updated 11/12/2004 10:42:33 AM ET 2004-11-12T15:42:33

Guest: Richard Murphy, Chuck Hagel, Wesley Clark, David Gergen, Judith Miller, Bob Sullivan, Cathy Heighter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  On the front lines in Iraq: U.S. troops hunt down insurgent forces in Falluja.  Plus, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be laid to rest tomorrow in Ramallah.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Later, we‘ll watch U.S. forces go house to house killing insurgents in Iraq.  But first, the body of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat has arrived in Cairo where a military funeral for the leader will be held tomorrow before he is flown to the West Bank and laid to rest. 

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us now from Ramallah.  Andrea, that scene there looks like a circus.  What does it feel like right now? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It does feel like a circus.  I mean, there is the emotion, of course, of the many people here who are mourning the death of their founder, their leader.  But there are also food stalls opening up, taxi drivers making money off this.  So there is quite a bazaar down below. 

The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the more radicals groups of the Palestinians have been marching with their faces covered, and the AK-47‘s.  And if you can see behind me, there are large numbers of people gathered outside the gates of the Muqata, which is, of course, the Palestinian headquarters where Yasser Arafat had been holed up, under siege really, by the Israelis for several years. 

I went two years ago with Colin Powell.  We went twice.  And under extreme security, in armored vehicles and with Israeli, the Israeli army positioned just 50 yards across the way.  In fact, Arafat was afraid to come to the door, because he thought he would be shot down.  I was the fool reporter who went inside, interviewed him.  These men had been staying inside at that point for three months, in two small rooms. 

But now he is gone.  And of course, once he left for Paris, all of the security disappeared.  There‘s a lot of Palestinian security around. 

The Palestinian leaders have done a very good job so far of trying to keep things quiet.  But we just don‘t know what tomorrow is going to bring. 

Behind me, and I‘m sorry, it is a little out of shot, there have been bulldozers and backhoes and large cranes and they are literally building three helipads for visiting dignitaries like King Hussein of Jordan and the other Arab leaders. 

And also digging a gravesite.  They are beginning to dig and create the new gravesite for Yasser Arafat.  And they will then build a shrine and a mosque around this.  But of course, they are hoping that it is temporary.  That he will some day be moved to Jerusalem. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the security going to be around the grave?  Are they building it in a cement vault so it can‘t be destroyed or tampered with? 

MITCHELL:  Well, there are walls all around it.  But tomorrow, after the burial—first, as you know, there‘s the funeral in Cairo.  Then he is brought here.  And after the burial, they will open the gates to those walls and the Palestinians will be able to pay their respects. 

So there will be a viewing, if you will, around the gravesite.  And then, once again, over the weekend, people will be ushered in. 

They are not, the Israelis are not permitting anyone in from Gaza, from those territories.  So, it is somewhat restricted. 

But this is such a combination, as you pointed out, of the color of the Arab street, plus the emotion, of course, and the intense security. 

MATTHEWS:  Are the Palestinians upset that we‘re sending such a low level delegation, the assistant secretary, Mr. Burns? 

MITCHELL:  I‘ll tell you, it is not just the Palestinians upset about that.  There is also to some distress among Arab leaders, Mubarak, the Egyptian leader, and the rest of the Arab league are hosting this.  And we are sending an assistant secretary.  The rest of Europe, and certainly the rest of the Arab world are sending heads of state.  Europe is sending foreign ministers. 

And it would have been appropriate for Colin Powell, except for the very obvious fact that he was told in no uncertain terms more than two years ago that Yasser Arafat was off limits and that any engagement with Arafat was just verboten, from the White House.  That was the policy of George Bush. 

Bush as you know, very tight with Ariel Sharon.  And Bush, also, with some legitimate concern, felt really ripped, to put it mildly, after there had been a ship intercepted by the Israelis in the Red Sea.  It had a lot of arms from Iran to the radicals here.  And Yasser Arafat wrote a personal letter to George Bush saying he had nothing to do with it.  Well, our intelligence came one hard evidence that he was responsible for it.  He eventually had to admit it.  And that was the end of it.  That really cut it. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course, as you know and I know, the message being sent by the United States now is not being sent to the late Yasser Arafat.  He is gone.  It is being sent to the Palestinian and the Arab people.  And I wonder whether we‘re creating more trouble while we‘re sending this message. 

Anyway, thank you very much.  Andrea Mitchell...

MITCHELL:  Let me just quickly say, Chris, there is another concern.  They don‘t want to embrace these new leaders too quickly, because they don‘t want to damage them with their own people.  The American embrace is not a great thing right now. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  It may be a negative.  All right.  Thank you very much.  Andrea Mitchell in Ramallah on the West Bank.

Richard Murphy served as assistant secretary of state for a Near Eastern Affairs during the Reagan administration.  Mr. Secretary, this is the same rank that you hold.  I don‘t want to be diminishing your role here.  But do you think we‘re causing more trouble now by not sending a higher level person to represent us at the funeral? 

RICHARD MURPHY, FRM. ASST. SEC. OF STATES FOR NEAR EAST AFFAIRS: 

Well, it‘s the minimum level, Chris, that could have gone.  But the next step up would have been Powell himself.  And obviously, that‘s unacceptable to the White House at this point in time. 

Whether it is for the reasons that Andrea just suggested, not crowding the new leaders, kiss of death reasoning, or they‘re just not sure where they‘re going.  But we stand out by having this minimum level representation. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is calling the lead here?  The United States or Israel? 

MURPHY:  I think the White House as to who would represent us. 

MATTHEWS:  But are we being deferential to Sharon in not sending somebody who would give too much class to this event? 

MURPHY:  Probably.  We‘re being deferential.  I think the decision nonetheless was an American one, or a White House one in particular. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, you‘ve been an expert for so many years.  I‘ve watched you for so many years wrangle with this at close hand.  Does this open up any windows of hope, this change, this passing of Yasser Arafat? 

MURPHY:  Certainly, there is a window.  How long it can stay open, I don‘t know.  But keeping it open will require some movements on the Israeli side and on the American side.  The Israelis can do some things to give a boost to this interim leadership.  And give hope that there can be serious peace talks restarted. 

And I think the president himself has got to put his shoulder to that wheel.  It won‘t be enough to have a speech from the White House or have Powell make another trip.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he send his father over, who has seen as more

even hand in the Middle East.  He could be a real negotiator.  Much more so

·         or Scowcroft.  Why doesn‘t he reach back to one of the old hands who really want to be even hand, and not to one of his own people who are purely pro-Israeli and don‘t like the Arabs? 

MURPHY:  Well, there was a very interesting interview that his father gave.  I think it was to the BBC over this past weekend, saying that when Blair came to Washington, he would find, I believe the words were, the president ready and willing to help get peace process restarted. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s good news.  Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain who is visiting this country this week, has said it is the No. 1 priority in the world, basically, for peace.  Do you believe that President Bush, our President Bush today, do you think he shares that view? 

MURPHY:  I haven‘t seen evidence of that, Chris.  I hope that the slogan we heard so much of before the war in Iraq, that the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad, has now been reversed and the people realize how central the Arab-Israeli conflict is and how we have to get serious about it for other problems we have in the Near East and beyond. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the prospects for peace.  I‘ve been

reading things in the New York Times and other—the New York Times, where

a lot of the Palestinian supporters in America are saying, forget it.  The

two state solution.  Let‘s have a one state solution where you combine all

the peoples that are there.  Jewish, people living in Israel, the Arabs

living in Israel, the Arabs in the West Bank and in Gaza, form one big

country and then have equal rights for everybody.  That to me is a position

·         obviously, it‘s not going to sell with people who care about Israel. 

But is that the desperate position of some people now on the Arab side? 

They‘re not going to try anymore for a two-state solution? 

MURPHY:  The fact is that Arafat publicly supported the two-state solution back in 1988.  He never retracted that position, that still guides his successes in the interim government.  And, Chris, there would be no support within Israel or such infinitesimal support.  They would be deeply concerned about a demographic wave.

MATTHEWS:  So, how does Israel protect itself, except through a two-state solution?  I guess I‘m pushing for a dead point, doesn‘t Sharon recognize the only escape from the embrace of the huge Arab numbers around them is to form a wall between himself through the creation of a second state in Palestine? 

MURPHY:  I think that by his move on a unilateral disengagement from Gaza and some minimal accommodations on the West Bank, as at least a first stage, he is recognizing that he is putting his money where his mouth was in endorsing a two-state, which did he about a year ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you hopeful that either Sharon, who lives today and rules in Israel, as elected prime minister, or Yasser Arafat, who was his own sort of tyrant over Palestine, the Palestinian people, do you think either one of them really wanted a two-state solution?  Either one of them was willing to live with the other guy as a neighbor? 

MURPHY:  I think Arafat had reached that point.  It took him 20 years after he took over the P.L.O. leadership, but he never pulled back from that.  Sharon, he was known as the father of settlements all these years.  Now, he has shown some signs of changing his mind.  And that leads you, inevitably, to a two-state solution in my opinion. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re a very helpful man, sir.  And you‘re a veteran, so I trust you. 

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary Richard Murphy. 

When we come back, we‘ll get to the latest from Falluja where American soldiers are fighting door to door, house the house for the future of Iraq. 

Plus, Senator Chuck Hagel is going to be here.  He‘s one of the few Republicans who has been critical of the war in Iraq.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In Iraq, the U.S. military says that 18 U.S. troops have been killed and 178 wounded so far in this week‘s assault on Falluja.  The fighting has been especially intense as American forces fight house to house trying to arrest control of the city from insurgents. 

This troop of U.S. troops is hunting a sniper who is hiding between two houses.  The fight takes them through the back alleys of Falluja in an incredibly dangerous mission. 

Chuck Hagel is a United States Senator from Nebraska.  He‘s a combat veteran of the Vietnam War where he was awarded two Purple Hearts.  He recently authored the afterward to a new book title “Voices of War: Stories of Service from the Home Front and the Front Line.”  Senator Hagel joins us right now. 

Senator Hagel, you‘ve been outspoken about what you think of the Iraq war to begin with.  Were you surprised to read in the paper today that George Tenet, the just recently resigned CIA director, also opposed the war quietly, if not secretly, and has now made a half million dollars telling audiences who observed the right of secrecy that he was against the war.  Why do we have to give a guy a half million dollars to tell us the truth after he leaves government service? 

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, ® NEBRASKA:  Well, I‘ve never had a conversation with George Tenet about his specific doubts regarding going into Iraq.  I‘ve not heard what he said in these speeches.  I do know that he gave the president quiet, confidential counsel, as CIA directors do.  But if he felt that strongly, as at least what is being written now, then I would have liked to have heard that.  And I suspect others on Capital Hill would have appreciated hearing it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about Secretary Powell?  Colin Powell, according to the books you read, was told—was told to come into the Oval Office, the president said, are you going to back me on this war or not?  And he snapped his heels and said, yes.

I mean, did the president ever enjoy any counsel from people who really had doubts that going into places like Falluja would eventually been hell? 

HAGEL:  I don‘t know.  I wasn‘t there.  I can tell you, as you noted at the top of your introduction, some of us in Congress, we tried to at least slow the process down, to force him to think about the consequences, what they were getting into, where this was going to go, how it was going to come out.  Did they have a plan to deal with the insurgency?  We are now in the middle of a classic counter-insurgency war.  So some on Capitol Hill were giving him that advice.  I know that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president of the United States were aware, and these are your words used recently, that the situation would devolve into something beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous.  I mean, isn‘t it beginning to look like the battle of Algiers over there? 

HAGEL:  Well, those comments that I made were at a foreign relations committee hearing regarding the lack of getting the $18 billion of economic assistance down into the communities.  In fact, it was pitiful.  And we are making progress, but we‘re not at all where we need to be. 

This is a tough, complicated situation, Chris.  And again, some of us tried to get the attention of policymakers on this, trying to explain to them like General Tony Zinni, General Joseph Hoare, these are former central command commanders, four star Marine generals who are not namby-pamby guys.  And they know the Middle East.  They know the complications. 

But I‘m not surprised where we are today.  But we are where we are.  And we have to now try to shape some victory out of this.  And that‘s really going to depend on what the Iraqi people decide that they want for their country. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there anyone in this administration, you believe, understands the role that nationalism plays, and has historically played in these resistances?

HAGEL:  Well, you have a lot of very smart people in this administration, experienced people.  I have always been really astounded that, from people like Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker, who were giving public counsel on this to Zinni and others, that that dynamic was never thought through, or never put in the proper perspective or seen through the optics that I think you have to see these things through before you charge in and do something. 

And history is rather replete with this point of nationalism, especially in the Middle East. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve just mentioned the few people who do seem to get it.  Zinni, Baker, Scowcroft, they were the people who never would have supported going into Iraq.  People like Bill Buckley on the conservative side of American politics and George Will, they would have never pushed.  I‘m not going over the Pat Buchanan side of things.  I‘m just going halfway across the conservative spectrum. 

The smartest people on the Republican side, ideologically.  The most historically loyal to the party have said this was a bad idea.  Who in the Republican side, of this administration, thinks it is a good idea to go to Iraq.  And why are we still prosecuting this war? 

HAGEL:  Well, I‘m not going to go through a litany of individuals who supported it, but the fact is, Chris, we are going to go back and unwind any decisions we‘ve made.  We are now in the middle of a big problem.  And we‘re going to have to move this thing to a point where we can hopefully get the Iraqis on some high ground.  And it will then be up to them to defend themselves, put a government together, sustain that government.  We can help them do it. 

But that‘s all very uncertain.  We are where we are.  And if we lose over there, the consequences of that, Chris, are very serious, because it‘s our reputation, our relationships. 

MATTHEWS:  You fought side by side with the ARVN, the South Vietnamese army we put up, we stood up.  Do you think that was a successful effort?  Is it a guide to what we‘re trying to do now with the Iraqi Security Forces? 

HAGEL:  Well, I think we have to be a little careful that we don‘t try to draw too many parallels to Vietnam.  There are some, of course, when you bog down into situations where there are no good options, and Falluja is a good example.  There are no good options there on whether to attack or not attack or negotiate.  We learned that, of course, through centuries of warfare. 

But the ARVN situation was a little different, in the sense that you had a government there that you were trying to prop up.  In Iraq, we don‘t have a government.  But it is overall some of the same challenges that we faced in the Vietnam. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. 

Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster takes a look at the number of soldiers serving in Iraq right now.  And how many more may be heading over there.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  On this Veterans Day, more than 130,000 American soldiers are serving in Iraq.  But that number is about to get larger, even as U.S.  troops try to finish off insurgents west of Baghdad. 

HARDBALL Correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As the fighting continues in Fallujah, U.S. commanders say two American helicopters like these had to make crash landings after being hit by rocket propelled grenades.  None of the U.S. soldiers were seriously injured, but others have not been so lucky.  This week, at least 20 Americans have been killed in Fallujah and the fighting in some quarters continues to be intense.  While thousands of U.S. Marines try to route out the insurgents, the U.S.  military is already looking ahead at security plans for January‘s Iraqi elections.              

U.S. commanders have conclude the current American troop strength of 138,000 will not be enough.  So the departure of some units has been put off and the deployment of others has been accelerated.  The army‘s 1st Cavalry 2nd Brigade was supposed to return to Fort Hood, Texas this month, that has been delayed.  And some elements of the army‘s 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia, are headed to Iraq earlier than scheduled. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Every Iraqi has—ought to have a chance to vote, and that‘s important.  Now, how will it be—I don‘t know.  Do I think that it will work—yes, I do think it will work.  I think we‘ll have an election.  And I don‘t think it will be delayed, and I don‘t think it should be delayed. 

SHUSTER:  It all means that in two months, when there will be a complex effort to protect international and local election workers, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq will reach 150,000.  It will be the largest number since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations.  Today, at Arlington National Cemetery, the president spoke of those who have been killed. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our whole nation honors every patriot who placed duty and country before their own lives. 

SHUSTER:  The number of American lives lost in Iraq continues to get larger.  The Pentagon says more than 1,400 soldiers have died since the U.S.-led invasion, and that does not include those killed this week battling the insurgents in Fallujah.  The number of injured soldiers has reached over 8,300. 

(on camera):  And for every soldier wound or killed, there is a family here in the United States whose Veterans Day may mean something new.  And then of course, there are the hundred of thousands of families, wondering about the months ahead. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Up next, retired General Wesley Clark. 

He‘s coming here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half hour on HARDBALL, retired General Wesley Clark on the division between the red and blue states.  Plus, former presidential advisor David Gergen and Judith Miller of the “New York Times” on what Arafat‘s death means for Mid East peace. 

But first, lets check in with the MSNBC news desk.

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With me here in Boston is General Wesley Clark, retired four-star general and former Democratic presidential candidate. 

I was just thinking the other day, in fact, earlier today, people were asking me, who did the best of all the candidates up here at Harvard when we had the HARDBALL college tour last year up at Harvard College.  And I think it was you.  And I‘m not saying that because you‘re here, because it was very hard to predict who would be good.  Carol Moseley Braun was good.  She didn‘t really have a chance to win.

Al Sharpton was always entertaining.  But you were great.  And I want to ask you this.  Military history is based upon what happened last time and what you can learn for next time.  It‘s not just idle thought.  What positive information did you get?  I want to talk to you about Fallujah in a minute.  But what positive information did you get about the country and the Democratic Party from running for president? 

WESLEY CLARK (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, wait a minute.

First of all, I have got a lot of great things about the country.  This country voted.  And that‘s the most important thing you can say.  All my friends overseas, they just sort of turn up their noses at Americans, say, well, you Americans, you have a low participation rate in your elections.  You‘re not interested in things.  You don‘t know about democracy.  You don‘t care about it.  You take it for granted. 

We did not take this election for granted.  Americans really voted.  I think that was a really good thing.  And, of course, we learned some things in the voting process, like it would really be helpful if we had more standardization across the nation in terms of the way the ballots are and the voting and how the voting machines are, because you never want to walk away from an election like this with any question about the credibility. 

You don‘t want one side saying these people sort of packed the rolls with fraudulent voters.  You don‘t want the other side saying, well, our voters were sort of pressured and forced on the provisional ballots by the other side so it could challenged.  You don‘t want that. 

You want a 100 percent transparent straightforward process that everybody agrees is free and fair.  We‘ve got a little ways to come.  But, you know, I think the key thing is participation.  And I‘m really proud of our country for the participation we had. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at this map.  We‘ve all seen it many times.  It‘s called the red and the blue map of the United States.  And we look at it now.  How would you—if you were on a tour, say, in Australia, giving a lecture to a smart group of people or India or somewhere else, how would you explain that map of blue and red, that configuration? 

CLARK:  Well, when you look at that map, it is really much more complicated than that, because if you take this map and disaggregate it by counties, you find even the blue states are mostly red. 

And what you have is one party that has built its appeal around a more traditional lifestyle and people who have less mobility and are more—they‘re more rooted.  And the other is a sort of party of people who are immigrants and mobile and they‘ve migrated to urban areas and the coasts and they‘re more economically Mobile. 

It is just two different approaches to living that have come out and been sharply divided in this election.  They shouldn‘t necessarily be that way, because both these groups share so much in the way of values and patriotism and what they want for their families and so forth.  But the way the election was played, it strengthened or it sharpened the cleavage between the two groups. 

MATTHEWS:  But be particular.  What was done?  Was it the focus on gay marriage, the focus on abortion rights?  What drove those two communities, the red and the blue, apart? 

CLARK:  Well, I think it really has to do with the focus on what they call traditional family values, which really are...

MATTHEWS:  The Republicans. 

CLARK:  Yes—are—it is a little tiny slice of morality that has to do with sexual behavior and the results of sexual behavior. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you told...

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  One woman in Arkansas told me—she said this.  She said she didn‘t support a woman‘s right to choose, she said, because, said—she said, General, when that girl goes to bed with that boy, she‘s made her choice. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLARK:  Well, you know, life is a lot more complicated than that. 

But, on the other hand, I also understand her point. 

But, somehow, problems that are problem of living, problems that really aren‘t restricted to political parties, that are not defined by government‘s choices so much, have suddenly become the center of an election process.  And, you know, you can‘t avoid these issues by labeling yourself one party or another.  They‘re the problems that every parent faces.  Every teenager faces it.  Everybody sees these problems in America.  And you can‘t hide from them by going one way or another. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you surprised at how offended people in your part of

the country and a lot of the parts of the country—you‘re from Arkansas -

·         how turned off men were, especially, at the concept of gay marriage, that they were voting the issue and speaking it out so much?

CLARK:  Yes, I wasn‘t really surprised.  It is threatening.  It threatens traditional marriage and people understood that.  And maybe it‘s good.  We got it over. 

I think, you know, it‘s clear this country is not ready for gay marriage. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CLARK:  No matter what people may believe about it.  President Bush says he‘s in favor of civil unions.  He doesn‘t want to prohibit those at least.  And so, fine. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that the solution, do you think? 

CLARK:  I don‘t know.  But I do think this.  I think a large portion of America have spoken their views on this. 

I went to an African-American church during the time I was running for office.  And a preacher said—she spoke in terms that really made it, brought it home to me.  She said, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—I want to give you a second on a serious point.  There are soldiers like yourself fighting in Fallujah right now.  What is your message to them? 

CLARK:  Hang though.  Do the right thing.  Don‘t leave anybody behind on the battlefield, and just have faith.  Just be brave and have faith.  Say your prayers. 

MATTHEWS:  General Wesley Clark, are you going to run for president again, you think, maybe?  Maybe?  Outside possibility.

CLARK:  I think this is a long, long way away. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s what I‘ve always thought, but not the desire to know what you‘re up to. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, General Wesley Clark, the man who did the best on the HARDBALL college tour. 

When we come back, we‘ll be joined by former presidential adviser David Gergen and Judith Miller of “The New York Times.” 

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, former presidential adviser David Gergen and Judith Miller of “The New York Times” on the future of Mideast peace after Yasser Arafat.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Bush called Yasser Arafat‘s death a significant moment in Palestinians‘ history.  What does this passing mean, though, for the future of Middle East peace and for us?  And who will be his successor? 

Judith Miller wrote a 5,000-word obituary on the Palestinian leader in today‘s “New York Times.”  And David Gergen served as an adviser, as we know, for four presidents, including Bill Clinton. 

Let me go through this, first of all, with Judy. 

This is the toughest question for an American to get an answer to. 

Was Yasser Arafat good for the Arab people? 

JUDITH MILLER, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: 

Let me answer your question with a question, Chris.  Do you mean Arab people or the Palestinian people? 

MATTHEWS:  The Palestinian people. 

MILLER:  I would have to say yes and no. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, help we with the yes.  It is a funeral.  You know, it is time to say the nice things. 

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER:  Right, finally, finally, yes, the longest death in Palestinian history. 

He was good in that he gave the Palestinians a sense of themselves.  He literally shaped their nationalism.  I doubt there would be a distinct sense of Palestinianism without him.  On the other hand, he was bad for them in that he didn‘t deliver anything that he ultimately promised them at any stage of his political life. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe he would have ever accepted the permanent nature of the Jewish state in the Middle East, of Israel as a Jewish state? 

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER:  You know, Chris, even people who were really close to him have different answers to that question.  Dennis Ross, who negotiated with him for 12 years, says he doesn‘t think so.  He doesn‘t think he ever could have brought himself to accept that. 

Henry Siegman, who has also known him just as long a time, says, absolutely, he could have.  He did at Oslo.  He was just waiting for the right deal.  It‘s very hard to know what was in that man‘s head.  And that‘s part of the reason that one of our headlines said “Enigmatic.”

MATTHEWS:  Well, the problem is, Judith—and I want to go to—I want to go to David Gergen on this. 

The PLO was created before the Six-Day War.  So when they talked about liberating Palestine, they weren‘t talking about the other side of the Green Line, the West Bank, Gaza, the territories captured in ‘67 by Israel.  They were talking about Israel proper they were going to liberate.  That meant get rid of Israel. 

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  They were going to drive Israel into the sea. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERGEN:  That was their plan.

MATTHEWS:  So he wasn‘t there to get back Arab land lost in ‘67.  He was there to get back the entire mass of Palestine. 

GERGEN:  Of course. 

And I think that, while there‘s much to be said about him giving the Palestinians a voice, ultimately, he was a failed leader.  He appealed to the worst instincts, not the best instincts.  He was not a man who was devoted to lifting the quality of life for the Palestinian people.  He became a man obsessed with leading a resistance movement that not only included a lot of terror, but a refusal in effect. 

MATTHEWS:  Was he encouraging those kids to go into Israel and blow themselves up at bus stops and kill people? 

GERGEN:  Well, that‘s certainly what a couple of presidents in a row have believed.  And whether the intelligence is as clear, I would hate to say, Chris, on something like that, well, that‘s a slam-dunk proposition. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERGEN:  But I think there was intelligence to suggest that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Judy, is the diplomatic community and people who are somewhat independent, if there is such a person about the Middle East, do they believe that Yasser Arafat encouraged terrorism right to the end? 

MILLER:  I think most people who watched this most closely believe that he did encourage terrorism while still holding out the promise of an eventual peace.  He was really all things to all men.  He could be both at once. 

And I think that is the great mystery and enigma of him.  He was infuriating to deal with.  He could be exasperating.  He could at times be charming if he chose to be.  But he basically in the end defined himself—and on this, I would have to agree with David—with a no, a no to the best deal that Palestinians were ever offered. 

When he said no to President Clinton and to Ehud Barak, I think at that point he made a momentous and an historic step in—against peace with Israel and not in favor, I think, of the Palestinian people. 

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN:  My impression in his final years was that he was more concerned about his own personal life and preserving his life—there were many threats on his life, as you know—and that he was obsessed with         warding off an assassination, and that that‘s what drove him far more than a desire for peace or trying to represent his people, that it became much more personalized toward the end.  And that was part of his refusal. 

MILLER:  I know that some people believe that, David, but I think—

I‘ve always heard that, more than that, it was a question of not wanting to be repudiated by some of his people, that he wanted to remain the kind of unifying father of the Palestinian nation, the symbol, that that was more important to him than actually delivering goods, things that would improve the lives of the Palestinian people. 

And Palestinians themselves were deeply divided about the man.  I mean, look, 40 percent of them now support Hamas, the militant organization, or if, we are to believe the polls, believe that he was a traitor for even agreeing to the Oslo accords in 1993.  So it is really very, very difficult in such a highly polarized and politicized environment to judge the man‘s motivations. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about America, for instance.  We have interests in that part of the world.  The fact that we back Israel in this dispute that stays hot hurts us.  So, it is in our interests to cool it down, have the Arab countries not hate us so much for being pro-Israeli.

Judy, do you believe there‘s any chance that President Bush will revert back to a more Bush I philosophy towards the Middle East, more even-handed than the simply the pro-Sharon view now he‘s taken since taking office, now that the chief enemy is gone? 

MILLER:  Well, I think the president is very firm on terrorism and he means what he says about not dealing with people who condone it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MILLER:  And the next Palestinian leadership will have to think about that. 

On the other hand, the president has already said that he intends to do his utmost to bring about a revival of the peace talks. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that?  Do you believe that, Judy? 

MILLER:  Yes, I do.  I think that it behooves this administration...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying he just played the hard line for the election, is what you‘re saying, and he is going to go back to a softer line now. 

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER:  That‘s not what I‘m saying. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would he change now?  Why would he change?

MILLER:  Because Yasser Arafat is gone.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

MILLER:  And there is a great, historic opportunity here to revive a process which is both in the Palestinians‘ and the Israelis‘ interests, and also in the interests of the United States to take pressure off of us overseas and in the Arab world.  Why not try this? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  David, do you accept that, that Bush II—you know them both—will Bush II be more like Bush I now that the election is over and Arafat is gone? 

GERGEN:  He‘ll be more like Bush in his first term than he‘ll be like his father. 

MATTHEWS:  No change.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN:  Well, I think that—look, they had a choice about who they were going to send to the funeral.  And they decided not to send the secretary of state.  And, certainly, the president wouldn‘t go.  They decided not to send the secretary of state.

MATTHEWS:  Or Bill Clinton. 

GERGEN:  They decided not to send a high-level emissary.  They decided not to even send their undersecretary.  They went down to the assistant secretary level.  We have the lowest level of representation there at the funeral of any nation, other than Israel. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why do we want to dis the Palestinian people now that they‘re mourning their lost leader?  What‘s the point now?

GERGEN:  I think that shows you clearly how—I think, if they really wanted to get back into this in an aggressive way, they would send a higher-level delegation. 

Yes, I do think that there is an opportunity.  Judy is right.  There is an opportunity here.  And if we can manage behind the scenes, not up in front, to get them to accept a moderate leadership, then I think there‘s a deal to be made.  We work with the European to make sure there‘s moderate leadership to head up the Palestinians. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERGEN:  In exchange for that, we reengage in the peace process and go back to the road map.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GERGEN:  But I think—I don‘t think that they‘re very forward-leaning on this, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think that is quite a signal. 

Anyway, thank you, David Gergen. 

Thank you, Judith Miller.

MILLER:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, a Veterans Day tribute, letters from the front lines from U.S. troops who made—I mean it—the ultimate sacrifice.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Whether you‘re a Republican Democrat, against or for the war in Iraq, one thing is certain.  The men and women who fight our wars deserve the best America has to offer. 

In tribute to this Veterans Day, friends and families read the final letters of some of these brave soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice on the front lines in Iraq in a documentary called “Last Letters Home,” which airs tonight on HBO. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAST LETTERS HOME”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: “I really miss you guys.  I can‘t wait to see you both.  You are still my best buddies.  And we will have fun when I come to Florida.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: “So many wonderful experiences, so many things to be thankful for.  These thoughts and images sustain me from day to day and week to week.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “I‘m not an idealist who thinks I can change the world, but I can still be doing some sort of good.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “There‘s no place like home—parenthesis—click.  There‘s no place like home—parenthesis—click.  And in capitals, there‘s no place like home—parenthesis—click.  Damn, it didn‘t work again.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bob Sullivan is the editor of “Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops From the Battlefields of Iraq,” the book in which the HBO special is based.  Also with us is Cathy Heighter, mother of Army Private 1st Class Raheen Heighter, who was killed in action in Iraq.  Her son is featured in the program. 

Bob, you‘ve seen all these letters.  You‘ve published them all.  What have you learned from all these diverse voices? 

BOB SULLIVAN, “LAST LETTERS HOME”:  Well, I‘ll tell you, Chris, it has changed the way I react to the war, certainly.  I mean, what we—we had no agenda with the book.  There‘s no agenda to the HBO documentary beyond the agenda we share with the families.  And that is to put a human face on the war, to humanize the war. 

Statistics can be numbing.  They can, you know—all of a sudden, you‘re talking about the numbers dead, the numbers injured.  We very much tried to personalize those numbers.  These are our brothers and sisters over there.  And we tried to put a face and a personality and a situation with each of these 14 families in the book, so that you can understand the situation they come from. 

And the way it has changed me is, when I‘m shaving in the morning and the radio is on in back of me and you hear two people were killed west of Baghdad, two soldiers or two Marines were killed of Baghdad when a bomb went off, those are people now.  And I can‘t say that I reacted that way five or six months ago. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Cathy, you lost a son.  And all I can say is, looking at this from a distance, the immense size of these personalities of these kids.  Tell us about Raheen and what he was facing over there, how he looked at it. 

CATHY HEIGHTER, MOTHER OF PFC RAHEEN HEIGHTER:  First of all, I would like to first say that Raheen was a wonderful young man. 

And today, when I remember him and I think of him on this Veterans Day, I think of a young man that grew up to love his country.  And he was proud to be an American.  He loved serving with his fellow comrades.  He spoke about that.  There were so many things that he wrote home and talked about.  He talked about the fact that he was so proud to be an American and that Americans should be grateful because this is the greatest country in the world to live in. 

He talked about the poverty that exists in these other countries.  And he grew to—knew that he had such a love and respect for humanity, for his country.  And, as his mother, I was very proud to see my son grow up and know these things. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at your reading of a final letter you received.  It is in the documentary.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAST LETTERS HOME”)

HEIGHTER: “In the beginning, there was a lot of bloodshed.  But now it is all over.  Though there still are terrorists that don‘t want us here, the good news is, I will be home to see you in September or October, the latest.  Love, Raheen.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why did you want Raheen‘s letter to be in this book?  Why is that important to you, Cathy? 

HEIGHTER:  Well, I have, since my son‘s death, felt the need to keep his memory alive and always remember him, always remember all the soldiers that have sacrificed their life for this country and keep their memories alive.  They‘ve paid a very high price for serving their country. 

And I give them all the respect.  I give them all the support. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob, you and I were talking a moment ago about—before we went on the air, about these—these are kids who are really young.  I was saying that Eisenhower used to say our boys overseas and Westmoreland would say that about our guys in Vietnam.  They are really boys, aren‘t they? 

SULLIVAN:  They are boys.  And it‘s interesting, too, what the—sort of the furnace of war does to boys and girls now, obviously, too.  There are women in this book as well who died over there. 

Leonard Cowherd, a West Pointer, a captain in the Army, he wrote back to his family in Culpeper, Virginia, in the book in a letter.  He‘s talking about these kids.  He says, these kids, I can‘t believe them walking around here.  They should be in a mall or a movie theater somewhere.  And he‘s talking about kids who are 18 and 19, but Leonard was 22.  He was 18 just the day before yesterday. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SULLIVAN:  But war, you grow up fast.  And I think war—these letters are so resonant and poignant, but also very thoughtful and introspective.  And I think that has to be what war does to someone in changing the way they look at life, love, the way they look at everything around them.  That‘s what these people were writing home, with a whole new vision of the world. 

And I think it is because, let‘s face it, they were staring mortality in the face probably for the first time in their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Cathy, I want you to give a last word here about your son. 

What are your feelings about his sacrifice? 

HEIGHTER:  I feel that his sacrifice was not made in vain. 

And, hopefully, all Americans and people around the world will know this and know a bit about him and all the fallen heroes that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

I would also like to, on behalf of the Fallen Heroes Fund, thank HBO, Time Life Books, “New York Times,” and the Bill Couturie company for the production of the documentary “Last Letters Home” and also the book, because proceeds from this book and project go towards the Fallen Heroes Fund, which helps to make contributions to families that have lost loved ones in the war. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

HEIGHTER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you very much, Cathy Heighter. 

Thank you, Bob Sullivan. 

I hope everybody reads the book.  For more on “Last Letters Home,” go to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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