Guest: Andrew Exum
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: We begin with breaking news here at a home.
A place that helps immigrants and refugees to adjust to their lives in America became the scene of a massacre today, in the city of Binghamton, New York. Authorities say a gunman went into the American Civic Association building and started shooting. The targets included a room-full of people, full of immigrants who are reportedly taking classes to prepare for their citizenship exams. Dozens of people barricaded themselves in the basement or in closets for safety until police were finally able to enter the building.
They found the suspected gunman inside the building, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had killed himself. It‘s a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Joining us now live from the scene in Binghamton, New York, is NBC‘s Ron Allen.
Ron, thank you very much for making time to talk with us. What can you tell us about the latest news?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that the authorities have searched the gunman‘s home, which is not far from here, in Johnson City. They have taken the computer hard drive, a rifle case, some small suitcases, other things. There are also reports that they have confirmed the—they found a pistol license that he had that had the same serial mark as two handguns that were found at the scene. The gunman apparently had handguns although there are reports that he had a rifle earlier.
The death toll now stands at 14, including him. The last I heard, there were still four people in critical condition at the hospital. All this, again, at 10:30 in the morning or so when he burst into the civic center, encountered the two receptionists who were sitting there and shot one—shot both of them.
The police chief—we have some sound of him—picked up the story from there about what she did.
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POLICE CHIEF JOSEPH ZIKUSKI, BINGHAMTON, NY POLICE DEPARTMENT:
What she did is she pretended she was dead after he shot her. She went down to the ground. He went to a room off that reception area, shot several people and as he exited went down the hallway in the building, she crawled underneath the desk and some time after that, she called us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: What the authorities don‘t know is how long the gunman was in the building before all that happened. The 911 call came in at 10:30. Nonetheless, the backdoor was barricaded.
The siege went on for several hours until about 3:00 o‘clock in the afternoon. By that time, the police had finally cleared the building, found the dead body that they believe was a gunman with a bag of ammunition wrapped around his neck. That resolved the whole thing, but again, authorities are still trying to identify all the victims, the gunman, and try to sort out this horrific scene here on this street very close to downtown Binghamton—Rachel?
MADDOW: NBC‘s Ron Allen on the scene in Binghamton live with us tonight—thank you so much, Ron. Good luck there. Thanks.
Matthew T. Ryan is the mayor of Binghamton and Joseph Zikuski is the police chief.
Mayor Ryan and Chief Zikuski, thank you for joining us on this most difficult day.
ZIKUSKI: You‘re welcome.
MAYOR MATTHEW T. RYAN, BINGHAMTON, NY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you first, if there is any indication of who this gunman was? What might have been a possible motive for this incident?
RYAN: Well, we really don‘t know. We do know that he was apparently had lost a job recently and that he was somewhat distraught. He couldn‘t speak English very well and had been telling some of his family and stuff that people were disrespecting him, and he didn‘t seem too happy about his life.
MADDOW: Chief Zikuski, in terms of the local response, obviously, the siege went on for several hours, you were alerted to the siege in part because of the incredibly brave receptionist who played dead and then called while wounded. How are you assessing the overall response of your force—your police force there and of authorities generally within Binghamton? Did you have the resources that you needed? Did you do the job that you wanted to do?
ZIKUSKI: Absolutely. The response was incredible. Our response time was less than two minutes. All the shooting had ended prior to any police arriving on the scene. There was an extremely beautiful response from the New York State Police, from the Broome County Sheriff‘s Department, without us even soliciting any help from them. You know, they scanned—states scan each other, they heard the call go out and I had disposed of the entire Broome County Sheriff‘s Department and all the resources of the New York State Police within a matter of minutes, prior of own arrival there.
And shortly thereafter, ATF, IMS, FBI, the (INAUDIBLE) Police Department showed up. So, we had everything we needed. We have a very well-trained; I believe one of the best SWAT teams in the state, but we also asked for assistance from the sheriff‘s department SWAT team and there‘s a metro team for the smaller agencies.
So, we had everything we needed to handle the situation.
MADDOW: Chief, let me ask you, given what we know about how the siege unfolded with the gunman blockading the backdoor of the facility with a vehicle, it seems like this might have been a well planned out, pre-meditated, thought out in advance event. Do you have evidence, have you seen signs yet that this is something that might have been worked out in advance to a lot of detail, that he might have been planning this for some time?
ZIKUSKI: We have not found any evidence of that. But I will agree with you. Obviously, at least this morning, he knew exactly what he was going to do, placed the vehicle against the backdoor of the civic association so nobody could escape. So, he obviously—at least this morning, knew—went to that place with every intention of doing what he did.
MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, do you have any updates for us on the condition of the four wounded victims or on any others that we might not know about at this point?
RYAN: No, there is only four other people. They are—have been listed in critical condition. So, we‘re very worried about them and praying for them tonight.
But we have started to reach out to all the families of the victims. They—by somewhat of a process of elimination are starting to realize who died because there is still a lot of identification procedures that have to go forward. But I think most of the families now know that their loved ones have not come home have come to our Red Cross center, Catholic charities and we are starting to make sure they have counselors.
And as we go forward, the whole community is pouring forth to help them. This is a community that really helps in these kinds of tragedies and tough times. We had two historic floods in 2006, everybody came together. We‘ve only had one homicide all of last year, this is very not normal for our—obviously, for our community.
But they will—this community will come together. We‘ll be strong. We are going to plan a vigil tomorrow for the whole community and then we‘ll start the healing process, which is obviously going to take some time.
MADDOW: Can you describe to our viewers what sort of facility this was? We know that there was—it was a place where immigrants came to learn English to prepare for citizenship exams. What other services, what kind of facility was this?
RYAN: This is a great facility. It really did help—we have a great immigrant population and they do contribute so much to our community and they are so proud to become citizens. I have gone to many of their—when they do become citizens, the ceremony, and it‘s just—they celebrate the cultures, the many different cultures. We have a small city of, you know, 45,000, but we have 32 languages spoken in our public high school.
So, it‘s a real strong part of our population and they contribute so much. They celebrate. We have an ethnic festival every year in our Broome County Veterans Memorial arena. So, they are a real important part of our—of fabric of our city, and we will all miss those people who died, obviously, and celebrate their contributions to our community.
MADDOW: Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan, Police Chief Joseph Zikuski, obviously part of the response of you as leaders in your community, making this united front effort to talk to the media to let people know what‘s going on—thank you for your time tonight. Our thoughts are with your community.
RYAN: Thank you very much, Rachel.
ZIKUSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next: The latest on the president‘s European trip, the strange results of the budget-voting in Congress. There‘s lots to come. Ana Marie Cox is our guest—coming up next.
MADDOW: The other night, I had an opportunity to do an interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. We discussed among other things meetings that he attended with other top Bush administration officials at which the subject of harsh interrogation techniques, torture, were discussed. It seemed to me that the atmosphere in the interview room grew tense during that part of the interview and that‘s what I said when I interviewed—when I introduced the interview on this show.
The secretary‘s office has now written to us, saying that that was not a, quote, “appropriate characterization” and that the secretary himself was not tense or uncomfortable during those moments of the interview. He just felt the questions were, quote, “wasted time on an issue that he had already answered.”
I personally do not ever want guests on this show to feel like they are being portrayed on a way that they did not intend to portray themselves. I stand by my assessment that the conversation felt tense, but it‘s only fair for me to let General Powell tell you what his own feelings were rather than having me describe my impressions of his feelings. So dually noted, for the record, I felt tense. He did not.
My full interview with General Powell and the transcripts of that interview are online: Rachel.MSNBC.com.
MADDOW: If you have been feeling good about your ego recently, about how you are regarded by others, your standing in life, let me know where in the parade you would like me to deliver this rain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama being received in France as if he were Jerry Lewis, Bernadine Cedan (ph), and the whole idea of brioche all rolled into one. Even a conservative like French President Nicolas Sarkozy was not going to allow a reception like that to happen in his country without it rubbing off on him a bit. He has now been photographed with President Obama more times than Michelle has.
Obama brought with him to France a political device from home, the town hall meeting and he tiptoed rather successfully through the minefield that is explaining the decline of America‘s world standing in the past eight years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: In America, there‘s a failure to appreciate Europe‘s leading role in the world. There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive. But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual and can also be insidious.
Let me say this as clearly as I can, America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama‘s trip to Europe has been very high profile, very well received so far, and oddly, it has featured lots of pronouncement from world leaders about how the economy is all healed now, we‘re all back on track.
Meanwhile, back at home, we have brand new unemployment numbers that would seem to refute that. This was the unemployment rate at the beginning of 2008, hovering around 5 percent. At around the time those banks started getting bailed out, it had jumped to a little over 6 percent. Here‘s where we are now—yes, that is a steep slope going the wrong direction. We are at about 8.5 percent now.
On the eve of that grim news coming out, our Congress was passing a budget and as is apparently becoming a pattern, the budget passed with a whopping zero Republican votes, nada, zero, zip, zippo. This is the official RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff lighter.
Republicans are cracking the whip to keep all their members in strict party formation. So, even if you are Joseph Cao representing a massively Democratic district in Louisiana and you kind of like the Obama budget—crack goes the whip, nope, you can‘t vote for it. We are the party of zippo, zero votes.
Remember that precisely zero Republicans voted for the stimulus plan as well. Now voting for having Republicans vote zero times for the budget as well should presumably clarify for Democrats, but no matter what they do on big deals like the budget, like the stimulus, trying to rescue the economy, they are not going to get Republican votes. They are just not. Whether or not they water down their policies in the hopes of attracting Republican votes, those votes will not come. You are dealing with the party of zippo here, not the “party of brother, let us reason together.”
We have a political lesson from the budget vote comes from the other side of the aisle where we have been tracking the conservadems, the self-proclaimed moderate Democrats who have just formed a new group in the Senate and who have objected publicly and even objected privately to the staff of this show that they should not be seen as opposed to the president‘s agenda.
In the “Washington Post,” Evan Bayh and two of his conservative Democratic colleagues argued, quote, “It is not our intent to water down the president‘s agenda. We intend to strengthen and sustain it. Without Democratic moderates working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans, the president‘s agenda could well be filibustered into oblivion.”
In other words, the conservadems say they are not opposed to the president‘s agenda at all? Rather, they say they are the only ones who can get the agenda passed, by attracting Republican votes to it. They are the loyalists of all loyalists.
Are you ready for the money to go where the mouth is? On the budget vote, with no Republican filibuster, no threat of a filibuster, no need to bring Republicans over at all, Evan Bayh, self-proclaimed head of the conservadems, voted against it—strengthening and sustaining the president‘s agenda by voting against it.
The silver lining here for the president in terms of his prospects for defeating defections in his own party lining up against him, is that apparently that lining up against him line is a very short line. Senator Bayh was joined by precisely one other conservadem in his vote against Obama‘s budget, just Ben Nelson. That was it.
The conservadems may not be all that strong in number but, you know, they can demonstrate their fiscal conservative principle s more easily now. Now, there‘s only two of them. They could meet like in a phone booth or on a motorcycle. They can meet on a very small seesaw.
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio, contributor to “Daily Beast.”
Ana Marie, thanks for joining us tonight.
ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA RADIO NAT‘L. CORRESPONDENT: It‘s good to be here. Would that seesaw perfectly balanced, Rachel? I think it might.
MADDOW: Or it would just, it would be down on one side the whole time.
COX: Or they both sit on one side.
MADDOW: Yes, the fulcrum would be weighed totally in the wrong place. They‘d sit on one side. Yes.
MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) with me metaphor I can see. But are you with me on the conservadems in the Senate, generally? I was surprised, all Evan Bayh‘s so-called moderate Democrats abandoned him on the budget?
COX: Well, I am more sympathetic to the conservadems than you are.
But we can have that discussion some other time, preferably over cocktails.
In this particular case, I think there are two points to be gained. One is that it turns out best, it‘s true. Although Evan Bayh might not be behind the president‘s agenda, it turns out that a lot of those conservadems, when they sat down and looked at the budget and looked maybe at their poll numbers and maybe at the economy decided to go ahead and vote with the president.
MADDOW: Back in 2003 though, I mean, more Democrats than this voted against Clinton‘s budget. That was like six voted against him in ‘93. Now, we‘re down to two.
COX: Well, I was going to say. Have you ever met Evan Bayh?
COX: Two for him is exciting.
COX: He can go with two. Two is better than one. One is the loneliest number.
MADDOW: Are you saying that he just has a low threshold of impact?
COX: I do. I think, you know, there‘s a reason why he basically gave up his presidential run before he even got started. I mean, I do see your point about the Clinton budget. I do think that this—I also think that—I was also serious, I think that these Democrats are looking to the midterms, and they are betting on success for the president. They think that this might work. And so, in the end, I think they would want to be on the side of history and they are judging that this budget, voting for it, is going to be on the side of history.
MADDOW: Well, on the other side, we‘ve got zero Republican votes for it. And I‘m wondering—you have good contacts in the GOP world—and I‘m wondering if you are hearing from them that this is something that they are going to brag about the way that they bragged about zero votes on the stimulus. I mean, are we going to expect more Aerosmith “Back in the Saddle” videos from Eric Cantor‘s office in this one?
COX: Look, here‘s the thing: Most of my contacts in the GOP are pretty smart.
COX: So, they are not talking about bragging about this in midterms. They are making a calculated decision, this is—as you said, they are making a calculated decision to bet against the president‘s policies. I think that‘s terribly, terribly cynical.
I think that for most of them, they do not have especially principled objections to this budget, because they have obviously—I mean, the hypocrisy of the Republican Party about deficits and whatnot has been pointed out before. I think that this is simply saying, though, to say no—something that you‘ve said before.
And inside the beltway, Eric Cantor‘s ability to keep all of his people in line is considered very impressive, but don‘t you think that‘s not necessarily impressive intellectual achievement? They are not doing anything, they are not helping anyone, and I honestly think they are not helping themselves when it comes to midterms.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about one probably endangered Republican, Joseph Cao. This Republican congressman from Louisiana, elected in sort of a fluke election, coming in to a very Democratic district, but one in which the Democratic member who he was trying to succeed was in a lot of legal trouble, William Jefferson.
Louisiana—he seemingly wanted to vote for Obama‘s stimulus and he felt like his constituents wanted him to vote for it, at least that‘s the way he talked about it. But then the GOP wouldn‘t let him vote for it and they wouldn‘t let him vote for the budget either. How do you feel that a Joseph Cao could sort of do the right thing by his career and by his politics here?
COX: Well, you know, I can‘t obviously get inside his head, nor I do think I want to. Every decision that a representative makes is the two things they weigh or what their constituents wants and what the party wants. And everyone makes decisions like that. I actually think Evan Bayh probably weighed his constituents, you know, against his party in this particular case.
I don‘t have a lot of sympathy with anyone who says that they had to or made to vote for something, because unless, like, you know, Eric Cantor is holding a gun to his head, which he may have a gun, but I still think you are not allowed to bring them onto the Hill. I don‘t think that it‘s possible to have someone make you vote for something. I am really curious, though, there is one method that the leadership can use to intimidate, especially freshmen congressmen, and that is the threat to withhold help in the re-election.
MADDOW: Which he is definitely going to need in this place.
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, can—how did the guest-hosting noon to three on Air America go today?
COX: It actually—it turns out it‘s really nervous-making.
COX: I don‘t know how you did it. I said “uhm” a lot.
COX: Yes. But I really enjoyed picking out the bumper music.
MADDOW: Oh, very good. Bumper music is one of the great pleasures of being a radio host. Well, congratulations. I thought you did great.
COX: All right. Thank you.
All right. The new president played statesman and salesman today, trying to get European support for his big American ideas. We have got a sales report coming up.
And big, big news from Iowa today. Whoever thought that gay couples would be able to get married in Sioux City before they could in New York?
MADDOW: A Republican senator who has never received much national notice before, who has flown mostly under the radar in his four years in the Senate, he decides that the issue on which he would like the country to become acquainted with him, the way he‘s going to make a name for himself, the way he‘s going to have his name known coast to coast is by personally blocking this person, Tammy Duckworth, double-amputee, Iraq war vet and nationally-respected veterans advocate from taking a job at the V.A. The senator‘s name is Richard Burr, and now, I will never, ever forget that. We will have more on that coming up.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
Some really good news for Americans who support the rights of gay people to enter into legally-binding contracts—the same way that straight people do. Yay! Contracts. The state of Iowa legalized same-sex marriage today. The state Supreme Court unanimously decided that a 1998 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.
The court said, quote, “We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law. If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded.” In other words, separate is not equal. Duh!
Gay people will be able to get legally hitched in as little as 21 days in Iowa. And the initial analysis of the impact of the ruling seems to indicate that it would take at least a couple of years for the state to undo the court‘s ruling by any of the means available. The only openly gay member of the Iowa State Legislature, State Senator Matt McCoy, responded to the ruling by inviting gay and straight couples who are not from Iowa to think about coming to Iowa to get married.
All right. Next up: If politics is high school and figuring out who is going to be a presidential nominee is a little like figuring out who is going to be prom queen, Sarah Palin has now started to play the allegorical role of the guy who hangs out in the high school parking lot showing off his car five years after he graduated. As you know, the Justice Department this week dropped the federal case against former Senator Ted Stevens because the prosecution in his case was totally bungled.
Inexplicably, that decision has led former vice presidential nominee and current Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, to call for the man who beat Ted Stevens in the November election, Mark Begich—she‘s called for him to resign. She wants Begich to resign and she wants a do-over of that election.
So far, Governor Palin‘s idea is being met with a resounding and skeptical “uh-huh” among Republicans in Washington. Not surprisingly. I mean, when George Bush‘s approval ratings dipped into dog-doo-on-your-shoe territory after he was elected to a second term, did American voters get to do a do-over?
When Adrien Brody won an Oscar and then kissed Halle Berry in that kind of gross way, did the motion picture Academy get a do over? When I went on the Jimmy Fallon show and dumped alcohol all over myself, did I get to go back in time and re-shoot? No, I did not.
Alaska Congressman Don Young has an alternate proposal. He says that Ted Stevens should run for governor of Alaska to succeed Sarah Palin in 2010. That would make Ted Stevens 87 years old at the time that he would take office as governor.
What did we talk about before we had Alaska politics to talk about?
And finally, riddle me this. What would happen if a state threw an execution and nobody came, like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Texas? The state of Washington still kills its prisoners. The favored method for implementing the death penalty in Washington State is to inject prisoners with lethal doses of drugs that have the effect of killing you.
In Washington now, there is a case before the Thurston County Superior Court challenging lethal injection on the grounds that if the drugs are not administered properly, being killed through this manner excruciatingly painful. It can be the equivalent of being tortured to death, thus constituting cruel and unusual punishment which is unconstitutional.
Here is the incredible thing. This case has now prompted the four anonymous members of the lethal injection squad in Washington State to resign. The four are reportedly concerned that the litigation will result in their names becoming public. Their identities are so secret, that even the head of the state prison system does not know who they are.
That, of course, means we have no way of knowing if the execution squad is qualified to perform this perversion of a medical procedure that can result in torturing someone to death over a long period of time if it‘s done improperly.
And it also serves as a handy reminder of how little the use of euphemisms and pseudo-medical trappings around this process changes the brutal fact of what it is.
MADDOW: President Obama continuing his European tour today in Strasbourg, which I keep forgetting is in France. He‘s there for a big NATO meeting at which he has launched stage three of his big Afghanistan war plan sales pitch. Stage one was to sell it to Capitol Hill, sell it to American politicians. With only minor opposition brewing on both the left and the right in Washington, stage one, I think we have to consider to be passed.
Stage two, sell it to the American public. Recent polling on Afghanistan shows the jury definitely is still out in terms of public opinion on that. So stage two, still undecided.
Stage three, though, is selling it abroad, selling it to NATO, to our allies, to try to make them believe that it is a better idea to join us in Afghanistan now than it was when George Bush was still in office.
So far, stage three of the sales pitch is looking pretty good. French president Nicolas Sarkozy emerged from talks with Obama today, saying the French, quote, “totally endorse and support President Obama‘s new Afghanistan strategy.”
He is promising to send more police trainers and civilian aid to Afghanistan. And he even promised, theoretically, at least, that France would take in a prisoner from Guantanamo.
After all the praise for the new Afghanistan war plan, Sarkozy cut loose and said what he thinks about the American president himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through a translator): I trust him. I don‘t need guarantees. I trust him. I trust his word. I trust his intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In other words, whatever this man is selling, the French are buying. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also met with President Obama today and also promised to help out more in Afghanistan, calling Mr. Obama‘s approach to the war, quote, “gratifying.”
But even as the president‘s plan is being successfully sold to our allies, there are, of course, still big questions about whether it is a good idea, questions that still haven‘t thoroughly been answered.
The president says his goal is to defeat the Taliban in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. He says he wants to deny al-Qaeda safe havens in either country, which sounds like the kind of thing everyone would agree on - no safe havens for terrorists, right?
But maybe that‘s a little simple, simple in a way that we can‘t really afford to walk away from. As Matthew Yglesias wrote this week at “Think Progress,” quote, “Recall that key action in the 9/11 plot took place not just in Afghanistan, but in Hamburg, Germany. And the best governance initiative in history is not going to make Afghanistan as orderly and prosperous as Germany.”
You know, good point. Even as the alliance building presidential sales pitch proceeds better than anyone could have predicted, might we be asking the wrong big picture questions about what we are doing in Afghanistan in the first place?
Joining us now is Andrew Exum. He‘s a fellow with the Center for New American Security and he‘s author of the book “This Man‘s Army: A Soldier‘s Story from the Front Lines of the War on Terror.” Mr. Exum, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight.
ANDREW EXUM, “THIS MAN‘S ARMY”: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: In an article this week, I‘m going to quote you to yourself. Are you ready?
MADDOW: “Even if we succeed in spreading effective governance to southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, are we then prepared to go wherever the transnational terror groups relocate? Are we prepared to clear out the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon? Or provide governance to the Horn of Africa? The Obama plan is a dangerous precedent. If the reason we‘re staying in Afghanistan is to deny al-Qaeda the use of safe havens, where are we going next?”
Is it your main concern that there are too many safe havens to eliminate them all?
EXUM: Well, first off, I have to say that the Obama plan, if it‘s designed to achieve concrete political objectives of shutting down the safe havens that are on this Pashtun belt that straddles Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is a pretty good plan. I think that a lot of the lines of operation that come in, their non-kinetic lines of operation. We‘ve decided you can‘t just kill your way out of these wars. You have to improve governance. You have to improve economic development. You have to provide essential services to the population.
But as far as the precedent, it is pretty worrying, right? Because if we got this one safe haven straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, then what do we do if another safe haven crops up in the Horn of Africa?
Or do we then - how direct a role do we take in Lebanon with the Palestinian refugee camps? So I think that is a question going forward and it‘s one I‘d be asking.
MADDOW: So you are essentially saying that we could do it in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It would be incredibly resource intensive. It would take a long time, but we could accomplish it through the means that the president has proposed. The question is whether we are then going to take on the responsibility of the doing it everywhere.
EXUM: Yes. Well, I‘m not even sure about that. I‘m not even sure about that first proposition because what we are essentially doing is we‘re acting out a counterinsurgency strategy as a third party. And the trick about doing that is that really success, political success, depends upon the other government.
So without any type of political reconciliation from the Afghans or any type of improved governance from Islamabad, we‘re going to have trouble acting out the strategy that we are proposing.
MADDOW: Well, it doesn‘t seem like the governance issues in Afghanistan or Pakistan are going to resolve any time soon, even though I‘m an eternal optimist and I hope some time they could.
It just seems like it‘s unlikely that within the timeframe that
Americans are willing to stay committed to that region, we are going to see enough transformational change, not only in the capital cities of those countries, but in terms of local governance to work effectively with our big proposal.
That‘s the reason that I am having - I still have big questions about this plan, even though I understand the logic of it. It just seems to me like the governance thing has to happen contemporaneously with our investment and I don‘t believe that it will.
EXUM: Yes. I mean, I think your concerns are valid. I think our first priority in Afghanistan is to protect the population. That‘s something we haven‘t done a really good job of since 2001 and 2002.
And quite honestly, we haven‘t had the resources to do it. So I‘d say that is the first priority. But the second priority - you are exactly right - is working on - I mean, quite honestly, I think Afghanistan was rated by Transparency International as the 176th most corrupt nation in the world out of 180 countries.
So corruption is a really big issue in Afghanistan and in the same way, trying to get the government in Islamabad across the border, to extend control into the federally administered tribal areas into northwest frontier province - these are really tricky issues. And Afghanistan - we‘ve got a lot more leverage than we do in Afghanistan - or in Pakistan, rather. But it‘s still going to be quite tricky.
MADDOW: One of the things that - one of the conclusions that jerks like me jump to all the time, people who haven‘t ever been in the military like you have and haven‘t actually worked with this stuff on the ground.
One of the conclusion we jump to is the idea that expanding the military footprint in Afghanistan might actually be counterproductive in terms of the goal just of keeping the population safe, that our large occupying presence for a very long time might instigate more of the Taliban elements, more of the extremist elements, might support their side of things in a way that ultimately makes the population less safe rather than more safe, even though we‘ve got more guys there. What do you think about that?
EXUM: Well, I think that‘s a valid concern. I think you have to take things on a case-by-case basis. In this case, you know, having said, a lot of international aid organizations have the exact fear that you do. Actually, their fear is that the situation for the population in Afghanistan is going to worsen once we get into the fighting season, especially with this influx of new troops.
Having said that and the specific case of Afghanistan, I believe more troops are probably the wise decision, at least in the short-term. Because right now, we really have an obligation to protect the population. That is something we haven‘t done a good job of the past five years.
In Pakistan, the other side of the border, however, a direct influx of American troops would probably be a very bad idea. So in the same way that every insurgency is sui generis - they all rise from the very specific social, political, cultural milieu. In Afghanistan, more troops might be a good decision. In Pakistan, direct American action is probably a bad decision. It‘s a tricky calculus that‘s got to play out.
MADDOW: I commend you for raising the issue this week. I think the difficult counter intuitive issue this week that safe havens might be a bad sort of goal, might be a bad proposal for American action moving forward, especially thinking beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan with all the other places that extremist groups that might conceivably threaten us operate.
I wonder if you think there is a better alternative, if there is something other than denying terrorist groups safe havens that would be a better organizing principle for moving forward.
EXUM: Yes, here is the trouble. Because we have been presented with kind of this dichotomy before the review, we had either counter insurgency or counterterrorism. If we pursue a counterinsurgency strategy, that is going to cost a lot of money.
It‘s going to cost a lot of resources and I‘m not just talking financial resources or materiel. I‘m also talking a lot of casualties, both from our perspective and also on behalf of our NATO allies and also Afghan civilians, keep in mind. So it is going to be a really intensive and it is going to be a very costly exercise.
On the other hand, the really bad news is that I think really strict solely kinetic, that is just trying to kill our way out of this solution - a solely kinetic counterterrorist strategy - I think that would fail miserably, especially in Pakistan. I think that would be the bad approach.
Having said that, I think, you know, what you heard from the president last week is he talks a lot about metrics, ways to measure success, ways to measure failure as it were.
And I think that‘s going to be something that everyone is going to be looking for in the next 12 months. Just a quick tip to your viewers, violence is going to be a really bad metric over the next 12 months. Violence is probably going to increase.
But if we are having the same level of violence today than we do - rather a year from now than we do today, OK, that‘s reason to worry. I think we can expect the uptake of violence. But whether or not we are able to establish security is really the key question going forward a year from now.
MADDOW: Is there a good metric to keep an eye on in the short-term over the next couple of months?
EXUM: You know, it‘s interesting. One of the units in eastern Afghanistan, one of the metrics they use is the variety of vegetables available in the local market, because that tells them who has been growing poppy and to what degree are farmers diversifying their crops.
So we‘re going to have to get pretty creative with our metrics. In Vietnam, the Marines used rice production instead of body count. I‘m not really sure what the best metric is for Afghanistan yet. But I‘ll get you an answer on it.
MADDOW: I‘m deploying to the farmer‘s market just to count the vegetables. Andrew Exum, fellow at the Center for New American Security, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It‘s really good to get your perspective.
EXUM: Sure. Thanks. Yes.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” it‘s late night versus the right-wing.
Guess who‘s winning?
Coming up on this show, desperately important pictures of the first all-female squad of Chinese fighter pilots. Really, I swear.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, the latest project of one Republican senator is blocking Tammy Duckworth from a top job in the Veterans Affairs Department.
Duckworth is a major in the National Guard who lost both her legs when the helicopter she was piloting was attacked in Iraq in 2004. She is renowned nationwide as a wicked smart, effective, passionate veterans advocate.
But now, Republican Richard Burr from North Carolina has decided to personally delay her nomination. And he won‘t say why. His spokesman says, “He is doing his due diligence to ensure that veterans have the best representation possible.”
Due diligence? On the decorated Iraq war veteran who helped make the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs a leader in state benefits for vets and who is renowned nationwide for that purpose?
Senator Burr, how about diligently doing the right thing right now and picking a different high horse to ride in on, OK? You picked the wrong fight here.
MADDOW: There is a professor at the University of Georgia whose name is Han S. Park. University of Georgia, of course, is in lovely Athens Georgia. But on any given day, there‘s a pretty good chance that Dr. Park is not in lovely Athens, but rather in the deeply, deeply, deeply unlovely city of Pyongyang, the capital of the horrific little tin pot, starve the people, feed the army dictatorship that is led by this guy, the man who gives jumpsuits and perms a bad name, Kim Jong-Il.
Even though Kim Jong-Il does not take kindly to the foreigners generally, and even though he does not take kindly to Americans in particular, Dr. Park has still managed to get into North Korea more than, like, 40 times. Including since those two American reporters were arrested three weeks ago.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee are American journalists that work for CurrentTV, which is Al Gore‘s sort of TV 2.0 outfit that‘s based in San Francisco. And on March 17th, North Korean soldiers arrested the two journalists at the North Korean-Chinese border. They have been in custody ever since.
And now, apparently, they are going to be charged with hostile acts. Nobody knows what that is, but it‘s a charge that could send them to one of infamous North Korean prison camps for say, 10 years hard labor or even worse.
Current TV is not saying diddly squat about the situation. Al Gore is not talking about it publicly. The families of the journalists are not talking about it publicly. Even the U.S. State Department is being rather lower-than-low key in its public statements.
At a press briefing this week, reporters had to press the State
Department‘s spokesman to even say that our government wanted the reporters released.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it‘s possible for them to get a fair trial?
GORDON DUGUID, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Once again, we‘ve seen press reports that there will be charges but we have not had that through our diplomatic contacts. We will continue to work this diplomatically and try to see if we can help our citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, do you want them released?
DUGUID: Of course, we would like to see our citizens released and returned home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of course, we would like to see our citizens released. Of course, we do. Did I forget to say that? I‘m not criticizing here.
I mean, we do actually have to assume that everybody is being so tightlipped about this crisis because there are sensitive back channel negotiations going on somewhere. And everyone‘s trying to avoid any unnecessary provocation that could hurt the chance for getting Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee back home safe.
I personally am about at the point of jumping up and down and setting my hair on fire. I am so mad about this. But I have the sense that that wouldn‘t help, so I will refrain. Except in my mind I‘m not refraining.
Here‘s the truly amazing new news about the fate of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. But keep in mind, they‘re not being held by some cockamamie guerilla group or terrorist organization. They‘re not being held by some cartel that‘s looking for ransom money.
They‘re being held by the government of a foreign country. Here‘s the new news about our prospects for leveraging a safe return home for them. Dr. Hahn Park, that American professor who has been able to spend so much time in North Korea - he tells reporters now that after Ling and Lee were arrested and concerns were expressed to the North Koreans about how the women were being treated since North Korea is known for, say, starving people to death and prison reeducation camps from which they never get to return home.
In response to concerns about how these American reporters, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were being treated in custody, North Korean officials said, quote, “We are not Guantanamo.” A full quote from Dr. Park, “They laughed. ‘We are not Guantanamo.‘ That‘s what they said.”
That‘s what North Korea says now about Americans they‘ve got in custody. Here‘s how that whole international standing thing works out, when it‘s more than just political science, when it‘s more than just an argument, when it‘s the lives of two young American women 13 time zones from here in the indefinite custody of a government that sees America as its enemy.
We inquire about how long they‘re going to be held, and they shoot back, “Well, it‘s been seven years plus you‘ve been holding hundreds of foreigners at your offshore prison at Guantanamo.”
We inquire about charges. What is this hostile acts ridiculous charge? And they shoot back, “Well, at least we‘re bothering to charge them. How many of the prisoners at Guantanamo, in Bagram and the CIA prisons have had charges brought against them?”
We inquire about how well these American women are being treated and they shoot back by, what, quoting to us by the list of approved enhanced interrogation techniques maybe, quoting to us from the transcripts of Dick Cheney on TV saying, “Waterboarding ain‘t no thing.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Do you think any of those tactics that we use against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?
DICK CHENEY, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I don‘t?
KARL: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported was waterboarding, and that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that, you think, was appropriate?
CHENEY: I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is a new president in place now, one who has very, very, very, very different ideas about interrogations and prisons than Bush and Cheney do. But to a certain extent, the damage is done. We would never want Americans to be subjected to imprisonment for years in some foreign country without charges.
We would never want Americans to be tortured. And if we‘re going to get back the power to stop Americans from being subjected to things like that, don‘t we have to make it clear that America believes no one should get away with treating people like that?
I know that Washington apparently has no appetite for Sen. Leahy‘s truth commission. But maybe the need to fix this is bigger than the appetites of Washington politics. Maybe this stretches 13 time zones into every corner of the world where Americans might find themselves in trouble and need some help.
MADDOW: Our cocktail moment tonight is a Singapore sling coming to us courtesy of the People‘s Republic of China. I couldn‘t come up with a good Chinese cocktail.
For first time ever in China, women are now allowed to fly fighter jets, which is very exciting. Yay for progress. The first 16 female pilots just graduated the Third Army Aviation Institution yesterday. They were all given the rank of lieutenant.
They will make their public debut on China‘s National Day in October. But China‘s state-run newspaper has published pictures of the new pilots with some helpful captions like, “pilot trainees spin on wheels in an examination.”
And, this is a good one, “pilot trainees encourage each other in a physique examination.” Not entirely sure what a physique examination involves, but they do look like they are having a good time.
As far as the actual flying goes, the state-run newspaper does not seem to have any action shots of them flying planes though they do have the classic runway shot like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and they have the classic touching the plane shot, like Christian Bale in “Empire of the Sun.”
And of course, there is the classic inside the cockpit shot, which is sort of a Luke Skywalker and “Star Wars” picture, maybe. Just when we figured out that there wasn‘t anything that these female fighter pilot pioneers couldn‘t do comes one more state produced picture of one of the pilots dancing with a lot of bubbles.
Apparently, this was part of the graduation ceremony, even though I‘m pretty sure the male pilots in China don‘t have to dress in a sparkly costume and dance with bubbles to earn their wings. Three steps forward for equality in China, two steps back.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again Monday night. Oh, I just thought of a good Chinese cocktail, the bamboo - I‘ll post that tonight at “Rachel.MSNBC.com.”
You can always E-mail us at email@example.com. Our podcast is iTunes or at our Web site, Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can hear me coast to coast on Air America Radio. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a great night.
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