All In With Chris Hayes, Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
September 10, 2014
Guest: John Garamendi, Jim McDermott, Dave Zirin, Matthew Hoh, Neera
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN:
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is America that has the
capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.
HAYES: A war president makes his case.
OBAMA: We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country wherever they
HAYES: As Congress lines up behind the president`s plan, there are voices
of dissent, and you will hear them here tonight.
Then, an NFL bombshell.
NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS: Did anyone in the NFL see this second videotape
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: No.
HAYES: A shocking new "A.P." report claims the NFL was given a copy of the
Ray Rice assault video three months ago.
BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: If the evidence indicates that he did see it
before this week, and I take no pleasure in saying this, I think he`s done.
HAYES: The NFL has issued a denial. We`ll have the late-breaking details.
And today in Ferguson, the protests returns.
ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from Washington, D.C. I`m Chris Hayes.
Tonight, President Obama became the fourth consecutive U.S. president to
give a prime time address announcing a military campaign in Iraq. He laid
out his plan to escalate U.S. military operation against the extremist
group known as ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our objective is clear. We will degrade and ultimately destroy
ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: On the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago
tomorrow, the president outlined a multiphase campaign that administration
officials have said could last well beyond the end of his term. The first
phase, an expansion of the current bombing campaign over Iraq, President
Obama making it clear for the first time he`s prepared to attack ISIS
targets inside Syria as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I made it clear we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our
country wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action
against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my
presidency. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And as part of the efforts to fight ISIS, there will be additional
U.S. boots on the ground, almost 500 troops. Just not in a combat role
according president who sought to draw a clear distinction between the
current mission and America`s long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign
soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady,
relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our airpower
and our support for partners forces on the ground. This strategy of taking
out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front
lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: While President Obama called on Congress to authorize new training
and equipment for the Syrian opposition, he said he doesn`t need Congress`
approval to attack ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I
believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work
together. So, I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to
show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Although members of Congress have found plenty to criticize in the
president`s speech, few are questioning his logic for an escalated response
to the extremist group.
House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement, quote, "He`s finally begun
to make the case the nation has needed him to make for quite some time that
destroying this terrorist threat requires decisive action and must be the
highest priority for the United States and other nations of the free world.
A speech is not the same thing as a strategy, however. While the president
presented a compelling case for action, many questions remain about the way
in which the president intends to act."
Senator John McCain who has long advocated military response to ISIS
thought the president didn`t go far enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Clearly, I don`t think that the president
clearly understands the nature of the threat. He compares ISIS with Yemen
and Somalia. But ISIS is well-armed, rich. They are -- have a huge
control of the areas as large as the state of Indiana. Obviously, he
doesn`t understand the nature of the threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: While Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat who supports president`s
efforts says the White House has more work to do to make its case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think this is much more of an opening
statement than a closing argument. I think there are going to have to be a
succession of speeches and conversations to the American people about how
we`re going to accomplish this task, to fill in what kind of cooperation
we`re going to get from our allies and regional partners. So, there`s a
lot more to be said about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nevertheless, members of Congress have been striking unified on the
need for an escalated military response to ISIS. Among a small sampling of
lawmakers who spoke with "The Huffington Post" yesterday, Iowa Senator Tom
Harkin was the only one who dismissed the idea that ISIS poses a direct
threat to the United States. Quote, "It`s fear-mongering. It`s what
happened after 9/11. Oh, my God, they have these planes crashing. Now
they`re going to take over America. That`s nonsense."
That`s beginning to look like a minority opinion among the American public,
too. In a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 61 percent said it`s in
our national interest to take military action against ISIS.
It`s worth noting, however, 40 percent say that action should be limited to
air strikes, compare to 34 percent who would include combat troops. That
latter number is a surprisingly high number supporting actual boots on the
ground, but it`s still only about a third of the American people.
And those numbers are frankly not because of effective ISIS is as a
military force, or how horrible they`ve been to the thousands of Iraqis and
Syrians they`ve killed and brutalized or even how much of a threat they
present to Americans in the U.S. It`s because they murdered two Americans,
and it`s because they make terrifying videos.
OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the
United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately
destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
HAYES (voice-over): in nine months, ISIS has gone from a second string al
Qaeda sprinter group, what President Obama called the jayvee team, to what
he now views as a subject worthy of a primetime address.
OBAMA: So, ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the
broader Middle East, including American citizens, personnel and facilities.
If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that
region, including to the United States.
HAYES: And they`ve done it through a series of military victories coupled
with an unprecedented propaganda machine, featuring professional-level
video production, canny use of social media and extreme brutality.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
HAYES: Jihadi propaganda videos are nothing new, but no group has
documented its atrocities so self-consciously. They seem to tape
everything they do, with high-production value, including sophisticated
graphics and footage shot from drones that show off their technical know-
how and their ample funding.
And the ISIS propaganda machine has been extremely effective. The
reputation for brutality has proven an advantage on the battlefield,
calling some of their adversaries to simply turn and run.
REPORTER: The Iraqi government is losing control of large parts of
northern and central Iraq. Some Iraqi security forces are fighting. But
most appear to be stripping off their uniforms in the streets, abandoning
vehicles and weapons.
HAYES: The PR offensive has helped recruit foreign fighters, including the
stars of this propaganda video, identified as British citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from
Cambodia, Australia, U.K. Nothing has gathered us except to make
HAYES: And above all, it has raised fears here in the U.S. about the
domestic threat possibly posed by ISIS.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In some ways, it`s more frightening than
anything I`ve seen as attorney general. 9/11 was something that came out
of the blue. This is a situation that we can see developing and the
potential that I see coming up, the negative potential I see coming out of
the facts in Syria and Iraq now are quite concerning.
HAYES: But nothing has galvanized the American public against ISIS as much
of the videos of two American journalists being brutally murdered.
With a message to President Obama from the executioner, apparently a native
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your
HAYES: For a terrorist organization, there is perhaps no greater
accomplishment than terrorizing Americans. And according to a new NBC News
poll, more Americans have been paying attention to the beheadings than to
any other news event in the past five years. And their response to those
videos is a big part of what`s driving the U.S. military escalation.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson discussing whether Democrats would vote to
authorize the president`s plan reportedly said, quote, "All they have to do
is see the videos, then it`s not a hard vote." All of which prompts the
question -- does responding to ISIS with American military force, give the
group its greatest propaganda victory yet?
HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman John Garamendi, Democrat of California,
Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat from Washington.
How much are those videos that have been play on a loop, particularly
videos of two Americans murdered in a brutal fashion, but generally the
videos of the men standing up in guns and masked figures. How much of 245
played in briefings on Capitol Hill, how much are they affecting the mood
in conversation around this?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: I think there`s a factor. But I
think there`s a bigger factor. That`s the way in which ISIL got into Iraq
and really took over a large portion of that country. And not only
threatened the Iraqi Baghdad but also the Kurds. That was the wake-up
It was followed by the two beheadings and that may have been the final
piece of it, but I think it was the underlying way in which they --
HAYES: But that happened, the fall of Mosul and the fears initially that
they might even take Baghdad. That was several months ago that we saw
GARAMENDI: About a month and a half right now.
HAYES: And you think that was -- that was the wake-up call and it`s taken
this long to sort of --
GARAMENDI: It`s a piece of it. Obviously, the videos play into that. The
beheadings play into that, at least for the American public. I think for
those of us on the Armed Services Committee, we were concerned about the
fall of Baghdad. We were concerned about the neighboring states, the way
in which this could morph into a much, much larger problem in that area.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Well, certainly, the beheading of the
two gentlemen was an awful thing. It`s absolutely reprehensible. And
there`s no excuse for it and it digs deep into our guts when we look at it.
As a psychiatrist, I know what it does to people, but the fact is that the
president said sometime ago that the military would not be the way this
thing would be solved. And his speech tonight was all about a military
solution, strikes from the air.
Now, we are going to become the Shia/Kurdish air force in the eyes of the
Sunnis. And then we`re going to go out and try to get them to change their
mind and be a part of the government in Iraq. We are making things worse
for ourselves by doing that.
What we should be looking at is, where did the money come from to finance
ISIS? And I suspect we`re going to find it in Saudi Arabia and in the
Qataris. And the United States -- the president was absolutely silent on
who those air groups were going to be that were going to go on the ground.
Because we can be in the air at 30,000 feet, but who`s going to be on the
HAYES: Do you have those same fears about the Iraqi army, which will be
the boots on the ground, at least the initial, and the Peshmerga, that the
Sunnis, who are the people that are living in the area that ISIS has taken,
the folks that are the most disaffected and open to the message of ISIS as
a counterforce to what they see as an oppressive sectarian government in
Baghdad, are you worried that we essentially reaffirm those sectarian
divisions if we become the air force for what is viewed as a Shiite militia
in a form of --
GARAMENDI: It`s going to take great care and caution. It`s going to have
to be very deliberate and we have to be very sure of what we`re doing.
Keep in mind that there was a Sunni revolt against al Qaeda because of its
excesses. That could and should be one of our goal is to work with the new
government in Iraq to bring into that government the Sunnis and open the
door so they have an opportunity to come back in. Will that succeed? We
don`t know, but we have to --
HAYES: OK, in reference the awakening, which is the Sunni awakening, of
course, part of David Petraeus strategy, centered around the surge and also
essentially buying off Sunni tribal leaders, peeling them away from al
Qaeda, to fight al Qaeda alongside the Americans, essentially, that is
pointed to as a precedent, but it seems like a dubious precedent in so far
as the cement didn`t dry, right? I mean, here we are facing the same
GARAMENDI: There`s the reason it didn`t dry. Maliki was in power and he
pushed the Sunnis out of power, persecuted them, threw many in jail, and
gave them a good reason to look to another way of dealing with their own
future, and that turned out to be ISIS.
HAYES: Congressman McDermott, the president said tonight that he welcomes
congressional input into this, congressional vote, how do you understand
MCDERMOTT: I was insulted by it. He needs our support. The president can
do whatever he wants. Clearly, he`s the president. But if he --
HAYES: Do you mean that as a practical matter, as a constitutional matter
or as a legal matter?
MCDERMOTT: I`m just -- I`m saying, he can -- George Bush proved you could
pretty much do what you want, but with Abu Ghraib and a whole bunch of the
other things, you can -- but if you do it without the support of the
Congress, then you get blamed for it. And the president would be very --
it would be very reckless in my view for him to go in and start doing all
this without getting a vote from the Congress.
To say I already have the authority and I would be glad to have you guys
come along is really kind of condescending.
HAYES: Congressman Garamendi, do you feel that way?
GARAMENDI: I don`t think he has a choice but to have a vote. There is a
thing called the Constitution. It says it is Congress that authorizes war.
It`s very clear.
We`re at war, and there`s also a thing called the War Powers Act, which he
has initiated by sending a letter to the Congress.
HAYES: So, you see this -- he`s sent a letter. A 60-day window of
notification, he sent that letter, the clock has started ticking under the
War Powers Act. So, you see a vote as vote authorizing the war?
GARAMENDI: There has to be or else the war is going to stop, plain and
simple. The War Powers Act is clear. If you want a constitutional crisis
again, this is not about whether we have notified Congress about some
detainees. This is about war and this is a very serious matter.
Mr. President, come to Congress, get your authorization, he laid out a
strategy. We should affirm that strategy if we want to and go forward.
HAYES: I should note that the White House since the War Powers Act over a
White House vote have tended to view the War Powers Act the way Andrew
Jackson viewed the Supreme Court. They made their ruling. Now, let them
GARAMENDI: Three hundred and seventeen of us said, Mr. President, you`re
going to have to come to us if you take further action. And he`s taking
further action. So, I think there`s a strong feeling in the Congress to
carry out our constitutional power.
HAYES: Congressman John Garamendi, Congressman Jim McDermott, thank you,
MCDERMOTT: Thank you.
HAYES: Appreciate it.
Lots more coverage of the president`s address coming up. But there`s late-
breaking news tonight concerning the National Football League, and its
handling of the Ray Rice incident. The NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
announcing tonight, an independent investigation led by former FBI Director
Robert Mueller, after a blockbuster report from the "A.P." about just what
the NFL knew about that assault and when. That is straight ahead.
HAYES: Should we be going to war with ISIS? We`ll hear from someone who
is uniquely qualified to take part of that debate ahead. Spoiler alert:
it`s not Dick Cheney.
Plus, new bombshell reporting in the NFL`s domestic abuse scandal. And
late news of a brand-new investigation of the NFL`s handling of the
HAYES: Breaking news tonight: in an ongoing domestic violence scandal
roiling the NFL.
The league`s commissioner, Roger Goodell, announcing tonight that former
FBI Director Robert Mueller will conduct an independent investigation into
the NFL`s handling of the evidence in the now infamous Ray Rice domestic
violence incident, captured on video in a hotel elevator.
This after a blockbuster report from the "A.P." today that flatly
contradicts what we` been hearing from the NFL for the last few days, about
whether or not anyone from the league had seen the footage from inside the
elevator of Ray Rice punching his then fiancee, now wife, Janay, in the
face knocking her unconscious before TMZ released it on Monday.
When ALL IN contacted the NFL that morning and asked if anyone from the
league had seen that portion of the video before it was released they told
us, and I`m quoting, "We requested from law enforcement any and all
information about the incident including the video from inside the
elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office
has seen it until today." No one in our office has seen it until today.
Today`s "A.P." report, citing a single unnamed law enforcement official
suggests that`s not true. It reads in part, "A law enforcement official
says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then fiancee to an NFL
executive three months ago.
The person played the "Associated Press" a 12-second voice mail from an NFL
office number on April 9th, confirming the video arrived. A female voice
expresses thanks and says, you`re right, it`s terrible.
And it`s after the "A.P." released their report today, the NFL put out this
statement. Quote, "We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of
anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made
public on Monday. We will look into it." Which is pretty much what NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell said to "CBS Evening News" last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS: When did you first learn about the second tape?
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Yesterday morning. I got into the office
and our staff had come to me and said there`s new evidence, there`s a video
that you need to see. And I watched it then.
O`DONNELL: So, did anyone in the NFL see the second videotape before
O`DONNELL: No one in the NFL?
GOODELL: No one in the NFL to my knowledge, and I asked that same question
and the answer to that is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Dave Zirin, sports editor of "The Nation", author
of "Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down".
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Wow.
When this crossed today, let`s be clear, we didn`t report this. It`s
reported. It`s a single unnamed source.
You know, it is possible the report doesn`t bear out. But the playing from
the voice mail from an NFL number, it really looks at this early stage like
the NFL has a massive, massive cover-up scandal, and aside, distinct from,
related to but distinct from the domestic violence handling scandal they
ZIRIN: Right. I mean, first and foremost, this is no longer the Ray Rice
saga. It`s the Roger Goodell saga. It`s not a story of whether one player
committed an act of domestic violence -- by the way, one of 56 players in
the Roger Goodell era to commit an act of domestic violence. For the
record, those 56 players suspended a combined 13 games in the eight and a
half year reign of Roger Goodell.
ZIRIN: So, this is all catching up with him, a lot of camuffins here.
ZIRIN: That`s why a lot of NFL players are taking to Twitter with delight,
the fact that it is the Goodell saga.
My favorite was James Harrison, long-time NFL player who said, how does it
feel now that the rabbit has the gun, Mr. Hunter? Which is really
something. I mean, there`s that kind of, like sort of chest-thumping.
Roger Goodell, you have held this moral cudgel over the players in the
league for so long, and you are looking like the emperor with no clothes.
I mean, it looks like -- I didn`t see the tape, it could become his, I am
not a crook, I did not have sex with that woman, mission accomplished.
Like this thing that brands Roger Goodell and eventually pushes him out.
HAYES: You have, of course, Senator Richard Blumenthal, calling for
Goodell to resign. "Recent reports that the NFL had Ray Rice battering
video point to Goodell`s burgeoning, insurmountable credibility gap. If
these reports are true, Commissioner Goodell must go, for the good of the
NFL and its fans."
You have a tweet from "The Washington Post" National Football League
reporter Mark Maske who says, "Goodell remains adamant, he won`t resign,
source says never."
ZIRIN: I mean, anybody who`s a student of politics knows that the
appointing of the independent counsel is a step towards you actually
getting canned, when the story ends.
HAYES: Well, it`s an attempt to quarantine yourself from the scandal and
to say, OK, we`ll hand this over to the independent -- and we saw it with
Christie, of course, Randy Mastro brought in who wasn`t particularly
dependent, but said, oh, we did our finding and it`s OK.
ZIRIN: Nor is Robert Mueller.
Let`s talk about how cozy this independent counsel situation is going to
be. Robert Mueller, of course, the FBI director, primarily under George W.
Bush. Roger Goodell`s father in law, Sam Skinner, who is the chief of
staff for George H.W. Bush, back in 1991, 1992, and the two people
overseeing Robert Mueller are John Mara and Art Rooney, the two owners
known to be the biggest backers of Roger Goodell.
So, by the time this is all done, there`s going to be so poor guy in the
mail room who was like, that`s the person we didn`t see this tape.
HAYES: Absolutely. The thing I thought today, if the "A.P." report is
true, and I have no reason to think it is not true, other than it`s an
unnamed source, and I don`t know who that person is -- if it`s true, then
they`re going to try to make someone walk the plank on this who`s not Roger
Goodell. But it`s going to be very, very hard for them to pull that off.
ZIRIN: Yes, it might not fly. I mean, the entire method of the Roger
Goodell`s 10-year commissioner could be best be described as, hate the
player, don`t hate the game. Every time there`s a scandal, let`s make sure
that the individual player is demonized and then is pushed out the door,
but let`s protect, as Roger Goodell always says, the integrity of the
shield, the integrity of the NFL.
This is one of those situations where it`s blowing back on to him.
HAYES: Let`s just say this also. Carolina Panther defensive end Greg
Hardy found guilty in a bench trial. Hardy dragged his then girlfriend by
her hair room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her
He looked me in the eyes and told me he was going to kill me. He loosened
his grip slightly, I said, just do it, kill me. That`s from the testimony
of his girlfriend.
There`s a bench trial, he was found guilty. He`s appealing it.
HAYES: There`s been no comment from the league. Everyone says they`re
withholding judgment upon appeal.
But the one thing the league weighed in on this weekend when Hardy played
for the Panthers was the league expressed unhappiness with his face paint.
That it violated league policy, that the face paint -- this is the guy who
was just found guilty in a trial, not a plea, guilty by a judge of doing
this to his girlfriend.
ZIRIN: And the mere fact that we`re having this conversation is why I
think that Roger Goodell`s days as a commissioner are largely numbered.
It`s because, look, NFL owners are not now born-again believers that we
need to take a stand against domestic violence. There`s nothing in the
history of any NFL owner that shows a serious stand on this issue,
particularly as it relates to the NFL.
The problem though, is that week one of the NFL season is over. We`re
heading into week two and nobody is talking about the games. This is not
an MSNBC issue. This is ESPN.
I mean, if only the NFL had an in-house network to talk about other things.
Well, of course, they do, the NFL network.
HAYES: Today was talking about injury reports while they ran a ticker with
the "A.P." on the bottom. It was this bizarre, you know --
ZIRIN: They`re trying to negotiate the facts.
HAYES: This whole attempt at managing.
Well, tomorrow night, there`s a football game featuring the Baltimore
Ravens. It will be CBS` first broadcasting of Thursday night football.
They paid a huge amount of money for it. It`s going to be fascinating.
CBS is not the NFL network, so it`s gong to be interesting to see how they
handle it. A lot of people will be looking at that.
Dave Zirin, thanks so much.
ZIRIN: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, today tried to shut down traffic
on Interstate 70, organized civil disobedience and a reminder that the
protest and the movement roused by the killing of unarmed teenager Michael
Brown far from over. This afternoon, as protesters began to block traffic
on a road near an onramp to the interstate and after warnings from police,
more than 30 people were arrested, most for unlawful assembly. Other
protesters proceeded to the Ferguson headquarters.
Demonstrator demands today were clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAUREEN RUSSELL, PROTESTER: We only have two demands. We`re not going to
go through the long list. First demand is we want the immediate arrest,
charge and firing of Darren Wilson, Officer Darren Wilson from Ferguson.
And then two, we want the prosecutor, Brian McCullough, to recuse himself
on the case and let a special prosecutor be appointed by a civilian board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That protester was referring, of course, to Ferguson Police Officer
Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Mike Brown on August 9th. Protesters
have vowed to continue acts of civil disobedience until St. Louis County
prosecutor Bob McCullough is removed. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has made
it clear he has no intention of doing so. And McCullough has said
repeatedly, he will not recuse himself.
When we return, a uniquely qualified individual tells us why he`s opposed
to a U.S. war on ISIS.
HAYES: We`re back with coverage of President Obama`s address to the nation
tonight, outlining an expanded role for the U.S. military in fighting the
Islamic militant group known as ISIS.
Our next guest is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the president`s
position, having been both a fighter and a diplomat, in America`s two major
post-September 11th theaters of war. Matthew Hoh served twice in Iraq
where he saw combat as a marine commander, before becoming a State
Department official in Afghanistan.
In 2009, Hoh resigned from that post, writing a blistering resignation
letter, arguing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was a mistake
that played into the hands of insurgents by providing an occupation force
against which the insurgency was justified.
Now worries America is about to repeat its many mistakes of the last decade
as it expands its work against ISIS.
And joining me now is Matthew Hoh, currently a senior fellow at the Center
for International Policy.
Matthew, you wrote a piece in "The Huffington Post" today arguing against
expanding or engaging really an American military strikes against ISIS.
What is your case?
MATTHEW HOH, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Thank you for having me on.
It`s nice to be here. I am just reminded that it was five years to the day
that I wrote that resignation letter. I had no clue I`d be here doing this
five years later.
And it`s really quite sad, because what I heard tonight from the president
was the adoption of perpetual war as U.S. policy. It`s something that`s
been de facto for quite a period of time now. It`s something we all have
been living with and seeing.
But now, as I heard the president speak tonight, that was my thought, is
that we are now in a perpetual war. The mistakes we have made in the last
13 years, whether they`d be in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Somalia
and Pakistan and Yemen, we are going to continue to make this time again in
And I think, to your point, to the piece I wrote in "The Huffington Post",
my fear with the Islamic State is that we are playing right into their
hands, that we are taking the bait.
They executed two American journalists. And we are as a result in reaction
in a hyperemotional state, not saying that they weren`t heinous and
ghastly, but we are racing back into Iraq, which actually if you look at
what bin Laden said, one of Osama bin Laden`s strategies was, he famously
said, all you need to do is send two mujahidin to the far side fortunate
planet, raise the banner of jihad and the American generals will come
racing and they will exhaust themselves in human cost, political costs and
So, that`s my biggest fear is that we are playing right into their hands.
We`re taking their bait once between.
HAYES: The people who argue for intervention, the campaign we have seen so
far, the 154 or so airstrikes against ISIS targets, expanding that possibly
into the future, you know, they basically say, yes, this -- we don`t know
if this will work, but doing nothing was no longer an option as we saw this
terrifying, marauding band of, you know, sectarian killers sweep across a
huge swath of territory, erase decades-old border between Iraq and Syria
and possibly challenge the government in Baghdad. You can`t just do
The question is, how to you respond to that, that argument, which is kind
of the strongest argument I feel that interventionists have right now?
HOH: Well, I think it`s a mistaken argument. It ignores everything we`ve
learned this last decade plus. Where is the evidence that our military
first policy that are going on the offensive as many in Congress would like
to say about this, where is the evidence that that has actually worked?
And what is the ultimate goal?
But in particular in Iraq, jumping back into the Iraq civil war, by going
into the Islamic state, we are, in fact, entering a sectarian state. The
Islamic State is aligned with the Sunni communities. The Sunni communities
are aligned with Islamic State, because for the last several years, and
really since 3003, they have been the subject of repression and persecution
by the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.
What you have seen here in terms of persecution, what you`ve seen there is
mass arrests, killings, disappearances, as well as the Sunnis being shut
out of security forces, out of positions in government, out of revenue.
So, by jumping back into this conflict, by becoming the Shia air force, or
the Kurdish air force, we are taking one side, which will make the Sunnis
even more desperate and will force them or cause them to align deeper with
an Islamic State.
This makes me feel -- looking at this, listening to what the president said
tonight, I think what is going to occur is that we are going too see Iraq
revert back into 2006 levels of violence, because I don`t see real any
difference between what the president said and what will occur, which in my
opinion will be a Shia, and Kurdish invasions of Sunni home territories.
The Kurdish and Shia incursions into Sunni territory with American
firepower backing it, which again, will bring us back to where the Iraqis
were in 2006 with that horrible, awful, bloody civil war.
With regards to Islamic State, absolutely. They are horrible, they are
ghastly, they are barbaric. However, half a million people have been
killed in one horrible ghastly way or another in Iraq since 2003, 200,000
people have been killed in one horrible, ghastly way or another in Syria
So, what makes the violence different this summer than the previous 11
years of violence different? I`m not sure. I think the average Iraqi
citizen, the average mom and dad worrying about their children, I don`t
think they care whether their children`s safety is under threat from
Americans, from Shia, from Sunnis.
It`s the fact that these people have been living in a nightmare that none
of us in the United States can understand for the last 11 years. The
United States jumping back into the conflict will exasperate it.
HAYES: Matthew Hoh, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
HOH: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: The candidate who became president in large part because of his
opposition to war in Iraq is now the president who is ordering airstrikes
in Iraq on primetime television. President Barack Obama`s big dilemma,
HAYES: The context of the president`s address tonight is this is the same
man who is president today because he was virtually alone among the 2008
Democratic presidential candidates to have spoken out early against the
original Iraq war. A point he repeated over and over again during that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I am in this race because I am tired of us Democrats thinking that
the only way to look tough on national security is by voting and talking
and acting like George Bush Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Obama then went, of course, to defeat one of the Iraq war`s most
vocal supporters, making bringing the troops home a central promise of his
And almost three years into his presidency, he made good on that promise,
announcing what he called an end to the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in
Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine-years,
America`s war in Iraq will be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: After endorsing a troupe search in Afghanistan during his first
year as president, earlier this year, he announced most of the American
troops would leave Afghanistan at the end of 16 so that both of those wars
would be done by his time in office came to a close.
There are always been two impulses in the Obama presidency, even as the
president was touting bringing the combat missions and Afghanistan to an
end, he was in many ways continuing the Bush war on terror and expanding
it, dramatically increasing the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and
Afghanistan early in his presidency, and later, essentially opening up new
fronts to the war in Yemen and Somalia, all the while expressing a desire
to bring the very long war that he continued to an end.
Tonight, that goal of bringing America out of continual warfare, of
wrapping up the 9/11 era looks more imperil than ever.
Neera Tanden and Steve Clemons will join me to talk about the legacy of the
Obama presidency and war, when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the
decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation and world
that we leave to our children. So, America is at a crossroads. We must
define the nature and scope of this struggle or else it will define us. We
have to be mindful of Jay Madison`s warning that no nation could preserve
its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American
Progress. And Steve Clemons, editor at large at "The Atlantic", senior
fellow at the New America Foundation and MSNBC contributor.
That was the big speech the president gave in May, and it seemed an
amazingly forthright articulation of what he saw as his difficult challenge
which was to guide the country at that crossroads away from perpetual war.
What does it feel like tonight after having heard the speech in terms of
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, I think the president
has demonstrated he would prefer a world of not having perpetual war, not
having to strike ISIS. But the reality that the facts on the ground have
shifted and ISIS presents a threat. And when we think of war and when we
think about the president in 2008 talking about his opposition to the Iraq
war, at the same time, he was talking about taking the fight to al Qaeda.
So, he`s always talked about and articulated his role as commander-in-chief
is to defend against terrorist strikes.
And I think he sees ISIS as more in the al Qaeda camp of a terrorist
organization, even farther than al Qaeda in many ways. I mean, they were -
- they are reshaping the borders of the Middle East in a way that over the
long term can pose a significant threat of greater and greater atrocities.
Not just threats to Americans, but atrocities.
I mean, innocents are dying and will die more unless action is taken.
HAYES: But we are not doing this because of atrocities. I mean, just to
be clear. I mean, we, you know, we`re not going to go to war against Boko
Haram. We didn`t go to war against Assad who has just --
TANDEN: Right, no. I think -- absolutely.
HAYES: -- slaughtered people in the most brutal way possible.
TANDEN: No, absolutely.
I think the president articulated his reason. I just think we should also
recognize that ISIS is responsible for atrocities. I mean, they are trying
to go after religious minorities. And I do think progressive should be
concerned about that happening in the world as well.
HAYES: Steve, you have been someone who has kind of chronicled the way in
which our national political conversations happened around strategic vision
and foreign policy and war, I think have been strongly opposed to kind of
knee-jerk thinking about foreign intervention particularly. And I wondered
if you had the same feeling watching the react -- what`s been happening in
our political culture and conversation over the last three weeks where it
feels like there is this bad old feeling to us getting revved up?
STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I feel badly for President Obama,
because this is a president that wanted to make trillions of dollars in
Asia for American for decades ahead and not lose trillions of dollars in
the Middle East, which is what we are setting ourselves up to do again.
Because he said, Asia is our future, that`s the Asia pivot, we can`t
abandon that. It doesn`t mean we abandoned other responsibilities in the
But in that speech you just profiled, it wasn`t perpetual war he was
talking about, he was talking about the struggle over drones and the
dereliction of Congress playing oversight over certain of these roles. And
he kind of struggle as a president, saying I don`t like what I`m doing, and
I want to change that course.
Now when we see ISIS emerging, he is reverting back to that old form, not
showing that the new form can work. I think that`s the worrisome thing
here, is that if you react to terrorism, terrorism no matter how bad they
are, are performers on a stage trying to look legitimate in the eyes of the
public out there. We are trying to kill the actors, not steal the
audience. And I think that we need to focus on what do you do to defuse
the tensions? The Sunnis and ISIS are the most extreme fanatical edge of a
civil war between the Sunni and Shia groups in the region.
President Obama, if he is going to be the Dean Atchison, the John Foster
Dulles, the Truman, the -- you know, whoever, a sculptor of the
international system, has to get the Iranians and Saudis to talk together.
That will rob the oxygen from ISIS. That`s the strategic move, not killing
TANDEN: I mean, look, I don`t disagree with that. I guess what I would
say is, we have facts on the ground right now, right, which is that ISIS
was taking over more and more land. I mean, before we issued our strikes,
before we struck in August, they were on the way to Baghdad. They got held
up in Baghdad so they were taking ever more and more land and threatening
And, you know, they do pose a threat to Jordan. And the real challenge --
HAYES: But they had taken a ton of land in Syria.
TANDEN: Right. So, I guess the thing I would say, though, is -- you know,
in the Middle East where the borders are redrawn, where countries are
collapsing is not one in which the United States can leave and never come
back. I think what the president is trying to do here is to say, we can
address this now or we`re going to do much more in the future. I worry --
HAYES: Why weren`t the people making that argument a year ago right? See,
it seems hard for me to make -- for that to be the argument now without
them retroactively saying, the argument of people who are saying, you know,
arm the Free Syrian Army a year ago. And essentially drawing out a
strategic location that looks a lot like number two in the president`s
speech tonight about how we`re going to get training, right? How is that
the case now and wasn`t a case a year ago, because the borders were close
to being erased a year ago?
TANDEN: I mean, they did go into Iraq. I mean, this is a big difference,
when you have a civil war in Syria and going into another country that`s
asking you for help. I mean, Iraq, the government of Iraq asked us to come
in and defend against ISIS.
CLEMONS: After very irresponsible behavior. I mean, two and a half years
ago, Maliki ran the Sunni vice president Tarek al Hashemi (ph) out of the
country. The Kurds protected him. He now resides in Turkey.
That was the spark of the opening of the civil war. Joe Biden knew it.
The national security adviser knew it. And it simmered along and there was
no heavy action.
So, this was something that has been building over a long time. And I
think the broader question -- I don`t -- look, I think ISIS is a threat,
it`s a problem. I am so sorry and regretful for the journalists who lost
their lives, 160,000 people have died in Syria, you`ve got a huge problem.
Why aren`t the Saudis defending borders in the region? Why aren`t other
Arab League members out there --
HAYES: That becomes a question.
CLEMONS: We Americanize this so quickly.
TANDEN: But I think that`s an important element of what president was
talking about today, which is actually only going in with partners. I
agree with that.
HAYES: John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia I believe as we speak. The big
question is --
CLEMONS: We`ll see if he delivers.
HAYES: Right. The other side of that is, what do we do with the Iranians?
I`m sure w`re going to be talking about in the days to come as well.
Neera Tanden and Steve Clemons, thank you very much.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right. That is ALL IN for this evening.
MSNBC`s special coverage of President Obama`s address to the nation is
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