Guests: Joe Biden, Barry McCaffrey, Wayne Downing, Gail Sheehy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, horrific pictures of mutilated U.S. civilians who were ambushed and brutally murdered in Iraq dominate the front pages of America‘s newspapers. Will these indelible images change Americans‘ view on the war in Iraq?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Senator Joe Biden is here to talk about Richard Clarke‘s eyewitness accounts and Condoleezza Rice‘s much anticipated testimony, now scheduled for next Thursday.
And we‘ll have an in depth look at the brave American civilian peacekeepers who are on the front lines in Iraq.
But first the U.S. military has vowed to take precise and overwhelming action in response to the savage killings of four American contractors in the Iraqi town of Fallujah.
NBC News correspondent Tom Aspell is in Baghdad, and we should warn you that some of the video in this report is graphic in nature.
TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I think it‘s fair to stay fallout from yesterday‘s incident at Fallujah is having an effect out here in Baghdad and certainly among the community of foreign workers here throughout Iraq.
This morning, near Fallujah, another American convoy was attacked. It came under small arms fire. No reports from the military of any American casualties, although they did abandon one vehicle to take some people away from the scene. And that vehicle was later set on fire by the local populations just outside of Fallujah.
Going back to yesterday‘s incident, the four foreign workers who were killed in Fallujah yesterday, riding in two separate vehicles near the center of the town when they came under small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire.
Both their vehicles were set on fire. And then a large crowd of young men appeared from the side streets there and surrounded the burning vehicles there. And then pulled the four bodies out of those vehicles and mutilated some of them.
They dismembered at least two of those bodies there and hung body parts from a bridge in the center of the city there. Along with a sign saying that Fallujah would be a graveyard for Americans.
Now, there seem to be some controversy about why the military, and specifically U.S. Marines stationed nearby, did not get there earlier. It turns out that they were aware of the incident after it had happened. They knew that the men were dead and so that they didn‘t want to risk any of their own men by going in there and bringing out the dead bodies.
Iraqi police were also nowhere to be seen. It‘s hardly surprising, though, in a town like Fallujah, which has been such a hot bed of resistance to the American occupation. For more than a year now, people in Fallujah have been attacking Americans, attacking the police. Even the mayor‘s office in the town there.
However, today‘s top American administrator here, Paul Bremer, vowed that those who carried out the atrocity yesterday would not go unpunished. And he did include the killers of five American soldiers who died when their armored personnel carrier hit a land mine a few miles away from Fallujah, just before the incident in the center of the town.
Throughout the city today, people have been talking about what kind of precautions that civilian employees of either the coalition authority or many of the aid agencies operating here in Baghdad will be able to take.
Remember in the last month, more than a dozen people have been murdered in and around Baghdad, civilian employees riding in unprotected vehicles.
I think most people agreed that there are very little precautions that really can be taken. Even armored vehicles, for example, are not immune to attack. As I said, those five soldiers who were killed yesterday riding in an armored personnel carrier.
The military has indicated that the Marines may go on the offensive in Fallujah looking for the killers of those four contract employees killed there yesterday. And again, Paul Bremer has warned that they will not go unpunished—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Tom Aspell.
Senator Joe Biden is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, your personal reaction on seeing those pictures from Fallujah.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Anger, rage, disgust, empathy. I could
· All I could think of, looking at that picture on the front page of “The New York Times” is my God, what those poor families must be feeling. I mean, God, it‘s just—anyway.
MATTHEWS: Were you shocked at the wrath on the faces of those young kids? Those—They were all clean-shaven kids. They looked like middle class kids to me. They didn‘t look like riff raff.
And here these guys are, loving the fact that they‘re desecrating the burned bodies of—and we haven‘t seen the worst of it. Of our people.
BIDEN: Tom (ph), I was talking to a guy on my staff about this. How can I say this. I was surprised. And there were animals, but then it made me realize, this had to be a very clearly planned thing.
This wasn‘t a case where these—these rocket-propelled grenades were fired and then all of a sudden, spontaneously, these guys, these kids, these young men came out of the shops and the houses and spontaneously responded. I think this was a much more orchestrated thing than it appears at this moment.
I don‘t think it represents the generic feeling of the people in Fallujah. Although I do think it is evidence that the insurgency, the old Ba‘athists and the criminal element combined, a lot of the criminals released at the same time, are combined now, and they are still very, very much intact. And have not been routed.
And I don‘t think that we gain much by continuing to focus on the fact that implying to the American people, this is all sort of bin Laden terrorists who do this. This is in a sense worse. More dangerous. More difficult. More of a problem for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again that is Iraq than if it were just, quote, “international terrorists” filtering in, Arabic forces coming in.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, it‘s like the—the president, I don‘t think, this time said with the forces of terrorism, because it was the mob, it was the streets. They were Iraqis. They weren‘t outsiders, as you say. And they weren‘t—and there were so many of them, though.
Does it surprise you that there are that many people that hit the streets, even if it was organized against us, with so much hatred against us?
BIDEN: Yes. It does in one sense.
But you and I have been around a long time. We‘ve seen this kind of thing before. And I‘ve never underestimated the—the intensity of the hatred, the intensity of desperation that exists within the Sunni Triangle among the former Ba‘athists.
I mean, they know if we succeed in Iraq, they are done, gone, finished. And so in that sense, it doesn‘t surprise me.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s ask—Let me talk to you about security. I know it‘s one of your concerns.
Do we have enough forces over there? This city apparently was off grounds, off base for our guys. We weren‘t even trying to protect our people in Fallujah. No American military. The Marines weren‘t there.
Nobody was there
Have we written off a big part of Iraq for development and for protection?
BIDEN: Well, I think we‘ve written off part of Iraq for the time being, in the hope that we can get a consensus among the elites within Iraq to form a government to which we turn over sovereignty.
And that the major pieces of Iraq are up and running and in place. And then we close in on the hardest core of the hard core. I think that‘s the generic notion, Chris.
But my problem is, if we‘re going to have that tactic, and you know, I‘ve been on your program a lot. I‘ve been saying unpopular things. I‘ve said eight months ago, we needed more troops in Iraq. We need more people in Iraq. We need NATO in Iraq. We need to make compromises with our European allies to get NATO to be part of it. There‘s simply not enough soldiers in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: How do you get the Dutch to come in after seeing these pictures?
BIDEN: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: Or the Danes or the Belgians or the Irish? They‘re not coming in after they see this happening.
BIDEN: Well, I tell you what, I think—I just met with a French ambassador today, the German ambassador along with 25 other senators.
I am confident that all of Europe is prepared to come in under a NATO umbrella if—if, if, if we turn over to the international community the job that Bremer is doing now when Bremer leaves on June 30. It‘s a precondition.
Look, it‘s like that bad joke I‘ve told on your program before, about the guy who makes center field and he makes five errors in two innings. The coach calls him out. His name is George.
He puts in Chris. First pitch, Chris fumbles the ball, has an error.
The coach says, “Chris, what‘s the matter with you?”
And he looks at him and says, “Coach, George screwed up center field so badly, no one can play it.”
BIDEN: Right now the rest of the world thinks, rightly or wrongly, that our policies, our approach has messed up the situation so badly, they don‘t want in.
But they‘re willing to come in, because they have so much at stake in we fail in Iraq, if they have a political say in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Well, I still wonder whether we were right to go there before we started teaching other people to go there. But that‘s just a thought.
Here‘s Richard Clarke—I mean, here‘s Richard Clarke last night, Senator. We talked to him about the president‘s very strong push for Saddam Hussein al Qaeda connections the day after 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What was the president‘s approach to you? Was it give me an answer I want? Is there an Iraq question? Or is it isn‘t there a possibility there‘s an Iraq connection here?
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: It was Iraq, Saddam, find me—if there‘s any connection.
And when I said, “Mr. President, we will do that, of course. But we‘ve done it before. And rather recently. And the answer has always been no. And it‘s likely to be no this time.”
He didn‘t like that answer. And he got mad. And I think everyone in the room agrees that he was mad.
(END VIDEO CIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, I don‘t know where you were in term of national policy as ranking Democrat on foreign relations the day after we hit 9/11. But the president of the United States, according to Dick Clarke, the counter terrorism man in the White House, he was already determined against anything getting in his way to go to Iraq.
Do you believe that? According to Richard Clarke. Do you believe he‘s right?
BIDEN: Yes. And I‘ll tell you why.
You may remember on the day before 9/11, I made a speech to the National Press Club saying, this administration is too preoccupied with national missile defense. And it‘s taken their eye off the ball on terror. We‘re going to suffer a serious terrorist attack.
The next day—I learned today in the “Washington Post” for the first time—on September 11, Condi Rice was supposed to make a speech that didn‘t get delivered because of 9/11 saying, national missile defense is the key to our security.
And therefore it seems to me that Richard—excuse me, Clarke‘s criticism of at a minimum that they took their eye off the ball. Whether that would have stopped 9/11, I don‘t know.
But it‘s clear to me their highest priority was national missile defense. And then when 9/11 occurred.
I think the central point that‘s finally come clear to me, Chris, is the neoconservatives who are the greatest influence on the president are bright guys, serious people. They truly believe that international terrorist organizations like Saddam Hussein (sic) cannot exist absent state sponsorship.
BIDEN: So therefore, they, I believe, probably convinced the president, not that Saddam was involved, but that state sponsorship had to be a piece of it.
And therefore, I think the president, everything I‘ve observed, from the get-go was being advised by some and inclined to believe that this had to be—it had to be. Couldn‘t be some guy named bin Laden in a cave or in a coffee house sending signals on the Internet. This had to be more than that.
So I think that—that‘s what was the driving element. Now whether or not it means that this guy was just no—you know, some people say, “Well, he focused on Saddam because he tried to kill his father.” I don‘t believe that. I believe the reason was he was convinced that this couldn‘t occur absent serious state sponsorship.
And I think that‘s what drove—drove, you know, the direction of the policy.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t it a big laugh that anyone would think any time that anybody in the world would go to Iraq for brain power? That some organization would have to have strategic thinking come from Baghdad, after seeing the zero quality of that society?
We‘re coming back with Senator Joe Biden.
And later, General Wayne Downing and General Barry McCaffrey will be here to talk about how to keep Americans safe in Iraq. That‘s a priority today.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, I‘ll ask Senator Joe Biden about the role Vice President Cheney played as the administration went to war with Iraq. HARDBALL, back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee. Senator, here‘s what Richard Clarke said last night on HARDBALL about Vice President Cheney‘s role in the war on Iraq.
Let‘s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Why weren‘t the moderate voices heard in the president‘s inner council?
CLARKE: Because within the national security cluster of the cabinet, there was just Colin Powell in that category.
MATTHEWS: And he always got beaten by Rummy and Cheney?
CLARKE: The vice president started getting involved at the cabinet level. The vice president started attending meetings.
MATTHEWS: Did he tip the scale?
CLARKE: Of course.
MATTHEWS: Did he have his thumb on the scales?
CLARKE: Look, the vice president was in meetings that vice presidents had never been in before, helping shape the policy before it got to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, Senator? The idea that the policy of this administration is being set before it gets to the president‘s desk, with the vice president playing a big role in shaping it?
BIDEN: Let me answer it this way. I think the vice president, in my observation, is the single most influential person in this administration.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s certainly coincidental with what we just heard from former—Mr. Clarke.
Let me ask you about the question of Iraq and the policy. Do you still think, all things considered, that it was right to go to Iraq? Even if we went there in the wrong way?
BIDEN: It‘s hard to answer that question. I think it was right to go to Iraq if we went in the right way. And I think it would have worked in Iraq if we had acted more responsibly immediately after Saddam fell. And if we had taken advantage of opportunities which I believe this administration squandered.
I always focus on the future here, Chris. We have one last opportunity to get this right. And it‘s June 30. People are going to talk about 9/11. They‘re talking about 3/11. They‘re talking historically about 6/30, June 30 of this year when Bremer leaves.
And if we don‘t get about between now and then, getting an international consensus for a follow-on entity that is supported by the world community, allowing the Europeans and others to put in forces into Iraq under the cover of a U.N. resolution, we are making a tragic historic mistake.
And thus far, it appears to me this administration is about to squander maybe its last opportunity to get it right in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: The people in the first Bush administration, whom you worked with, people like Franz Scowcroft and James A. Baker III who was secretary of state, and the first President Bush, all decided, I think with the counsel of Colin Powell and General Schwarzkopf and others, that he couldn‘t really take over Iraq, because it was really three pieces of a country. He could only keep together almost Tito style rule, a Mubarak style rule.
You had to have a real tough guy to hold it together. In fact, a bastard to hold it together, to make a point.
Could they have been right? And could today‘s events from watching the news be proving they‘re right?
We‘ve got a lot of people in the Sunni Triangle, never accept minority status. We‘ve got a lot of people in the majority Shiah community who just want Shiah rule. And the Kurds would just as soon be off on their own, like Quebec or something like that, a separate more or less country, even if you don‘t call it that.
What makes you think, or makes this administration, that you could square the circle? You can take three people that don‘t want to be a part of each other and make them part of each other in a mild-mannered democratic country. Not a dictatorship, but a mild mannered democratic country.
How can you hold them together with that kind of glue?
BIDEN: The same way we think we can do it in the Balkans and we think we‘ve done in it parts of Europe.
But if I can amend what I think, the first President Bush, Scowcroft and Baker, and they can clearly speak for themselves about. They thought the first thing. You either need a strong man like as you acknowledged, as you stated, a Saddam-like figure who wouldn‘t be as brutal.
Or you needed a long-term multi-billion dollar 100,000-troop commitment with the international community support. You needed one or the other. They weren‘t prepared to do either, so they allowed Saddam to stay in power.
But if you notice what General Scowcroft said, the former national security adviser, and Mr.—and Secretary Baker said, just prior to us going to war.
They were saying the same things that Dick Lugar and Joe Biden were saying about if you‘re going to do this, you have to do it understanding you‘re going to make a gigantic long-term commitment, and you need overwhelming support from the international community.
And if you do that, then you are able to do what is a laudable goal. Put together some form of representative government in a part of the world that, if you ever accomplish doing that, would over time have a ripple effect in terms of bringing modernity and democratization into the area. But it is an expensive proposition.
These guys are great at using power, but they‘re not very good at
staying power. And the one debate I constantly had with the president is -
· I told you the story. He‘s told it, I think. I‘m not telling tales out of school.
He once said, “Why aren‘t you with me, Joe?”
I said, “Mr. President, there‘s a reason why your father didn‘t go to Baghdad.” And I think he thought I was going to criticize his father by the look in his face. I said, “He did not want to stay for five years or more. Are you ready to do that?”
And I don‘t think half this administration, including the vice president, is ready to do that. So we‘re trying to do it—we‘re going to try to do it on the cheap. And it can‘t be done. It can‘t be done.
MATTHEWS: Well, today‘s events are not going to make that case any easier.
BIDEN: No, they‘re not. They‘re absolutely not.
Look, the reason why it‘s important we succeed in Iraq, Chris, is not because if we don‘t fight terror in Baghdad, we fight in Boston.
If there‘s a civil war in Iraq and we pull out, you‘re going to see Turkey and the Kurds at war. You‘re going to see Iran significantly emboldened politically and militarily. You‘re going to see overwhelming pressure brought upon the leadership in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. You‘re going to see the end of democratization or any notion of it for a generation. You‘re going to see a geopolitical disaster.
That‘s why we‘ve got to get it right. The way these guys have started it wrongly.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s—We‘re going to come back and talk to Senator Biden about what Joe—not Joe Clarke, Dick Clarke said last night about what he thinks the ideologues in this administration are planning for the years ahead in terms of taking over other countries.
And later, one day after American civilians are brutally beaten and hanged in the streets of Iraq, I‘ll ask the generals Wayne Downing and Barry McCaffrey what can be done to keep our people safe.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Senator Joe Biden.
Senator, last night I asked Richard Clarke, the former terrorism expert for the president, what he thinks the Bush administration, what they‘ll do to us in terms of future wars if they get reelected. A very tough statement here.
Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: If this administration gets reelected, with its worldview, that we‘ve talked about for the last hour, going into Iraq, what country is next?
CLARKE: That‘s the scary part. I mean, they made a huge mistake. About as big a mistake as you can make. Because here they have this war on terrorism and they dropped it and started a war on Iraq which made the war on Iraq harder.
MATTHEWS: Well, which was it? Was it Iran? Was it Syria?
CLARKE: If the same people are around, it could be Iran, it could be Syria. And I fear that they haven‘t learned from their mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, Senator?
BIDEN: Well, I think that may be what they‘d like to do. But ironically, if they have—if we do not succeed in Iraq, they will have so weakened our resolve militarily, that I think most nations will look at us and say, they‘re not going to do anything to us.
Because I can‘t imagine this administration in a second term without Iraq turning out correctly. I can‘t imagine them getting—daring to think they could invade any other country in the world that has bad guys in it, because they wouldn‘t have a consensus. They don‘t have the troops. They don‘t have the capacity.
Look, things are blowing back up in Kosovo, for Lord‘s sake. We‘ve got to learn to finish one job at a time. The only—you know, if you look for a silver lining, the only thing that come out of this failed policy, in my view, is the inability of them to, I think, recreate that failed policy in the near term.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Up next, will the horrific pictures of American civilians being dragged through the streets of Iraq change U.S. public opinion about this war? Generals Wayne Downing and Barry McCaffrey will join us to talk about that.
And later, Gail Sheehy sat down with some of the 9/11 widows while they watched Donald Rumsfeld‘s testimony. She‘ll be here with their reactions.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half hour on HARDBALL, American civilian workers dragged through streets of Fallujah.
Is there anyway to provide security for our troops in Iraq?
General Barry McCaffrey and General Wayne Downing will be here.
But first the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For dozens of U.S. company, the ambush killings and mutilations yesterday of four American contractors have driven them to danger that U.S. civilians there face. And as HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports, the civilians helping U.S. forces in Iraq have a larger presence than you might think.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the killings on Wednesday were particularly gruesome—U.S. Military officials said it was only a matter of time before a group of Western civilians got attacked. Across Iraq, there are more than 15,000 civilian contractors, about one for every 10 U.S. soldiers. And the contractors providing security for U.S. troop and convoys are more often than not American.
PETER SINGER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It is a war zone. This is an active combat environment. The fact that they‘re civilians there doesn‘t mean it is any more safe.
SHUSTER: The contractors killed on Wednesday worked for North Carolina-based Black Water Security Consulting. The company‘s Web site says “Black Water recruits from elite government agencies and provides security through state-of-the-art armored vehicles.” In Fallujah, the victims were retired Navy SEALS, and a special operations veteran all headed to a job escorting a food convoy. Other responsibilities have included diffusing roadside bombs and providing protection for dignitaries like U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer. The pay can be quite lucrative. Often more than 15,000 dollars a month. But other contractors without military experience have also found themselves in harm‘s way. The Pentagon is increasingly relying on civilian contractors to provide the food and housing for U.S. troops and to perform the training for Iraqi police. The problem come when the Western civilians have to go from one location to the next.
SINGER: You‘re liable to be hit by either an ambush from small arm, grenades, or the IAD‘s, which are improvised explosive devices, which are basically these bombs that have been left on the roadside with remote control or things like that.
SHUSTER: The Pentagon says the contractors enable the U.S. Troop to route out and destroy people. Still more than 30 Western civilians have now been killed.
And every attack makes cost of reconstruction more expensive. According to the Coalition Provisional Authority, security costs are consuming about 10 percent of each construction project, up from 7 percent in October.
(on camera): U.S. Officials courting American companies to work in Iraq insist security issues have been overblown. But many of the company already there say Wednesday‘s horrifying ambush has made them even more cautious.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: General Wayne Downing was the commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations. He commanded a joint special operations task force during operation Desert Storm. And retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey commanded the Army‘s 24th Infantry Division during Desert Storm. Both are MSNBC military analysts. Gentleman, thank you for joining us.
General Downing first, and then General McCaffrey.
Your own personal views across the board on what you say today and yesterday.
GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, (RET.), U.S. ARMY: It is a real tough—Chris, it‘s a real tough situation there. I mean, it is bad. The Sunni Triangle has been a continual thorn in our side. We‘ve said we have to break that nut. We said that last September. We haven‘t done it. I mean, we by and large have operated around the Sunni Triangle and tried to contain it. It just hasn‘t worked. I think we‘ll have to do something, Chris, because 90 days, we‘re going to be turning this country over. And if we don‘t do something, we may be faced with a civil war.
MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, you know, so many of the attacks on U.S. coalition forces occurred up in the Sunni Triangle, as Wayne Downing suggests. And it is a very dangerous, violent, complex situation. It seem to me that characterizing it as a few people who don‘t get it, the remnants of the Ba‘athist regime misses the point. This part of Iraq brutalized and terrorized a nation for 35 years. They don‘t want to give up. So, we should expect the situation will get more violent, more dangerous as 1 July approach. There will be no national government to turn it over to, no political consensus. So, I think we‘re in for some very difficult years or two ahead us.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what you think will be the next step in this General Downing. Do you expect that special operation forces are going to try to find somebody to pay for this?
DOWNING: Well, Chris, they may sure try to take out some of the people that they identify if they can find them. I really think though the solution is, you have got to break that nut. Now we did it up north. We did it in Tikrit. We did it in Mosul. I think what we have to do is probably take tactics that we used up in the Tikrit, apply them down in this Fallujah area and break this nut.
I mean we know how to do it. Its population and resources control. It is cordon and search operations. It is checkpoints. It‘s sealing off area. It is sweeping people up and having interrogations. I mean, the key to this thing is intelligence, finding out who these people are and policing them up. And then, of course, bringing the Iraqi forces in. But Chris, we can‘t avoid the area. We have to go in there and we have to do what has to be done in a smart humane manner—in order to break this insurgent.
MATTHEWS: Do we need—General Downing, do we need—senator Biden, the ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations started the show tonight by saying we need more forces over there.
DOWNING: I don‘t think we do, Chris. I mean, there‘s just so many forces we can throw at that thing. I think we need more Iraqi forces. We have more now than we had last September. But I think we‘ve got to learn to work with those Iraqi forces more closely. We are doing that. But I don‘t think throwing more Americans in that hopper is the solution to this problem. I think it is tactics, techniques and procedures.
MATTHEWS: But theoretically—staying with General Downing for a second. Theoretically, we had Iraqi policemen working the beats in the city of Fallujah. But if those four American had dialed 411, they wouldn‘t have gotten any help because nobody wanted to help them. Do we have any confidence now in the Iraqi police to protect Americans in these tough areas?
DOWNING: Well, Chris, look what‘s happened in that region. I mean, we led an Iraqi police station be attacked. It happened, they went in there and they freed prisoners. They‘ve killed the Iraqi police. They‘ve intimidated them. And part of that is because we just turned the area over to the Iraqis. We‘re going to have to be in there with them. We may have to put a couple companies of infantry in there to bolster them. And that may be what we have to do. But the Iraqis, by themselves in that region, it is too tough. They can‘t handle it.
MATTHEWS: Let me to go General McCaffrey about troop levels. Back when we had the very tragic situation in Somalia, in Mogadishu where are troops were pinned down in street situation worst than this. Les Apsin the defense secretary, many of us new have knew and liked was fired basicly, to some extent because of the failure to support—to give back-up to those troop.
What when happen this time?
Was there a failure of command to have four civilian contractors driving down a street in Fallujah where they shouldn‘t have been or should they have been able to count on getting help?
MCCAFFREY: Well, first, I see almost no parallel between Mogadishu and the situation we face here. In Mogadishu, we told the American people we were there to feed hungry people. We had the wrong force structure on the ground, and we came to a cropper because of it. We‘ve got some very tough people—we‘ve got the U.S. Marine Corps in this area of Fallujah. They‘re capable of handling this thing as Wayne suggest. On the other hand, look Chris, I think we‘d better grow up. This is not an anomaly that we saw. This is not a remnants of the Ba‘athist regime. There‘s widespread hatred for the coalition occupation in the Sunni Muslim area. When those Bulgarians were killed by suicide bombers down in Karbala, a Shia Muslim area, the Polish division commander told me January, said look the population came out and cheered after the bombs went off. So, we got a tough situation to face up to. The three huge factions are worried about the future. They‘re worried about 1 July. They‘re getting toward fight.
MATTHEWS: The big question is, are we better off—how do we look for allies in a country where the Kurds would like to go live by themselves, the Sunnis don‘t want to become a minority nobody crowd and Shia are waiting to call the shots, who don‘t need anybody else including us to help them call those shots.
Who is our ally over there?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think you know, I think all of them basically understand they‘re better off minus Saddam. They‘re all reasonably optimistic a year or two out. They don‘t like the foreigners in their country. They‘re fearful of us leaving. And as Wayne says, the hard work, you have to build Iraqi institutions, police, civil offense, that will actually defend the country. That will take us years, not weeks. 1 July is a big challenge to us.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve always heard that strategic retreat is the most difficult maneuver to pull off. And to some extent, over five years we‘re going to gradually leave that country. The question is, all those years, how do we provide security for the men and women we have in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We‘re coming right back with the experts, General McCaffrey, General Downey, and later, author Gail Shi (ph) talks to us about her talk with the 9/11 Commission. The wives—actually the wives of those killed on 9/11. We‘ll be back with that big story, human interest story. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with General Barry McCaffrey and General Wayne Downey. Gentlemen, let me ask you about the scenario for what‘s coming up this summer. General Downey, you first. We turn over sovereignty, rather, we return sovereignty to the Iraqi people early this summer. What does that mean in military terms?
DOWNING: Well, you know, basically they‘re going to have civil control. There‘s going to have to be some kind of arrangements made so that we can legally operate it. Some kind of a status of agreement. Very critical to this thing is this constitution that they set up. This is going to set up how these different factions are going to deal with this and how they‘re going to be able to keep this country together. We‘ll be involved in keeping—maintaining security and backing them up.
MATTHEWS: Who is in command of U.S. forces the day we turn over sovereignty in June?
MCCAFFREY: Well, clearly...
MATTHEWS: Are we on our own there? Are we there at the invitation of that new government?
MCCAFFREY: Well, Chris, it seem the feedback is coming out of Baghdad right now, the coalition authority will retain a considerable amount of independent authority. You can only hope that‘s the case. The notion that we would be there at their sufferance, we would have to ask permission to move around the country or if we turned over all the detainees to them, would be akin to 1 July, 1946 telling a new German government, good luck with the Nazis, we‘ll be in our training bases. So we need to have scrutiny of that document. The diplomatic political mission Congress needs to look at to ensure our soldiers do have adequate authority to achieve our objectives.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you again, General Downey, I‘ve been trying to find the precedent for this. You know, whenever there‘s trouble in West Africa, French-speaking West Africa, no matter what the politics of the country is, they seem to like to call the French army in as a peacekeeping, sort of a neutral referee to come in and keep things under control and keep the government in power. Is that the paradigm? Is that what we are? Sort of a European power, a western power coming into an eastern country, a Middle Eastern country here, to sort of keep things under control without taking sides politically.
DOWNING: Well, no, Chris. I don‘t think that is a good example. I think generally the French are asked in. Are certain that they come in, they say that they were asked. I think we‘re going to have a relationship with this new government that is going to allow us to do certain things. I know one of the thing that they‘re working out is the command and control of the Iraqi security forces. The No. 1 being the United States army. And the way I see that being set up, the way they‘re trying to set it up is they‘ll have this under the overall coalition commander, General Sanchez right now, perhaps General Sanchez promoted in the post-1 July time period. We‘ll there be at the request of the Iraqi government. If that request would go away, then I think we would have some very interesting situations to deal with.
MATTHEWS: Suppose the same thing happens that happened yesterday. The horror in Fallujah. And the new head of the civilian government, the new sovereign government of Iraq says stay out of there a couple weeks. We think it is too hot to go in there. And our leaders—our military guys say no way in hell are we not going to do some payback. Who would make that call, General McCaffrey?
MCCAFFREY: We don‘t know yet. There‘s no determination. Right now, I think Ambassador Bremer is trying to get some notion of U.N. authority to bypass this new interim government. These are fundamental questions. Hopefully, the coalition authorities will retain independent authority and legitimacy for action and not be fundamentally dependent upon a government that doesn‘t yet exist.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like it is really fundamentally in question right now. Is that right, General McCaffrey? We don‘t know what the new dispensation will be this summer in Iraq.
MCCAFFREY: I think we go beyond that. We‘re reasonably sure there won‘t be political consensus among 27 million people and an integrated coherent government in place on 1 July. There won‘t a ministry of the interior and national command of the police, the civil defense corps, et cetera.
MATTHEWS: Is that your view, General Downey?
DOWNING: Chris, listen. One of the reasons we‘re having this problem is because we‘re turning this country over at a time when the security situation is not resolved. When you go back into our history, when you go back in to The Philippines at the turn of the last century. When you go back into the examples Barry cited. Japan and Germany after World War II. We had a military government that ran those countries until the situation was at a point where we could turn it over to civil control. This time probably because this is an election year, we‘re in a rush to stand up this civil government.
So we‘re being forced to do things that, Chris, were we to follow our historical precedent and perhaps do what we ought to do, we would establish a security situation that was adequate before we turned this over. That to me is our dilemma.
MATTHEWS: You both made it very clear. Thank you very much for being with us on HARDBALL. Coming up, author Gail Sheehy will be here to talk about the 9/11 hearings and what they mean for the families of the victims. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Journalist and author Gail Sheehy has chronicled the families of 9/11 from day 1. Last week, Sheehy covered the 9/11 commission hearings and the reaction of the families who were in attendance.
What is their feeling? Are the people who lost loved ones at 9/11 like the guys, the families of guys who were lost in Vietnam? They just can‘t get over it? What is it?
GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Well, they can‘t...
MATTHEWS: I‘m not being completely unsympathetic, but sometimes people try to become crusaders because they can‘t deal with reality. What is it here?
SHEEHY: Chris, they know reality. I‘ve been following them since they got through the debilitating anguish and anger and they decided to channel it in a direction that was really positive, which is let‘s get to the truth. Because, until we get to the truth of what happened and why we weren‘t prepared to protect the American people on September 11, we can‘t fix it. And their children aren‘t safe. And they know we‘re no safer today than we were...
MATTHEWS: How do they know there‘s a there there? A truth? You can simply face fact that the president, the vice president, the people around him were still in a World War II, World War III mentality. They were still fighting the Ruskies or the Iraqis or whatever. They weren‘t up to fighting, mentally focused, on fighting al Qaeda. But once you get that into your head, then what do we do with that?
SHEEHY: Well, for instance, why weren‘t we able to get fighter jets up there in time to intercept those planes? They know that story from—because they know about what happened in the first plane. The American Airlines Flight 11. They know that the pilot was pushing the press to talk button and letting the flight controllers hear that Middle Eastern men were talking about having more planes. They know where that chain led.
Half an hour into that first attack, the American airlines, the flight controllers, NORAD, Secret Service, presumably Condoleezza Rice, all knew that there were 3 terrorist planes in the air being violently diverted. Why didn‘t we do anything? Because NORAD said when they testified, before a commission that these four moms really stimulated, that their planes were faced to the Soviet Union. They‘re still fighting the Cold War.
And these moms think, we‘re still fighting the last war. We‘re fighting the Gulf War. Meanwhile, al Qaeda is reconstituting in Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: Well, that is something that does come through the hearings. But what is their general reaction to watching the hearings? People like Richard Clarke, we had him on last night for an hour. When they testified, when he testified, what do they think of him?
SHEEHY: Well, Richard Clarke was a revelation. He was the only male or female in an official capacity who had the humility to say we failed you. They‘ve been waiting to hear that for two years from just one person. And so of course they‘re going to listen to him with an open mind.
And you know, they‘ve not only been attacked by the Bush administration, because they complained about exploiting images from the Trade Center for political purposes. And they were said to be scripted by the Kerry campaign. These were two Republicans, one independent. And one apolitical Democrat, before they‘ve been through this.
MATTHEWS: Who criticized them from the Bush administration?
SHEEHY: Tony Blankley on a Sunday‘s show saying they were scripted.
He‘s a former Gingrich guy.
And then that go into the press.
MATTHEWS: They consider that an attack by President Bush if Tony Blankley says something?
SHEEHY: Well, there were others from the administration voices that got into the media that made that charge.
MATTHEWS: I guess I‘ve never heard anybody in the Bush White House criticize one of these widows.
SHEEHY: Well, they didn‘t until then. When they really got into their political cross hairs, then they criticized them. They are unassailable. They are not like Vietnam widows at all, they‘re young. They‘re vibrant, they have seven children. They‘ve given up two years of their lives to watching their children grow and they haven‘t been able...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Kristen Brightwise (ph). She‘s been on this show, she‘s a very impressive person, obviously, but she came on and she said I wonder if there will ever be enough here though.
Condi Rice will testify. I heard her say the other day, we‘ll want to hear from other people in the administration. The administration made clear the other day that nobody is going to talk besides Condi. And the president is not—lots of string. The president is only going to testify if he can be accompanied by the vice president in the same room. What will they make of that?
SHEEHY: So he has his political grandfather with him.
They don‘t like it.
MATTHEWS: Why won‘t they like the president and V.P. showing up together?
SHEEHY: Well, what they would like is that the president testifies under oath in public. They would like. That they would like him to account for his actions on that day. They watched—I watched them while they watched on the White House video what the president did that day. Not only did he say that he walked into a school and seen a plane.
MATTHEWS: Does this group who are very activist. And they‘re critical of the president. Then there‘s this other group that signed all these letters the other day. They signed this letter, a whole bunch of them. So, is this a battle of the widows and the loved ones come election day? Are we going to have some on one side, saying Kerry is right, Bush is wrong, and a bunch of others saying they‘re wrong, we‘re right.
SHEEHY: Well, they‘re not saying Kerry and Bush. They‘re not political. They‘re saying, let‘s get to the truth, and let‘s don‘t use 9/11 for political purposes. Let‘s use to it make the country safer.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a good cause, that one. Thank you very much. That‘s all we have. Join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests include Al Franken from the new liberal radio network, Air America. Right now it‘s time for the COUNTDOWN with Keith.
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