Guests: Robert Baer, Janis Karpinski, John Fund, Steve McMahon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, Attorney General John Ashcroft warns of credible intelligence from multiple sources that terrorists are determined to attack the United States this summer.
Plus in his speech today, Al Gore demands the resignations of top Bush administration officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately as the chief architect of this plan. Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, the intelligence chief Stephen Cambone, all ought to resign immediately. Condoleezza Rice ought to resign immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And exclusive new photos of abusive of prisoners by the U.S. troops in Iraq.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
NBC News has obtained new photos that depict an interrogation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski has the report.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A series of new photos obtained exclusively by NBC News reveals what sources say is an actual interrogation in progress at Abu Ghraib prison. And the use of aggressive interrogation tactics against prisoners.
The photos show three naked Iraqi prisoners clumped together on the floor. In one photo, a man identified as a civilian interpreter sits with his back to the camera.
Another shows a soldier identified as a military intelligence officer standing over the prisoners, after apparently throwing an object at them which in the picture is suspended off the floor.
A third photo shows a soldier with his knee pressing down on the neck of one prisoner while apparently questioning another.
Unlike the abuses seen in previous photos, which military officials claim were the lawful, unsupervised actions of a few, the abuses seen here appear to be part of the interrogation routine at Abu Ghraib.
The new photos appeared as Congress and the Pentagon are locked in a new battle over interrogation. The Pentagon promised asked delivered to Congress a secret report on the scandal by General Antonio Taguba.
But both Democrats and Republicans found some 2,000 pages were missing. The Pentagon spokesman today characterized the missing documents as insignificant.
LARRY DIRITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: In other words, it wasn‘t unique to the investigation. It was some organic document that‘s available otherwise.
MIKLASZEWSKI: But congressional sources say the missing documents include a written report from General Geoffrey Miller, which apparently lays out aggressive interrogation tactics for Abu Ghraib. And a report to Secretary Rumsfeld, which spells out rules of engagements for interrogations. Information considered vital to the investigation into prisoner abuse.
(on camera) Tonight the Pentagon sent Congress a letter promising the complete certified copy of the report and calls any omissions an honest mistake. But congressional critics say it raises new questions about Pentagon credibility.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk to General Janis Karpinski, who was the commander of the prisons in Iraq in a moment.
But first, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller listed events this summer that could become terrorist targets and released photos of seven suspected operatives, wanted by the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We ask our fellow citizens to be on the lookout for individual and in specific, for each of these seven individuals that are associated with al Qaeda. They all are sought in connection with the possible terrorists threats in the United States. They all pose a clear and present danger to America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Robert Baer knows all about how al Qaeda terrorizes people around the world. He‘s a former CIA operative and author of the book, “Sleeping with the Devil.”
Speaking of the devil, why do you think this announcement is being made today? What clues do we have that trouble is coming?
ROBERT BAER, AUTHOR, “SLEEPING WITH THE DEVIL”: I think the chatter is up again. I think it‘s clear there‘s a recruiting drive in Iraq and Saudi Arabia to send people here to attack us, revenge for the Iraqi war and invasion of Afghanistan. There‘s all sorts of reasons. There‘s people on the move.
MATTHEWSL: Let me ask you about the imminent threat. He said clear and present danger, the attorney general. He‘s a very serious man, the attorney general. I don‘t think he‘s a politician, pure and simple.
What—You say chatter level. Does that mean that there‘s a lot more recruitment going on or they‘re planning an attack?
BAER: Well, the problem is when they get on a phone, for instance, they talk in code. You can generally know what they mean, but you don‘t know the specific target of who was involved, because they use aliases.
MATTHEWS: Like the balloon is going up, that kind of talk?
BAER: The balloon is going up. But you don‘t know what that means.
You just know that everybody is expecting something. But it‘s getting the details that‘s so hard.
MATTHEWS: You know, we‘re all talking about planning convention coverage. Without giving away—I‘m not going to suggest any targets, but we all know what they are, New York and Boston. Are they great targets?
BAER: I wouldn‘t be walking around New York City during the convention. I wouldn‘t be walking around Washington, D.C., on May Day. I mean, your chances of being hit unintentionally are higher.
MATTHEWS: You mean Memorial Day.
BAER: Memorial Day. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is that the case? Why—Well, they‘re going where a lot of people have assembled, where they can get the most publicity, obviously. Is that it?
BAER: The most publicity, the most number of people killed, a highly symbolic target like Washington, D.C., or New York. They want to go for the symbolism.
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense that it will be—it would be a large attack? You know, we‘ve noticed going back all the way, you know, to the bombing of the Cole and certainly the embassies in Africa, it always seems to escalate. Do you think they‘ll try for something even bigger than 9/11?
BAER: I think they will. They‘re getting more sophisticated.
Remember, they‘re getting combat experience in Iraq right now.
They‘re separating the wheat from the chaff there. People are used to making explosives. They‘re getting better at it. They‘re getting better at their targeting there. And you can expect one day, these people are going to come our way.
You can see it on web sites, where the bin Laden people are saying, go fight in Iraq and then prepare to go another targets on western Europe and the United States.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk tactics. Why is the attorney general and Mueller, the FBI director, putting out the names now? We‘ve a couple names. We‘ve got a couple of names now—Adnan El Shukrijuma. And we‘ve got this woman, Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani woman who has a degree from MIT.
What—what‘s the gain of putting these names out? Is it like the old, put the faces up in the post office, the most wanted list? Is that what it‘s about? A John Walsh kind of thing?
BAER: We need to help the police, local police. They are the guys to be on the lookout. They‘re the first responders, potential terrorist attack. We need their help.
Same way with the European police. They depend on the officers on patrol to find these people.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about politics. Clearly, we saw in the Spanish elections not long ago, several weeks back. The government, at least, the moderate government that was running and governing Spain, supported the war effort. They were part of the coalition.
The al Qaeda people blew up the train. Next thing we know, the people of Spain voted for a government that didn‘t support the war. Do you think that the al Qaeda crowd thinks that we‘re that mechanical, that we‘d respond that way?
BAER: We‘re not mechanical. But they‘re looking at public opinion polls, in Spain. They‘re looking at—Italy is firmly against the war, the Italian people. And the British are firmly against the war. Those would be two likely targets.
MATTHEWS: If I were a G.I. Joe, and I mean that positively. We have a John Wayne quality, which is if you really do come at us, we really do unite. And in a way it would, to me, it would kill John Kerry to have a major attack right on the eve of the election, wouldn‘t it?
BAER: He‘s running neck in neck right now. If it happened in the United States, I think George Bush could get reelected easily.
BAER: He could say, “I told you so.”
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t we announce that right now? If you want to—I hate to be sarcastic. Maybe that was what they want.
Perhaps if they really do love this war in Iraq, and I think the killers do love it because it gives them a battle cry, a recruiting poster. They love the fact that we went to Iraq. They love that that we‘ve got George Bush as president. He is immensely unpopular around the world for having gone to Iraq and because of his manner.
Do you think they‘d want him back in?
BAER: They could, because their ultimate goal is to bring down these regimes in the Gulf that they don‘t consider particularly Islamic. Saudi Arabia, for instance.
BAER: Or Bahrain and Qatar.
MATTHEWS: And how about Bush as president, as a big friend of those countries? How does that help?
BAER: In spite that, in spite of our interests in keeping those governments in power, we‘re going to have to react to terrorism attacks.
And they believe that if they can set up some sort of gigantic Islamic polity in the Middle East, the old cal (ph) fate, that they can eventually drive colonialism out of the Middle East. It‘s a fantastic idea. But they believe in this. They believe they‘ve got to bring these regime down.
MATTHEWS: I get that. But I want to know how sophisticated they are.
Do they understand how Americans react to attack?
BAER: It‘s not a question of being sophisticated. They‘re believers. And they think they‘re in a holy war. And they‘re ready to sacrifice themselves. And they‘re ready to go to the apocalypse.
MATTHEWS: And they think that apocalypse will bring down Bush or keep him in there so they can run against him?
BAER: They think he‘s useful for four or five more years until the apocalypse. And then they‘ll be ready to...
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s so interesting. Because if you read back on the fight between Kennedy and Nixon, the Soviets would have much preferred Kennedy in there, because Nixon was such an amazing Cold Warrior.
But they—and the guys like Khrushchev would say, you know, “I wasn‘t going to show my hand that I liked you, Kennedy, because if I‘d shown any like for you”—So what they did is they kept the Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot prisoner right through the elections, thinking it would hurt Nixon and help Kennedy. But then they never publicly said they were for Kennedy, of course.
Do you think there was a level of calculation in our elections, in messing around with us?
BAER: Absolutely. The Iranians did this with Carter.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they sure did.
BAER: They held the hostages right until the end in order to get rid of Carter. It‘s very personal in some cases. Or sometimes it‘s more calculated.
But at the end of the day, I think they‘re essentially irrational, these people. And I think it‘s likely that they‘re going to try to hit the United States before the elections.
MATTHEWS: Knowing, as you do, the mind of the Islamists, that‘s the fanatical person, do you think that they needed this thing or the prisons over there, the mistreatment of prisoners, the sexual perversion? Did that convince them that we were the devil, or is that simply a handy tool, a handy recruiting method?
BAER: It‘s a great recruiting method. Because they can take those pictures and say, look, we told you so.
BAER: This is a disaster, what happened in that prison, an absolute disaster.
BAER: The fact that it happened in Abu Ghraib, because that was the symbol of Saddam‘s tyranny, Abu Ghraib. Millions of people went through that prison at one time or another. Hundreds of thousands were tortured. We have no idea how many.
MATTHEWS: Why did we—and I‘ve been talking about this with so many people for the last couple weeks. Why did we do the one thing in the prison which is guaranteed to arouse enormous Islamic hostility toward us for a thousand years? Humiliating them sexually. Why did we do that, knowing it would cause this, you know, centuries of hatred against us?
BAER: It was a climate...
MATTHEWS: It‘s almost like raping all their women.
BAER: It was climate inside the government. Our intelligence is bad.
We‘ve got to do better. We‘ve got to find out who the resistance is.
We‘ve got to identify the al Qaeda people. We don‘t have a lot of time.
Go get it done. I don‘t care how you do it.
I don‘t think anybody envisioned it—Rumsfeld or the president—envisioned any of this happening. But there was no supervision.
MATTHEWS: Well, didn‘t they assume a blow back? This was going to be
· people—Everybody who was in that prison getting messed up sexually, humiliated, has a brother who will hate, a mother, a father who will really hate us.
BAER: This is done long-term. We won‘t see—we won‘t get over this in our lifetimes. You and I won‘t.
MATTHEWS: I think so. Well, you know the cultural stuff.
Anyway, thank you, Bob Baer, author of the book, “Sleeping with the Devil.” What a great name. What a great—We all want to know the answer to this kind of question. What‘s going on?
Anyway, coming up, the general who ran Iraq‘s prisons. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski talks about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. She was on top of the whole prison system.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, did the abuse of prisoners in Iraq go beyond Abu Ghraib? Apparently. General Janis Karpinski, who oversaw Iraq‘s prisons, will be here when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
According to “The New York Times,” an Army summary says that abuse of Iraqi prisoners was widespread and involved more prisons and military units than previously known.
Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was in command of the Iraqi prison system at the time of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Early this week, the Army suspended her from duty.
General, why were you suspended?
BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, FORMER HEAD OF IRAQ PRISONS: I don‘t know all of the reasons for it. I was not notified by official channels. I found out from a media source and confirmed it through several phone calls. But I have nothing in writing yet. And I do not know the basis for it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask about General Miller, General Geoffrey Miller. He denies telling Colonel Pappas, the head of M.I. that was overseeing and working with your prison system, that he ever suggested or urged the use of dogs to try to get the truth out of detainees. Is that the truth?
KARPINSKI: I don‘t know, because General Miller never shared that—those instructions with me. And...
MATTHEWS: How about the Colonel Pappas? Did he ever blame it on the higher-ups? The dogs were their idea?
KARPINSKI: He—He never mentioned anything about the use of the dogs. But he was responsible for assigning them out there at the prison. They did get assigned to Abu Ghraib just after General Miller‘s visit.
MATTHEWS: When you first saw the dogs, or saw them and heard them barking, why did you think they were in your prison system?
KARPINSKI: Well, I was told they were there to—for the entry control points. We had a lot of vehicular traffic and contractors coming on to Abu Ghraib to do work at that time. And they were using them to—mostly for patrol and bomb dogs. Not anywhere near the prisoners.
MATTHEWS: You never saw a dog near a prisoner?
KARPINSKI: I saw them around the compound. It‘s a general population compound. But a safe distance outside of the...
MATTHEWS: Never heard that they were being used to interrogate, to intimidate?
KARPINSKI: No. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: How do enlisted people in the Army, people who are involved in this, or getting hit by the charges, who are being arraigned last week and they‘re going to face serious charges, how do people like that get a hold of dog collars and leashes? When—Are they issued to them?
KARPINSKI: No. Absolutely not. Not to my knowledge.
MATTHEWS: How did they get them? You see them in the pictures.
KARPINSKI: Yes, I did. And somebody had to have handed them to—that equipment to those soldiers. They did not, certainly didn‘t deploy with it. And there was nowhere to buy that in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever hear of military people who were in uniform and on duty being supplied with equipment to do their job the superior officers were unfamiliar with?
KARPINSKI: Well, no. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: You were unfamiliar with the fact they were given leashes and collars?
KARPINSKI: Well, because they were working a separate mission. And that cellblock from late September, Cellblock 1a was under the control of the M.I. brigade and from October, Cellblock 1b. They asked for Cellblock 1b to be relinquished to their control, and it was.
MATTHEWS: So you weren‘t at the top of the chain of command there?
You were out of the chain?
KARPINSKI: I was. Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: So who was it at the top of the chain who gave these guys and these women, people like Lynndie England, the leash and the dog collar she used in that picture? Who gave it to her?
KARPINSKI: Well, somebody that was running the interrogation operation. Because Cellblock 1a and 1b, the detainees were there for a reason. They were either in isolation, or they were being held individually from the general population compounds.
And whatever methods they were using—there‘s widely published opinions, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever get written orders or a written release that relieved you of command and gave that command over to the M.I., the military intelligence, in those—in those corridors?
KARPINSKI: Yes. An official order was published in November, relinquishing control of Abu Ghraib to the M.I. brigade command.
MATTHEWS: And who was the command leader? Who was in charge there?
Was it Pappas?
KARPINSKI: Yes, it was. Colonel Pappas, the M.I. brigade commander.
MATTHEWS: Did you know that Colonel Pappas was using dogs as part of his interrogation techniques?
KARPINSKI: No. I did not. I did not know...
MATTHEWS: Did you know that he issued your people this equipment, like leashes and collars and that sort of thing?
KARPINSKI: I did not.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever visit the prison and notice what they were doing with their time?
KARPINSKI: Well, sure. I was out at Abu Ghraib and then after...
MATTHEWS: Did they hide everything when you were there?
KARPINSKI: Well, the cellblocks 1a and 1b were pretty much, at that time, the windows, the outside windows were covered up, paneled. The inside cell doors that would access the cellblock hallways, they were paneled. You couldn‘t see.
So there was ample time any time you announced somebody was coming into that cellblock. Certainly, if they had anything to put away, they would have put it away.
MATTHEWS: So when Sanchez, General Sanchez apparently visited that area for three times, three times in the summer, you‘re saying every time he showed up, people hid the dog collars, the leashes and the other equipment to torture the prisoners with?
KARPINSKI: I don‘t know what they hid or if they hid.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think Sanchez saw them in action?
KARPINSKI: I don‘t know. I can‘t say.
MATTHEWS: Well, were you there when he was there?
KARPINSKI: No. I was not. Because the visits were only—I only became aware of those three particular visits because somebody from the M.P. battalion said, “Just want you to know that the C.G. is out here, but he‘s visiting the M.I. brigade.”
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think the top man, top person, I should say, in the Army in Iraq would visit one prison three times in one month? If it wasn‘t a spot where there‘s a lot of serious interrogation going on and a source of major intelligence needed to fight the IED‘s and to fight the RPG‘s and all the other firepower coming at our forces over there in Iraq?
KARPINSKI: Well, I do know that there was a lot of attention being directed to the number of security detainees that were being held at Abu Ghraib. And...
MATTHEWS: So the mission there wasn‘t simply detention. It was interrogation. In fact, that became, that morphed into the main mission of your people. In other words, your people‘s main role began as detention and it became support for interrogation.
MATTHEWS: Did you have any training in how to use dog collars and dogs? Were they simply dragooned into service by the M.I.?
KARPINSKI: There is no training in the military police field for that kind of use of that kind of equipment or...
MATTHEWS: So Pappas shows up with equipment and says, “Here‘s your dog collars. Here‘s your leashes. I want you to go to work intimidating prisoners.”
KARPINSKI: I—I don‘t think it could be said that succinctly. I think that there must have been instructions provided, or it appears that there was instructions provided, techniques that were perhaps used in other locations. And—and they implemented those techniques at Abu Ghraib.
MATTHEWS: Did anyone ever come to you, General, and say to you, “Look, I joined the reserves to serve my country and to defend it. I did not join as a torturer and an interrogator. This isn‘t the reason I‘m here. I don‘t like using dogs to scare the hell out of people. I don‘t like using dog collars on human beings. I don‘t like dragging people around naked. I don‘t like humiliating people by putting feces on them”?
Did anybody ever come to you and say, “This isn‘t why I joined and came to work for Uncle Sam”?
KARPINSKI: No. They did not. And...
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t you think that was a bad—a bad statement about yourself that they felt they could not come to you and say, “Jesus, save us from this hell that somebody is putting me in? This is not why I‘m not here”?
KARPINSKI: Yes. Absolutely. But if somebody gave them instructions, specifically, to tell them and told them, this was very sensitive information and it was not to be discussed outside of the cellblock when they were being asked to do these particular things.
MATTHEWS: Very interesting. So they were being intimidated into a kind of—against you. They couldn‘t tell their higher-ups they were in the line of command. They weren‘t even telling you, because they were intimidated not talk about it.
KARPINSKI: It seems believable to me. Their colleagues in the same unit didn‘t have any idea that some of these things were going on.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get back and talk to you, General. It‘s great to have you on. Thank you, General Janis Karpinski.
And later former Vice President Al Gore calls the Bush administration incompetent. He calls them—actually calls them worse than that. He says the most dishonest administration since Nixon. And he calls on Rumsfeld and five others in the administration, the higher ups, to all resign.
Plus, a new Zogby poll shows if the election were held today, John Kerry would win an Electoral College landslide.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with General Janis Karpinski.
Just to recap that you had the overall responsibility over the prisons the United States maintains for detention purposes in Iraq. However, several units under your control were passed over officially and by orders over to the military intelligence for intensive interrogation of many of those detainee. And that that was basically taken from your command. Is that right?
KARPINSKI: That‘s correct. They were still assigned—excuse me—they were still assigned to one of my subordinate M.P. companies but working for the interrogation.
MATTHEWS: They were like secunda (ph), as the British say.
MATTHEWS: From another ministry.
Let me ask you about this whole—I was in the Peace Corps. I
learned all these things in Africa. Let me ask you about this thing with -
· You say that they were basically under a kind of a code of omerte (ph).
Not to make it too mafia sounding.
But these enlisted people who were serving the M.I. were basically doing some work—tough interrogation tactics, softening up, whatever the term was -- outside your purview and outside your knowledge. In fact purposely outside the knowledge of their—of their colleagues in other units.
KARPINSKI: I believe that. I mean, I—the M.P. company where these soldiers were assigned had not been assigned to Abu Ghraib that long. And for them, for this investigation or the system to suggest that they just decided one day they were all going to get together and obtain this equipment and do these terrible things to these prisoners, it‘s just unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: So the initial story we got in this country, we call it the spin, as you know, from politics, was that these were just a bunch of hotdogs sending back postcards or souvenirs to their friends back in the hills of western Maryland. It was the whole anti-hick number that was being pushed by somebody.
And then it turns out that this was part of an overall approach to try to get more intel out these prisoners, to use the detainees for more intelligence because we‘re under a stressful situation.
So your basic position is that this was systemic?
KARPINSKI: I—Well, in this particular location, in this interrogation operations, that‘s absolutely what I believe.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going to come right back and talk with General Janis Karpinski.
And later Al Gore says that Donald Rumsfeld and five other members of the Bush administration should resign immediately. John Fund and Steve McMahon will be here to talk about that one.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal with General Janis Karpinski, who was in command of Baghdad‘s Abu Ghraib prison. Plus, Al Gore calls the Bush administration incompetent. He calls for Donald Rumsfeld and five others to resign immediately.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with General Janis Karpinski.
General, this week, you were put on suspension. And General Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, was told he‘s leaving his post. Do you think the military at the highest level is spinning this to make it look like you two are the bad guys?
KARPINSKI: Well, it certainly appears that way.
When I left the theater, the investigation applying to me was completed and the decisions were made on the appropriate action to take. So these latest developments and this suspension are just surprising.
MATTHEWS: And you never were notified in any formal way what the reason for the suspension was?
KARPINSKI: No, not at all, still not.
MATTHEWS: Do you consider that a betrayal?
KARPINSKI: I consider it very extraordinary that they‘re treating an individual this way and not giving me any information for something that could certainly have a tremendous impact on my career.
Let me ask you about Sanchez, watching that from a little bit of distance. You served under this guy. I never heard anything against him. They announced that they‘re getting rid of him the same day they‘re saying they‘re tearing down Abu Ghraib prison. Well, I‘m a little bit experienced in P.R. And that‘s P.R.
They‘re basically saying, we‘re not only getting rid of Abu Ghraib prison at the pleasure of the new government we‘re setting up over there, but we‘re also dumping Sanchez, all the same day. Is that a coincidence?
KARPINSKI: I don‘t know. It is certainly unusual timing, I think.
MATTHEWS: Well, if I were him, I would think they burned me a little.
Let me ask you about the Samarra prison. You said that you knew nothing about dogs being used for intimidation of prisoners, simply for guard duty. And we can understand that. And you made it clear that when Abu Ghraib was used basically as a softening-up spot for detainees for the purpose of MIA, it was put under MIA.
Let‘s talk about another facility that came into the news today, Samarra. What do you know about that and the use of asphyxiation techniques to get the truth out of detainees.
KARPINSKI: I‘m not familiar with the location at all. That‘s, really, in the articles, that was the first time I heard even a reference to that particular prison. It was not one under my control.
MATTHEWS: Oh, it wasn‘t?
KARPINSKI: No, it was not.
MATTHEWS: I thought you had plenary control over everything over there.
KARPINSKI: I had 16 prison facilities under my control. And there was interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. I know you‘re still in uniform, but you are on suspension. Maybe that give you some freedom. What do you think of this war?
KARPINSKI: What do I think about the war in Iraq?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Is it going to achieve more friends in the world or more enemies? Is it going to reduce terrorism or increase it? Is it going to make America safer or more exposed?
KARPINSKI: I think, in the long term, yes, it makes America much safer, because I feel very strongly if we were not doing this now in Iraq, we would be doing this—we would be fighting this battle on American soil in several years. That‘s my opinion.
MATTHEWS: Is it your opinion that we are winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?
KARPINSKI: I know that we were while we were there. We did an awful lot of good work. We restored prisons. We spoke to the local people in every one of our locations. They shared insight with us. They told us what they thought about people in the rural areas and why they were markedly different than people in Baghdad.
We asked questions because we wanted to know and we wanted to do at this time right way. We took their suggestions. We did what we could to implement the things that they recommended to us. We were making tremendous progress.
MATTHEWS: Who are the enemy over there, General? When you were over there and you‘re walking around yourself, you‘re thinking about who might hit you, you‘re thinking about your men, your people, who do you think is our greatest danger over there in the field right now?
Is it the outsiders who have come in, the al Qaeda types who have seen this as opportunity, a magnet for troublemaking? Is it the Islamic people, a very religious people who are drawn to things like al Qaeda? Or is it the basic old Baathist Party remnants, the resistance that didn‘t like what we did when we went in there?
KARPINSKI: I believe that—and, again, this is my opinion, because I‘m not an intel analyst.
But I believe that there were softenings of the borders and there were opportunities for penetration into Iraq. And I think some of the foreign fighters took advantage of those opportunities and probably some of the al Qaeda operatives and came across the border and then they could generate a lot of attention, do some recruiting very actively, found vulnerabilities throughout the theater.
I do not believe that this is an effort of—on the Iraqi people, from the Iraqi people. I think that they are very interested in achieving freedom and democracy and this road ahead. And they recognize—collectively the population recognized the efforts of the coalition forces.
MATTHEWS: Is there anything you could have—do you think this Iraqi prison thing has enough smell to hurt us for years to come over there?
KARPINSKI: I think, as the details emerge, operating an interrogation facility at a notorious prison facility like Abu Ghraib was a big mistake. It was not my decision. But I think we can get over this if it is handled quickly, efficiently, and appropriately.
MATTHEWS: How many people are to blame?
MATTHEWS: Those seven underlings down there, the enlisted people from the reserves who have been arraigned, half of them have been arraigned by now. The rest probably will. Do you think—Sivits has already been charged and convicted.
What about the higher-ups? What about the majors and captains who turned over these prisoners to the M.I. people, the people on the ground who were watching all this? It seems to me that a lot of commissioned officers should be watching this and not just a bunch of enlisted people.
KARPINSKI: Well, as I said, I think, as the details emerge, likely personalities will certainly emerge, people that feel responsible now for stepping up to the plate and giving the information.
There‘s still obviously actions ongoing with those seven soldiers.
MATTHEWS: Is Colonel Pappas a good guy or a bad guy in this?
KARPINSKI: Colonel Pappas?
KARPINSKI: He was under tremendous pressure from his highers to get....
MATTHEWS: From Geoffrey—from Geoffrey Miller.
KARPINSKI: Well, General Miller was not his higher. But he certainly...
MATTHEWS: How about Douglas Feith and Cambone up at the Defense Department? Were they pressuring these guys for intel?
KARPINSKI: People were pressuring the intel community on the ground in Iraq to give them more.
MATTHEWS: Civilians at the Pentagon or just uniformed people?
KARPINSKI: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: What do you think? What was the scuttlebutt, that the pressure was coming from above the flag rank, above the generals, it was coming from the civilians who really wanted to win this war or what?
KARPINSKI: Well, the only time that I asked the question of the M.I.
Brigade commander, he said up.
MATTHEWS: And you felt it meant Pentagon.
KARPINSKI: Well, I felt that it meant people above him, yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: It meant civilians? Civilians?
KARPINSKI: I guess there is a possibility of anybody being involved in this.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I appreciate that. Good luck.
KARPINSKI: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: Good luck, Janis. Thank you very much for being so nice to come on the show, General Janis Karpinski.
Coming up, in a fiery speech today, Al Gore said that President Bush should apologize for betraying the nation‘s trust in the war on Iraq and called for Donald Rumsfeld and other top administration officials, including the whole gang at the Pentagon, to quit.
We‘ll talk about that and the latest in the battle for the White House in just a moment.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, a new Zogby poll shows John Kerry would win the presidency if the election were held today. And Al Gore‘s tongue-lashing of the Bush administration, that, too, coming up when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Less than six months before the presidential election and the latest Zogby poll is sending shockwaves through the Bush and Kerry campaigns. The poll shows that Kerry would win a lopsided victory in the Electoral College—that‘s Kerry would win—if the election were held today.
And today, it wasn‘t Kerry piling on because of Iraq, but rather the Democratic nominee from the last election.
HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster has the report.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an impassioned Al Gore who spoke out on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal and put the blame squarely on the Bush administration.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace? How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein‘s torture prison?
SHUSTER: Gore called the president incompetent and said the war in Iraq has made America less safe.
GORE: Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately as the chief architect of this plan. Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, the intelligence chief, Stephen Cambone, all ought to resign immediately. Our nation is at risk every single day Rumsfeld remain as secretary of defense.
SHUSTER: While Gore‘s tone, according to some Democrats, may have been over the top, Iraq has become a key issue in election battleground states. And the latest Zogby poll indicates President Bush is in trouble. Using the election map from four years ago, the poll surveyed the 16 states that were close in 2000 and are considered in play now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And with your vote, Ohio will be Bush country once again and I will be the president of the United States.
SHUSTER: In Ohio, for example, an historic must-win for any Republican seeking the White House, the poll found President Bush losing to John Kerry 49-45. Kerry has also made inroads in other Bush 2000 states, including New Hampshire, where he leads the president by 10 points, and Nevada and Missouri, where Kerry‘s lead is 3.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have wonderful, fond memories of Saint Louis always.
BUSH: It‘s great to be back in the great state of Florida again.
SHUSTER: In Florida, which gave President Bush the last election, he and Kerry are in a statistical tie. But Republican strategists say the biggest headaches are in those states the president almost won four years ago, but where the Zogby poll found John Kerry now cruising.
Kerry leads in Michigan and Minnesota by nine points, Pennsylvania by eight, Wisconsin by eight, Oregon by six, and New Mexico by 5. The only Democratic state where Bush appears to have a pickup is Iowa. And altogether, according to the Zogby poll, if the election were held today, John Kerry would win the Electoral College in a landslide, 320-218.
(on camera): Both the Kerry and Bush campaigns have dismissed the poll, saying it is too early to predict what will happen in November. But according to John Zogby, the only pollster who nailed the 2000 election, the low number of undecided voters is unprecedented.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist formerly with the Dean for president campaign. And John Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com.
Hi, John. Hi, Steve.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this opinion poll that shows an Electoral College landslide based upon obviously his advantages in the swing states, John. Do you believe it right now?
JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, if the poll were held today and the election were held today, George Bush might well lose.
But, remember, this is a poll with a plus or minus of up to 4.5 percentage points either way. So I don‘t think we want to read too much into individual state numbers. But Bush is in trouble and he‘s certainly gone down.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: John is right. Bush is in trouble. And right now, if the election were going to be held today, he would go down. And the margin of error is rather small.
FUND: No, no, the margin of error is large.
MCMAHON: I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you both the simple question.
MCMAHON: No, no, John. Four plus or minus isn‘t unusual at all.
And, listen, the Republicans can sit there and say it doesn‘t really mean anything. But what it means is, the president has spent $50, $60, $70 million trashing John Kerry and he‘s losing, John. And John Kerry‘s campaign really has just begun to fill in the gaps about who John Kerry is, his life story, which, by the way, when you compare it to the president‘s life story, well, I‘ll let you decide.
MATTHEWS: Do you think your ads are working in the swing states, the Kerry ads?
MCMAHON: Clearly, the Kerry ads are working in the swing states.
MATTHEWS: Do you belief that, John, that the Kerry ads are working for the first time, the bio ads?
FUND: Well, the Kerry ads are coming on top of all of the Bush ads, which I think expose some of John Kerry‘s weaknesses. And they certainly have filled in his biography.
I think his 60-second bio ads are pretty effective.
MATTHEWS: I do, too.
Let me ask you about this question of the swing states. Do you really believe, John—I hate to load it up like that—do you believe that this is going to be kind of close to election where those four or five states like Ohio really matter?
FUND: I think the debates are going to very important and also...
MATTHEWS: The debates. And the swing states?
FUND: And the condition of the economy, which is improving, and the condition in Iraq, which has been going down, but could go up again.
I think the debates in Iraq and the economy could lead to a blowout. I think, ultimately, this will not be a close election one way or the other.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I think, too.
MCMAHON: That‘s what I think.
MATTHEWS: Somebody is going to win.
MCMAHON: I think somebody is going to win.
The problem with the economy getting better—John keeps saying it and the president keeps saying it. But after what the president told us about Iraq and the war and the rationale for going in, I‘m not people would believe it even if it were true. Now, there is some evidence that it is true. And the question is whether it is going to improve enough fast enough and whether people are going to feel it in time for the election.
MATTHEWS: Why does he still win on every poll on the issue of terrorism? Every time you poll people on terrorism, Bush wins. Why?
MCMAHON: It is sort of the last card standing, if you think about it.
MCMAHON: He‘s getting killed on the economy. He‘s now getting killed on his great strength, what was his great strength until just a few months ago, the Iraq war. And terrorism is the last card standing. And if that one falls...
MATTHEWS: But he considers—he considers Iraq part of the war on terrorism.
MCMAHON: I know he does. And most people don‘t. And there‘s very little evidence that it is part of the war on terrorism. He‘ll keep saying it. And the question is whether people will buy it. It is the last card.
And if that falls
MATTHEWS: John, will they continue to buy or accept the fact that—the argument by the president that going to war in Iraq was essential to fighting the war on terrorism?
FUND: John Kerry‘s position in Iraq is not much different at all from George Bush. And he hasn‘t developed a coherent plan on terrorism that‘s different from George Bush. George Bush has had single victories on terrorism as well as disappointments in Iraq. John Kerry has to prove that he is better than George Bush on those subjects. He has not even begun to close the sale.
MATTHEWS: Who should you vote for, John, if you think the war in Iraq was a blunder? Who would be your candidate?
FUND: I think the real question should be
MATTHEWS: Well, can I ask mine first? Then you can tell them your real one.
MATTHEWS: If you believe the war was essentially, conceptually, strategically, ideologically a blunder, we shouldn‘t have gone into Iraq, who should you vote for?
FUND: I would ask myself who in the world will fix it, who will either learn from the mistakes I think have been made or will make things better? And that‘s why John Kerry has to prove to people that he has a better answer to Iraq, regardless of whether or not you think it was a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, why doesn‘t John Kerry simply say that it was a blunder?
FUND: Because he voted for it.
MATTHEWS: He voted to authorize it.
MCMAHON: Let me tell you the mistake that John Kerry made. He believed the president of the United States when the president presented the intelligence. He believed Colin Powell, when Colin Powell said that we know where the weapons...
MATTHEWS: So did “The New York Times,” by the way.
MCMAHON: So did “The New York Times,” so did most editorial boards.
MCMAHON: The fact of the matter is, the president is not going to recover from the Iraq situation unless the president can demonstrate to the American public that there‘s a plan. And it is not the same speech that he‘s been given six or eight or 10 times in the last four, five, six months, and probably wants to give again in the next four, five, six weeks.
He is going to have to come up with a plan. It‘s going to have to have an exit strategy, a path to get everybody out. And he so far is either unable or unwilling to articulate it.
MATTHEWS: Richard Nixon in 1968, gentlemen, won the election, a close one, but he beat Hubert Humphrey because he simply said, I don‘t believe we‘re getting the right leadership we need in this country. He kept it very vague. He never really said he would pull out of Vietnam. In fact, he was a hawk. But he won that battle because Humphrey looked like he was bogged down like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam.
FUND: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: John, can you win this election without coming out against war in Iraq because of the Iraq war?
FUND: I think the American people are going to insist on specifics, either specific facts which show that progress in Iraq is being made, or specific demonstrations from John Kerry that he knows what to do better and he has a more concrete plan. The American people aren‘t going to be satisfied with what they were in 1968.
MCMAHON: Do you remember Richard Nixon‘s secret plan to end the war?
FUND: Actually, that‘s a myth. He never said that.
MATTHEWS: He actually never promised a
MATTHEWS: I was there. No, but he was going to Vietnamize. Actually, what he was going to do is what he tried to do when he got in, which was cut a deal with the Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese. But they wouldn‘t cut a deal with him.
MCMAHON: But he didn‘t—but he didn‘t come one the kind of specifics that John is saying are going to be required here.
MATTHEWS: I know.
MCMAHON: You know who has to come up with those to survive is President Bush, not John Kerry.
FUND: John Kerry is the challenger. He has to come up with them.
MCMAHON: John, I know the president is a failure, so all he has to do is be a competent, realistic, plausible alternative.
MATTHEWS: OK. What about this personality problem, where people don‘t want to go to a barbecue with this guy? What‘s that about, this new poll? My way of asking it is, who do you want to be on an airplane next to for 10 or 15 hours? But this poll question by Zogby was, who do you want to be at a barbecue with? And everybody hands down says Bush. So do you overcome—and that was the Gore problem. Nobody really wanted to saddle up to Gore, but liked Bush.
MCMAHON: Well, these guys aren‘t running to be Chef Boyardee.
They‘re running to be president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: They are running to represent individual Americans, though.
MCMAHON: Here‘s the question. George Bush promised to restore the honor and dignity of the United States and the presidency.
John Kerry is going to I think make the same promise, to restore the honor and dignity of the United States around the world, the respect that we used to have from our allies and from the world community that we no longer have because we ran off into a war that we shouldn‘t have been in and there was no rationale for. The rationale that they offered was a lie.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to come back and talk about John Kerry and whether he‘ll accept the nomination of his party at the party convention or not.
Coming up, comments from the Bush campaign‘s top spokesman last night here on HARDBALL have the Kerry campaign demanding an apology from Terry Holt. We‘ll tell you why the Kerry campaign is crying foul when HARDBALL returns.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Last night on this show, HARDBALL, I had the following exchange with Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Terry Holt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: John Kerry went to Vietnam. He volunteered. Why didn‘t the president volunteer to go to Vietnam? He‘s for the war.
TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, the president flew
MATTHEWS: No, but why didn‘t he volunteer to go to Vietnam if he was for the war? Shouldn‘t people who support wars go and fight them?
HOLT: But, in fact, he was one of the—he served in the National Guard honorably for his country.
MATTHEWS: But why didn‘t he go and fight in the war? He believed in it.
HOLT: Well, everybody made a decision about how best they served. He served as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air Guard.
MATTHEWS: No, but if you believe in a war, shouldn‘t you fight it, rather than someone who doesn‘t believe in it, a draftee getting drafted in the war?
HOLT: But in John Kerry‘s case, he went to Vietnam. He took his own photo camera, by the way, so he could get some good pictures.
TAD DEVINE, SENIOR JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: While he was getting shot at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In response to Terry Holt‘s statement last night, the chairwoman of the Kerry for president campaign issued the following statement—“What Terry Holt said last night was an intentional effort to diminish John Kerry‘s military service. Not only was it wrong; it shows a fundamental disrespect for the service and sacrifice veterans of military combat duty have given our country. Mr. Holt crossed the line last night and he should apologize immediately.”
What do you think of that?
MCMAHON: Politics isn‘t bean bag. I think the mistake Terry made
probably was probably in drawing a comparison between his candidate‘s lack
of military service, or substandard
MATTHEWS: Well, I did that. I did that.
MCMAHON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: John Fund, is that calling a fake foul or what, the fact that he is mocking him for having pictures of himself? As Bob Dole has said, everybody is bringing a camera over to war now. Look at all the pictures we‘re getting from prison. But what do you make of this?
FUND: We‘ve learned two things. One is, you are a relentless interrogator.
And, two, what Terry Holt said was silly. I agree with the old John Kerry of 1992, who said, it is time to stop dividing this country over and over again on Vietnam and it is time to focus on other things. And I think both Bush‘s National Guard service and John Kerry‘s anti-war record after he came back from Vietnam have probably been hyped too much in this campaign.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the decision by John Kerry fresh today that he is in fact going to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party in Boston at the convention and not play the game of waiting an extra month to get more money from contributors.
FUND: Well, he made a good decision, because he was getting pounded by everybody, including Ted Kennedy, who didn‘t know about this possible delay in the nomination process. So I think John Kerry got out of a bad news story but it took him six days to do it.
MCMAHON: He probably made the right decision politically, but tactically, it‘s a real problem, because there is a five-week gap now between the time his campaign starts and he starts spending his money, the time the president does. And that will be a big advantage for the president. But given way the president is performing, it might not matter.
MATTHEWS: Do you think these surrogates like Senator Kennedy, who was just mentioned, Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts, and people like Al Gore, pounding away at the president now, do you think that helps Kerry or it helps the president?
MCMAHON: I think it helps Senator Kerry. The American public is pretty polarized to begin with. And one of the things that‘s going on now, it is a race to actually drive out your base vote and turned it out and affect it that way. You have got Republicans out there qualifying these ridiculous, stupid gay marriage amendments all over the country to drive out their base.
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s a story that hasn‘t been as big as we thought it was.
MATTHEWS: John Fund, thanks a lot for joining us.
MATTHEWS: We‘re out of time. I‘m sorry. John, did you want to say something really important?
MCMAHON: Go ahead, John.
FUND: Yes. Watch Al Gore‘s tape. This is not the base. This is crazy.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, John Fund, Steve McMahon, as always.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL tomorrow and two of the biggest names in politics, Bob Dole and Wesley Clark.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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