I will not allow the United States to be
dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so, even as we support
Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops
will not be returning to fight in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As I`ve said many times, it`s
much easier to get involved in a war than to get out of one.
It`s something President Obama is keenly aware of as we`ve just heard.
He`s gone to great lengths now to end two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
there was no small measure of irony last night and pain I think when he
announced renewed involvement militarily in Iraq. In his address the
country last night, the president did emphasize that he hopes in this case,
U.S. involvement in Iraq will be of a limited nature.
Still, as Peter Baker of "The New York Times" wrote, "In sending war
planes back into the skies of Iraq on Thursday night, President Obama found
himself exactly where he did not want to be -- hoping to end the war in
Iraq, Mr. Obama became the fourth president in a row to order military
action in that graveyard, that graveyard of American ambition."
NBC`s Kristen Welker is at the White House right now. Ron Reagan is
an author and political analyst.
First to you, Kristen. The question is, how -- if you could give us a
sense of how this went tick-tock to a decision basically to get into it
again. As we have done today militarily in Iraq.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we are
just getting our first sense of that tick-tock. I`m told by a senior
administration official that on Wednesday, after President Obama wrapped up
his news conference at the Africa summit, he was told by the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, that the crisis in Iraq
had reached a critical juncture, that ISIS was making gains, moving toward
Irbil. And that is when the discussions began about how to respond.
There was a high level meeting that night which included President
Obama. Then that Situation Room meeting on Thursday, which occurred first
thing Thursday morning. President Obama meeting with his national security
team. I`m told in those meetings there was broad agreement that something
needed to be done, that the United States needed to take action. But the
question was, what would that action look like?
One of the key concerns was about flying F-18 fighter jets. The
reason, Chris, is because they fly low, they fly very quickly. There were
concerns though that flying those F-18 fighter jets would be putting U.S.
military personnel at risk.
Ultimately, though, the decision was made that the need to take action
outweighed those risks because of the humanitarian crisis and because U.S.
interests were being threatened. And also, because of the strategic
reasons that you have been talking about, Chris. The fact that Irbil is a
Kurdish stronghold and losing that would really be a disaster from the
perspective of U.S. policy there -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kirsten, tell me if I`m wrong. But I looked for little
things in the news. And one was the release of that photo from the Sit
Room, the Situation Room. I wonder if they do it in order to show: A, the
deliberate nature of the decision, how difficult it was, that it was a
shared decision with the military man right there, Dempsey. I think it was
him in the foreground and, of course, Tony Blinken, the national security
aid aide there in the back and, of course, Susan Rice there, the national
Is that to show the gravity of the situation, the fact that they
released that photo? Because it reminded me of the photo they released.
And, of course, when we killed bin Laden.
WELKER: Right. And optics are always important, Chris, and in these
types of situations, even more so. I think that you`re right to under
score that point. There was a desire to show that the president that his
national security team were on top of this crisis. That they were dealing
with the crisis as you know earlier today.
We got some video of President Obama speaking to Jordan`s King
Abdullah. I had been told that he will be making more phone calls to U.S.
allies in the coming days to try to shore up support, not necessarily for
the military mission, but to get more aid in terms of the humanitarian
mission. In addition to all of those Christian minorities stranded on the
mountain, there are thousands who have been displaced by the crisis. So,
he`s going to be reaching out to U.S. allies in the coming days to get
their support in terms of dealing with that.
But optics are always important, Chris. And I think that that
situation room picture that we got, the video we got earlier today
certainly part of the White House`s desire to show that the president is on
top of this -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much, Kristen Welker, at the White House.
Let`s go right now to Ron Reagan.
Ron, you know, Granada was a bite-sized war of a bite-sized country.
And I keep thinking, how do you have a bite-sized war, as the president is
trying to portray this, of a bigger war? You just don`t take one bite of a
bigger war and then pull back, because that war is still going on?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that`s right. Kristen
pointed out a lot of risks here. It`s one thing to say we`ll have limited
strikes. We`re just going to protect the humanitarian mission. But that
can go wrong in many ways. Think about an F-18 going down. Think about a
pilot being captured.
If those sorts of things happen, we are in a whole different ball game
and we don`t want to be sucked into a war with ISIS in the Middle East.
That`s for the Iraqis. That`s for the Peshmerga of Kurdistan to take up.
MATTHEWS: What`s your hunch? If they see us through the fighting, do
they want to join us? Or do they stand back and say, let`s watch the
REAGAN: Well, they -- I hope that the Peshmerga at least, I don`t
have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi army, but the Peshmerga, the
Kurdistan forces, they have long been regarded as one of the best fighting
forces in the region.
I understood from the news report a little earlier, just before I came
in, you may know more of this, that the Peshmerga may have actually freed
about 11,000 of those people driven from their villages now and overrun
some of the ISIS positions. I don`t know if that`s legit or not. But it
would be a good sign if it were true.
MATTHEWS: So, the fact that Kurdish army has been respected for a
long time, like the Turkish army. And let me go back to the White House
with Kristen Welker -- any news on what Ron just said, that there was some
successful military operation by the Kurdish forces near Irbil. In fact,
in freeing people, allowing them to break out from captivity on the hill in
WELKER: The White House hasn`t given an update on the ground at this
hour, Chris. I checked in moments ago.
I can tell you their broader strategy in addition to firing those air
strikes, to increasing military support to the Peshmerga fighters.
WELKER: As Ron pointed out, they are among the strongest fighters
there in that territory. So, there was a fair amount of surprise by the
fact that they were treated -- they were treated so quickly. And the hope
is that those air strikes will give them some time to get -- to basically
reconvene, get stronger and rearm -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kristen, so much -- thank you for coming in on a Friday
night during a war, it looks like. Ron Reagan, as always, I want to hear
from you more next time. A little short tonight.
Up next, the reaction from Congress to the airstrikes in Iraq. Two
coming here, one Democrat, one Republican.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
For reaction from Congress on the military action in Iraq, going on
right now, we turn to U.S. Congressman John Garamendi, a Democrat from
California, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
We also have joining us U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Republican
from California, who sits on the House Foreign Relations Committee.
Gentlemen, thank you.
Let`s start with Congressman Rohrabacher. Your sense of this mission
as it`s been defined, are you supportive of this decision to try to hold
off the ISIS forces from basically committing genocide to start with?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, obviously the president
is to be commended for sending humanitarian support -- food, the water, to
prevent people from starving or dying of thirst. And also, commendable to
prevent them from being annihilated by people who are armed and they are
But let`s take a look, and a limited sense that he knows he has to use
some American military support, but that should be very limited, and let`s
remember that this crisis has been brought on because this president has
not had a coherent policy in that part of the world. We end up not
supplying our friends. We have withheld support from the Kurds for a long
time, just like this administration is withholding aid from Sisi in Egypt
that the Egyptian government --
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, that`s been the rational for that --
ROHRABACHER: This crisis has been brought on by this administration.
MATTHEWS: OK, I accept that assessment. Your assessment.
What has been the rationale from the White House for not aiding the
Kurds sufficiently? Do they want them to be part of the united government
in Baghdad? Is that`s what their argument was or what?
ROHRABACHER: You could hear it in the president`s speech last night.
That his idea of how he`s going to solve this is get everybody in the same
room and to agree to a government they can all agree on.
MATTHEWS: And what`s your solution?
ROHRABACHER: That type of policy does not work. We should be
supporting those elements that are pro-American, and if we would have
supported the Kurds, let them become a national entity, you would have had
the Sunnis and the Shiites --
ROHRABACHER: -- creating their national entity and that would have
MATTHEWS: So, coincidentally, not bipartisan observation, but
coincidentally, you`re where Biden is, let them split up, let them be three
ROHRABACHER: That`s correct. It`s unfortunate this president has
this idea that we`re going to get everybody in a room and sing kumbayah and
MATTHEWS: OK, fair enough.
ROHRABACHER: And that`s going to create some kind of peace in that
MATTHEWS: No, I think that`s a good argument.
ROHRABACHER: They`re suffering because we have not had a coherent
policy of supporting those elements that are pro-American in that part of
MATTHEWS: OK, John Garamendi, your view of the whole thing in terms
of trying to focus it on the situation, the humanitarian aid, you know,
Dana Rohrabacher said we have to do something right now. It`s the larger
questions that haven`t been figured out here.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, certainly true, but we
have an immediate humanitarian crisis, potential for genocide, and the
president is doing exactly what he should do and what I believe Americans
want him to do. That is to provide the humanitarian support in every way
possible, and to prohibit or prevent any genocide that might be in the
future. That`s the appropriate way to go.
MATTHEWS: Can we do it with the pinprick attacks? Can we do it with
knocking out a couple personnel carriers? We`re dealing with zealots who
were willing to die for God. They`re determined to kill or be killed.
Will we stop when we stop them with this sniper attack basically on them?
It`s what it`s been.
GARAMENDI: Well --
MATTHEWS: It`s not an all-out assault on them at all.
GARAMENDI: Well, the other option, put another 150,000 troops back
into Iraq, no way, no how. This is going to have to be worked out in that
area by the people in that area. Certainly, the Kurds have a great
interest in seeing ISIS prevented from getting any closer, and involvement
in their area, the Shiites likewise. The surrounding countries, Jordan and
the rest of them. All of them have a very severe threat.
And, yes, we ought to get all of them in a room. Kumbayah is not the
right song. We better come together, together with those that have an
interest in that area, and get to work on trying to prevent this radical
group from taking over. That`s what we have --
ROHRABACHER: I was not talking about -- I was not talking about
getting all of those other powers in the room. That, I agree with 100
percent. I`m talking about getting everybody in Iraq in one room and
suddenly then they`re going to find a consensus.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Rohrabacher, I worry about it -- do you think
that the Kurds will defend their city, defend Irbil? Will they fight for
it in the next couple days?
ROHRABACHER: Sure, they will. But we need to make sure they have the
ammunition which we have denied them. We have supported a pro-mullah
regime in Kabul, in Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: People hear your argument. I think people figure the
argument out. I think we have to help the Kurds.
Thank you, Congressman John Garamendi, former Peace Corps volunteer in
Ethiopia, a comrade of mine in good causes.
And Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a great speechwriter for Ronald
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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