THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 5, 2013
Guests: Marc Ginsberg, Chris Van Hollen, Roger Cressey; Tracie Goodwin; Kath Bradacs
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The shocking video of Syrian rebels
executing the Syrian soldiers could change the terms of the debate in
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama is facing two distinct
challenges in Syria.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where we got
differences, we should be candid about them.
WAGNER: Vladimir Putin and the United States Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama arrives in Russia.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Right now, the president is abroad.
WAGNER: All eyes are on him and Vladimir Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the middle of the G-20 meeting, they don`t even
pretend that they have a good relationship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Syria has already come up.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: This is his number one focus.
OBAMA: Where we got differences, we should be candid about them.
JANSING: Pressing members of the international community to support a
military strike on Syria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re not the ones that are voting on Capitol
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s talk about the House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The numbers are not looking so good right now.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Members of Congress challenging the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a new day for foreign policy --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to review the evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- where we`re going to start to say something and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our actions would be one of attacking a sovereign
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no good guys to get behind here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A nation that didn`t attack us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can only envision an escalation of this current
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The overwhelming sentiment was against it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They see this through the prism of the last
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can he sway public opinion enough?
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: We tried everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country just doesn`t want a commitment.
STEWART: Even though we`re a super power, we haven`t figured out yet
we don`t actually have super power.
JANSING: What does the president do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bulk of the Congress still isn`t back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The longer they wait, the worse for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most unpopular institution in America.
WAGNER: The United States Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will decide the fate of a president`s power.
O`DONNELL: Day one of the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg in Russia
began with a handshake and ended with a dinner. At the center of it all
was the conflict in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And I also look forward to having an extensive conversation
about the situation of Syria, and I think our joint recognition that these
chemical weapons in Syria is not only a tragedy, but also a violation of
international law that must be addressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: NBC News` Chuck Todd reports that the administration is
hoping to gain the support of at least 10 of the 20 countries on the
president`s proposal to strike the Syrian government.
This comes just one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin called
an American strike against Syria without the U.N.`s approval, quote, "an
act of aggression."
Putin also falsely accused Secretary of State John Kerry of lying
about al Qaeda`s role in Syria, saying, "They lie beautifully, of course.
I saw debates in Congress. A congressman asked Mr. Kerry, is al Qaeda
there? He says, no.
I am telling you responsibly it is not. Al Qaeda units are the main
military echelon and they know this. It was unpleasant and surprising for
me, we talked to them and proceeded from the assumption they are decent
people. But he is lying and knows he is lying. It`s sad."
Here is what John Kerry actually said when he acknowledged that al
Qaeda is in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I just don`t agree that a majority
are al Qaeda and the bad guys. That`s not true. There are about 70,000 to
100,000 oppositionists. About somewhere, maybe 15 percent to 25 percent
might be in one group or another, who are what we would deem to be bad
guys. There are many different groups, Al Nusra, Al Shamra. There are
different entities and sometimes they`re fighting each other, even now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In an exclusive interview with MSNBC`s Chris Hayes
tonight, the secretary of state said once again, that an American strike
against the Syrian government will not be another Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Senator Chuck Hagel, when he was senator, Senator Chuck Hagel,
now secretary of defense, and when I was a senator, we opposed the
president`s decision to go into Iraq. But we know full well how that
evidence was used to persuade all of us that authority ought to be given.
I can guarantee you I`m not imprisoned by my memories of or experience in
Vietnam. I`m informed by it.
And I`m not imprisoned by my memory of how that evidence was used. I
am informed by it. And so is Chuck Hagel. And we are informed
sufficiently that we are absolutely committed to not putting any evidence
in front of the American people that isn`t properly vetted, properly chased
to ground, and verified and we are both convinced that what we are putting
before the American people is in the security interest of our county and it
will not lead to some further engagement.
There will be no American boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, this
is not Afghanistan, this is not even Libya. This is a very limited
targeted effort to reduce.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Alex Wagner, former U.S.
ambassador to Morocco and former Clinton Middle East policy adviser, Marc
Ginsberg, and "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC contributor E.J.
Alex, Secretary Kerry may not be imprisoned by his Vietnam experience,
but it seems many members of Congress are locked into the Iraq experience
and locked into the notion that mission creep will occur in these things,
and they just don`t seem to believe him no matter how many times he says
it, that there will be not be boots on the ground, as he just told Chris
WAGNER: Yes, and you know, Lawrence, it strikes me when you play that
sound bite from Vladimir Putin, just how much Putin is channeling the
specter of Iraq in a really deliberate way, right? First, by the
invocation of lies, which I think to most Americans send shutters down
their spine, because they think, of course, of the fake case for WMDs and
the invasion of Iraq, and then also in terms of this notion that al Qaeda
is out there as a menace, this unseen menace, even though, as you have
pointed out John Kerry admits that there may be a faction within the
opposition movement that is driven by jihadists, but by no means is it the
lion`s share of the opposition forces.
I think Kerry brings to the floor a really important point, about why
John Kerry is secretary of state and why Chuck Hagel makes a great defense
secretary. These are both veterans who have seen war. This is a president
who is incredibly reluctant to get us involved in another Middle East
conflagration. The notion that there is a parallel line to be drawn between
this administration and the Bush administration is refuting the facts that
are there, and it`s a complete -- it`s an incredibly ignorant view of how
the president has conducted himself and the people he`s chosen to lead us
in times like this. He is by nature skeptical and has brought skeptics
into his cabinets.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Secretary Kerry told Chris Hayes
about what will happen if we do not strike Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I believe that if we don`t stand up, our friends in the
region, Jordan, will be more fragile, potentially at risk. Israel will
suffer the greater potentiality of these weapons falling into the hands of
Hezbollah, that Iran will feel emboldened. Iran, whom we are already in a
major confrontation with over the potential that they may be developing a
nuclear weapon. Iran will read this and they could read it in the way,
which could create an even more dangerous confrontation down the road.
So, Chris, you know, I`ve thought a lot about this. I know the
lessons of war. I don`t believe this is taking America to war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, this is a much more complex section of the
administration`s argument, the effects on Israel, Jordan, Iran and -- as
you listen to him talk about it, it does sound like it is possibly their
E.J, DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: And I also think it is very likely
the biggest selling point they have in terms of winning a majority in the
House, which I think they will do, and in the Senate. Because a lot of
members who are not sure about this attack do not want to weaken the
president in the confrontation or one hopes, negotiations with Iran. And
that is where the whole credibility issue comes in.
The president said, my credibility is not at stake. Actually, it is.
And that is one of the reasons why he believes he needs to respond to the
use of chemical weapons. If -- having drawn this red line, and I think
there was a good reason to draw this red line, he has to act. And I think
members of Congress who are reluctant to vote for war do not what to
cripple him and do not want to weaken him in coming relations with Iran.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Samantha Power said today about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: And even in the wake of
the flagrant shattering of the chemical weapons, Russia continues to hold
the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities, including
as a party to the chemical weapons convention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Ginsberg, what is your reaction to the very
strong language from a written statement, that was not off the cuff, about
Russia, while the president is actually in Russia with Putin.
MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Well, it shows you
the dilemma that the president faces going even into this meeting where he
had avoided having a one-on-one meeting with President Putin, because of
their disagreements over Edward Snowden, over Syria, but the bottom line,
Lawrence, is the bottom line. We`re not going to get a political
settlement in Syria without the active participation of Russia.
And one of the goals that is missing here from the policy
pronouncements of the administration, which I encourage Secretary Kerry to
put back on the table, you`ve got to remember, Lawrence, that when
Secretary Kerry first took on his job, he was promoting the idea of a
Geneva Conference when he was in Moscow meeting with Foreign Minister
Lavrov. That fell off the table largely because of the very divided Syrian
opposition that couldn`t agree to attend this conference.
We`ve got to take it out of their hands -- you see how from Roger
Cressey`s interview how much these rebels are divided. I would even
suggest that the administration even get more Democratic support for its
policy by suggesting that it would even condone the idea of bringing Iran
into this equation at the Geneva Conference and in effect, show that the
political settlement is ultimately the goal of this administration.
That may make it easier in the long run to accomplish the policy,
because after all, as E.J. just said, is more of an insurance policy to
maintain American credibility than it is anything else.
DIONNE: Could I say something on that, Lawrence, because I think it
is important that the president give a big speech everyone is talking
about. And I think the administration is going to argue that ultimately
what their purpose here is, is to push the Russians, to push Assad into
negotiations, and also, to encourage the people, the Saudis, the Emiratis,
the Qataris, to push the opposition into negotiations.
I think the ambassador is absolutely right. You are going to get more
Democratic votes if this attack is seen as an effort to move this process
along and to say to the Russians, you can`t just keep backing this guy,
Assad, because he is doing things that you don`t want him to do.
WAGNER: You know, Lawrence, can I also get a word in there on that?
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Alex.
WAGNER: Because you know, I think it is really interesting that the
U.S. is taking such an aggressive stance with Russia. I mean, it is not
surprising given the fact that they have effectively given up on
negotiations, at least in the public sphere.
But if there is a small crack of light in this, it may be with the
findings, I think who knows, of the U.N. weapons inspections team. We`re
looking for a time table for a vote in Congress. And you know, it may
happen to the middle, to the third week of September depending on debate in
the House and of course, in the Senate.
That will give the U.N. weapons inspections team enough time to come
to their conclusion. And if, for example, there is international
assertion, really, that Assad was behind these chemical weapons attacks it
will be much harder for the Russians to defend their positions and could
open at least in whatever small fashion room for negotiation and
cooperation in doing something in Syria.
O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner, Ambassador Marc Ginsburg, and E.J. Dionne,
thank you all for joining me tonight.
DIONNE: Good to be with you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Chris Van Hollen joins me with his version of a
resolution authorizing intervention in Syria.
And who are the rebels in Syria? We`ll show you the graphic "New York
Times" video that provides a very troubling answer to that question.
And in the rewrite, what would happen if an American president
supplied chemical weapons to a Middle East dictator who then used those
chemical weapons to kill thousands of people? Impeachment?
No, not if the president`s name was Reagan. The ugly truth about
Ronald Reagan and the chemical weapons in tonight`s rewrite.
O`DONNELL: When President Obama announced he was going to ask
Congress to vote on military intervention in Syria, his speech was being
watched in Syria. "Reuters" photographer Mohammed Abdullah took this
picture of a Free Syrian Army fighter watching President Obama`s speech
with his family in a suburb in Damascus, near the site of the alleged
Up next, Congressman Chris Van Hollen joins me. He has written his
owner version of a resolution on the resolution authorizing military
intervention in Syria.
O`DONNELL: Senate Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told reporters today
that she will vote to support intervention in Syria after reviewing the
evidence presented by the administration and intelligence community. She
also noted the level of information that has been presented to her and her
colleagues on the reported chemical attacks in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I`ve had multiple briefings.
And they get more and more inclusive as the intelligence community puts
more together. I`ve been here for 20 years, I don`t know a time, including
Iraq, when there has been more access to senators to gain information
outside of what they read in a report. There is briefing after briefing
Based on what I have learned, I have no doubt that the regime used
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But, of course, not all lawmakers are convinced. And many
are facing vocal anti-intervention constituents at home. During
Wednesday`s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican
Congressman Luke Messer, who supports the intervention in Syria suggested
that the president needs to do more to convince the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LUKE MESSER (R), INDIANA: If I were to make a suggestion, I
think we have a lot of work to do to help the American people understand
why the risks of action are less than the risks of inaction. And the
question I would ask is this: what more can be done to further communicate
with the American people? For example, will the president make a speech
from the Oval Office to the American people in one of the coming evenings?
KERRY: I have no doubt the president will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The White House announced earlier today that President
Obama has cancelled a trip Los Angeles that was scheduled for Monday and
will stay in Washington to continue working on the Syrian resolution.
Joining me now is Maryland Democrat, Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
Congressman, I just want to pick up on that point that Congressman
Messer raised, which is the president addressing the American people. Do
you have any information about when that will occur? Secretary Kerry just
said it would happen.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Lawrence, I do not. I know the
president`s team has been reaching out to the members of Congress, but I
don`t know when they will schedule the presidential address.
O`DONNELL: And do you have any understanding of when the evidence
that Dianne Feinstein is talking about and all the other members of the
House and Senate are talking about will be shared with the public?
VAN HOLLEN: I don`t, Lawrence, and I think that is an important
question, because the Iraq experience, obviously, has raised the stakes
here. It has made it ever-more important that the public get the
information as members of Congress have, and every member of Congress
obviously has an obligation to make sure they look at all the information,
classified and unclassified. But I do think it would be helpful if the
administration would provide more of that information to the public,
because those of us who have seen it find it very convincing.
O`DONNELL: But many of you who have seen it, many of your colleagues
who have seen it, who you agree with it on many other issues, do not find
it as convincing as you do. Can you give us a sense on what other areas
that fail to be so compelling with them that are compelling to you?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, as you know, we`re scattered around the country,
still. You know, there are some people who may still argue that chemical
weapons were not used. I think that is overwhelmingly been demonstrated.
And then, of course, there is the issue of who is responsible. And
again, I think the intelligence, including some the administration has made
public is very persuasive in that area. And the classified evidence is
even more persuasive. But I think most of our members, Lawrence, are at
the point where they do believe the evidence is convincing. I think we
need to do more on that front. But then the other question, of course, is
O`DONNELL: Congressman, you have written your own version of this
resolution which you would like the House and Senate to consider.
And as I read it, the big difference in it compared to what the Senate
just voted on in committee is that you would limit it to what you refer to
as one series of strikes. Now, how do you define that? One round of
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Lawrence, what we`ve said is that after the initial
round of military action, you know, the president has referred many times
to the fact he is going to take a series of punitive strikes. He is going
to do a shot across the bow.
So whenever that regional intense action is completed, it`s our view
that we should not resume military force until and unless Assad again uses
chemical weapons again. The purpose of this resolution should be to deter
Assad from further use of chemical weapons. And we believe that after that
initial military onslaught, we should not continue a bombing campaign or a
military intervention unless Assad re-initiates the use of chemical
weapons. And so, we think that`s an important provision.
Another important difference, Lawrence, is the fact that in the Senate
they added language from Senator McCain, that would put the Congress on
record for the first time in terms of providing, quote, "all possible
support to the Syrian rebels. He says the Syrian rebels that have been
vetted by the administration.
But Congress has been very leery about taking a position in favor of
it. And yet, that is what Senator McCain added in the Senate Foreign
O`DONNELL: And you don`t include that in your resolution?
VAN HOLLEN: No, we don`t, because these are two issues at stake. One
is responding to the use of chemical weapons. And I believe it is
important to uphold that international norm as Secretary Kerry said. I was
a Senate staffer myself. Once I traveled to the Iraq/Turkish border in
1988 when Saddam Hussein had turned his chemical weapons on the Kurds in
his country, after using them against the Iranians in the war. And the
United States did nothing.
And I always find that ironic, Lawrence, that the United States did
nothing when Saddam Hussein actually use chemical weapons, but went to war
about 15 years later when he didn`t even have chemical weapons.
So I think we need to send a lesson. But that`s distinct from arming
the rebels in a toxic civil war where we saw from the front page of "The
New York Times" today that the rebels include a lot of these extremist
elements, who would be no better than Assad should they come to power.
And so, we need to have a debate on that issue. And it should not be
just shoe horned in to this resolution, a narrow resolution on the use of
force to prevent and then deter chemical weapons use.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much for
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, that shocking video of Syrian rebels executing
soldiers is next.
And in the rewrite tonight, off what Chris Van Hollen just said, the
shocking truth about how Ronald Reagan actually helped Saddam use chemical
weapons, didn`t just turn a blind eye, actually helped. Coming up.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, who are the rebels in Syria?
"The New York Times" provided a graphic partial answer to that
question, in a shocking video of Syrian rebels proudly executing seven
Syrian soldiers who are kneeling at the rebels` feet.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: And there you have a perfect example of how the mainstream
media is terribly conflicted on imagery like this.
"The New York Times" said it acquired this video from a rebel group
this week. "The Times" said it was smuggled out of Syria a few days ago by
a former rebel who grew disgusted by the killings. But "The New York
Times" blackened the screen, just as the real imagery of war occurred.
The blood that gushed out of the bodies of the victims -- that is what
war is about, killing people. That is war`s objective, death and
destruction. The score is kept in war by body counts.
And the mainstream media works very hard to tell you everything it can
about war and show you everything it can about war, except, except, people
actually being killed. That is where the mainstream media draws the line.
They don`t think that you can handle it. Seeing people being killed.
In other words, they don`t think that you should be witnesses to the full
reality of war. Speeches and public statements about war usually don`t
make sense when matched with the real imagery of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The path to the
resolution of the Syrian conflict is through a developed capable modern
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Building
the capacity of the vetted moderate opposition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Abdul Issa, the leader of that rebel group who you just
saw speaking before that execution is not one of the crazies in Syria. He
is not an Al-Qaeda leader. He has obtained weapons at least once from the
leaders of the so-called moderate opposition, the supreme military council
of the free Syrian army.
But the release of that video now requires that the Obama
administration regard Mr. Issa as one of the bad guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: There is a pretty
shocking video by "The New York Times" posted today. It is Syrian rebels
executing captured Assad soldiers, gunshot to the back of the head, naked.
If the U.S. attacks Syria, do those men in those videos become, by
definition, our ally?
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: No. In fact, I believe those men in
those videos are disadvantaged by an American response to the chemical
weapons use, because it in fact empowers the moderate opposition. We all
know there are about 11 really bad opposition groups, so-called opposition.
They`re fighting Assad. They are not part of the opposition that is being
supported by our friends and ourselves. That is a moderate opposition.
They condemn what has happened today. And they are -- and we are busy
separating the support we`re giving from any possibility of that support
going to these guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are Roger Cressey, former White House
counterterrorism official and NBC news terrorism analyst and NBC`s foreign
correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin in Beirut.
Roger Cressey, are we to believe that the good guys we support in
Syria would never execute the captured Syrian soldiers?
ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: No, we
should not believe that, Lawrence. Because we really have no control over
what anybody on the ground is going to do in the given moment. And that,
of course, is part of the larger conundrum here because while the free
Syrian army is identified by all parties as the group, as the military arm
we want to support. The command, the control structure, the individuals
involved at the tactical level may have totally different agendas.
And as you have discussed, there are rebel elements here, Jihadist
rebels here that we also have no control over. So, we can`t assume anybody
will do exactly what they say they are going to do if they are saying in
order to garner U.S. support.
O`DONNELL: Ayman, Secretary Kerry has estimated about 100,000
oppositionists, as they now call them, and maybe 15 or 20 percent of them
are Al-Qaeda-related. How do we know how that mix is going to arrange
itself in the future?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the last
two years of this conflict, what we have seen emerge are groups with some
loose identities. Meaning that these groups identify themselves with
either banners or with statements. And we have been able to count over the
course of the last two years, the emergence of different ideological
strains within these groups. That number has been on the low estimate by
some many who have been following this closely. By some European accounts,
the number of those that have been or can be considered as affiliated with
Al-Qaeda or the jihadist ideology that people are so afraid of, it could be
as high as 70 percent of those that are actually fighting on the ground.
But keep in mind, there is a difference between fighters, supporters
and sympathizers, that going really is the biggest challenge going forward,
because you still have large parts of the country that remain being
contested for. Meaning that there are those under the regime control that
have not come out and taken sides in this conflict.
So in the years ahead or perhaps, if there is a post-Assad era that is
brought under control of the Free Syrian army, you still have large parts
of the population that could rise up and reject that type extremist
ideology that are is being controlled by groups that Al-Qaeda affiliates or
And so, if they do emerge, that would certainly tip the balance of the
number we are seeing now to favor more of those secular, perhaps, even pro-
western types of groups that are fighting those types of rebels that are
But by no means should anybody consider the believe that the rebels
fighting inside Syria as being necessarily pro-democratic or upholding
universal values of human rights. This is, after all, a guerilla war, a
rebel war. So, you are seeing lots of violations.
In addition to "the New York times" video that we are seeing, that is
actually one of the more tamer videos that have come out in the course in
the last two years. We have seen some horrific videos that have been
circulated over the course of the past two years of this revolution. Some
of them much brutal than those summary executions in mass graves.
O`DONNELL: And Roger, I would just assume that there is no one on the
rebel side who has set up some kind of prison camp for captured Syrian
soldiers, and that they have no alternative plan for them when captured
other than what we just saw in that video?
CRESSEY: Yes, Lawrence, the rules of war and the Geneva Convention
are definitely not at play here right now. And I think Ayman nailed it in
the sense you have a variety of different groups. Some of the numbers we
are seeing tossed around D.C. right now. This is what I call Jihadi voodoo
math. We don`t know if it is 20 percent or higher or what. The fact of
the matter is there is some individuals who are fighting for purely local
reasons. There are others who came into Syria for broader religious
reasons, and there are others who are fighting for criminal reasons or
perhaps other reasons. Who actually wins the war at the end of the
conflict and what type of commanding control they have over their forces
and over other followers is going to be completely up in the air. And
we`ll have little control over it.
We may be able to influence it, but we should not be under any
illusions that we are going to be able to drive it to ensure whoever
ultimately prevails will completely follow a set of ideas that is
consistent with how we want to see Syria unfold in the future.
O`DONNELL: Ayman, what is your reaction and what is your
understanding of the reaction in the region to the hearings we have this
week in the Senate and the House on this?
MOHYELDIN: Well, there is still a very important question that has
not been answered by a lot of the politicians in the United States, or at
least among the policy debate taking place in the U.S. and that is what
happens on the day after? A lot is being focused on how the potential
American military strikes could degrade the Syrian regime, how it could
perhaps limit President Bashar al-Assad`s use of chemical weapons in the
But one issue that people have been speaking to hear are really
worried about is the uncertainly that comes the morning after. And that is
the possible retaliation from the Syrian president, not necessarily on
Israel or not necessarily on U.S. allies like Turkey and Jordan. But what
if he escalates inside Syria, what if we suddenly see a barrage of attacks
that really cause a much more dramatic death toll than the 1400 killed as a
result of chemical weapons? How would that ultimately look for the United
And more importantly, what happens if his allies become more hardened,
supply him with more weapons. He has able to refurbish his weapons. Then
you are really concerned about the morning after, the week after, the month
after, if there is going to be any type of end to this.
And there is going to be a lot of questions then about the efficiency,
if you will, of the American military in taking out this type of strike.
That it only emboldens the Syrian president to continue his struggle, and
more importantly than the spillover by the humanitarian catastrophe that
are already is causing a lot of countries to buckle under pressure.
O`DONNELL: Ayman Mohyeldin and Roger Cressey. Thank you both for
joining me tonight.
CRESSEY: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the rewrite, how Ronald Reagan didn`t just
look the other way when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons. Ronald
Reagan actually helped supply with chemical weapons.
And a Last Word exclusive. The state trooper and the air force
veteran trying to force South Carolina to recognize their marriage.
O`DONNELL: Governors have certain privileges. And one of them is not
having to comment on issues beyond the borders of their states. And so
yesterday, Governor Chris Christie refuse give an opinion of what we should
I`m going to leave that to the people who represents us, Congress, to
make that decision. He added that he has great confidence that New
Jersey`s congressional delegations, especially Democrat Robert Menendez,
the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee will do what they think
is right for America. I empathize with the folks who have relatives back
in Syria, but I`m going to let the policy-making be done by the people who
are getting the most of the briefing on this which is our federal
representatives. We are fortunate in New Jersey to have someone who will
be at the forefront of this discussion and helping to, you know, craft the
policy along with the president.
Republicans and Ronald Reagan are next in the rewrite.
O`DONNELL: There is nothing that Republicans have rewritten more than
Ronald Reagan`s record. They have erased from his record the painful fact
for them that Ronald Reagan, both as a governor and as a president, raised
taxes as well as cut taxes.
The real Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times as president. But the
mythical Ronald Reagan who Republicans worship would never do that. Then
today, the head of the house foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle
East actually said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN(R-FL), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS
SUBCOMMITTEE: We have said this as a responsible nation that the use of
chemical weapons is prohibited. It is against the norms of international
standards, and to let something like this go unanswered I think will weaken
the resolve. I know that President Reagan would have never let this
happen. He would have stood up to this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What president wouldn`t have stood up to a Middle East
dictator using chemical weapons? Well, the real Ronald Reagan wouldn`t,
and in fact, he didn`t. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in the 1980s
repeatedly and Ronald Reagan was actually his enabler.
In "Washington Post" in 2002, Michael Dodd (ph) reported this. The
review of thousands of declassified government documents interviews with
foreign policy makers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support
played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the human wave
attacks by suicidal Iranian troops.
The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized
the sale to Iraq of numerous items that have both military and civilian
applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses
such as anthrax and bubonic plague.
Ronald Reagan didn`t just look the other way when Saddam used chemical
weapons, he sold the stuff to Saddam. The president of the United States
was Saddam Hussein`s drug dealer. Michael Dodd (ph) reported, according to
several former officials, the state and commerce departments promoted trade
in such items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage
over Hussein. Another brilliant Reagan strategy that worked out just
beautifully, didn`t it?
Recently declassified documents also show that during the final days
of the Reagan administration, the United States learned through satellite
imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by
exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses.
U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of Iranian troops to
Iraq, fully aware that Hussein`s military would attack with chemical
weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
The real Ronald Reagan helped the real Saddam Hussein use chemical
weapons, including sarin. In 1991, after the gulf war, the U.N. weapons
inspectors found all kinds of things in Iraq made by U.S. manufacturers,
chemicals, missile components, computers, all sorts of stuff. And in 1994,
the Senate banking committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped
to Iraq during the mid-1980s under license from the commerce department
including various strains of anthrax, subsequently identified by the
pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program.
The real Ronal Reagan sold anthrax to Saddam Hussein. Anthrax.
Donald Rumsfeld then working for President Reagan was in Baghdad with
Saddam Hussein at the time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an
almost daily basis, according to Michael Dodd`s (ph) report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROS-LEHTINEN: And President Obama, the only reason he has consulted
with Congress is he want to blame somebody for his lack of result. But
with the things like President Reagan would do and he would say chemical
use is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes. That is what the mythical Ronald Reagan would say.
But the real Ronald Reagan said nothing when Saddam Hussein used chemical
weapons. Chemical weapons that the real Ronald Reagan actually helped
That`s the real Ronald Reagan.
O`DONNELL: Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla autos is going to drive
the Tesla model S across country to prove the car is reliable on long road
trips. Musk tweeted just finalized the L.A. to New York family road trip
route in model S, six-day, 3200 mile journey with only nine hours spent
charging. Musk can now accomplish across country journey because Tesla has
been very busy installing official Tesla super charging stations where
owners can charge their car for free. You can follow Elon Musk`s cross
country journey on twitter @ElonMusk.
And up next, a South Carolina State trooper and her wife, an air force
veteran are suing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for refusing to
recognize the legitimacy of their marriage. They will join me in an
exclusive interview next.
O`DONNELL: A lesbian couple in South Carolina becomes the first to
challenge that state`s ban on same-sex marriage since the United States
Supreme Court`s decision to strike down the defense of marriage act.
Highway patrol trooper Katy and air force veteran Tracie Goodwin have
filed a lawsuit against Governor Nikki Haley and state`s attorney Allen
Wilson in hopes of overturning South Carolina`s defense of marriage law.
Along with the 2006 amendment, the state constitution banning same-sex
marriage. The couple married in Washington D.C. in April 2012. But the
state constitution also prohibits the recognition of that marriage.
While the state attorney general has yet to comment on the lawsuit,
Governor Haley`s office issued this statement.
Governor Haley, like the majority of people in South Carolina supports
traditional marriage as defined between one man and one woman, and in
accordance with state law, will continue to uphold those values. The
legislature has spoken on this issue. The people have spoken on this
issue, and the governor remains resolute in her support of the South
Carolina`s constitution and the state`s rights and this lawsuits doesn`t
Joining me now for their first national interview, Kath Bradacs and
Tracie Goodwin, along with their son, Jordan.
Tracie, you`re a state highway patrol trooper. And your lawsuit
reads, lesbian and gay police officers, firefighters and other first
responders are denied the peace of mind of knowing that if they make the
ultimate sacrifice, their partner will be taking care of through the
financial support available to help those who lost their spouses in service
to the community.
That is just one of the elements of what you`re fighting for in this
lawsuit, isn`t it?
TRACIE GOODWIN, AIR FORCE VETERAN: Yes, it is.
O`DONNELL: And the defense of marriage act, the Supreme Court setting
that aside, has opened up a legal possibility for you now that was not
there before, to get your marriage that was established legally elsewhere,
recognized in South Carolina.
And Tracie, without that Supreme Court decision, it would be hard to
see how you could bring that case now.
GOODWIN: Yes, I think it opened up the door for us. And obviously,
it is going to open options for us to be able to pursue this.
O`DONNELL: Katie, as a state employee, what was your reaction to what
Governor Haley said about your case?
KATIE BRADACS, STATE PATROL TROOPER: I mean, she has a job to do, and
that job is to uphold the law as it is right now.
O`DONNELL: And the -- the benefit situation is not the only element
of these kinds of situations. What is it, Tracie, about your family that
you want recognized by South Carolina?
GOODWIN: Well, we obviously want the same things as any other family.
We have three children. We want to be able to put those children on our
insurance. We want the peace of mind that if something happens to our
children, that we obviously -- something happens to me or Katie, that the
other parent is going to be able to keep the children. And that, you know,
we don`t want any jeopardize. And obviously, we want our marriage
recognize. This is important to us. We are a family unit.
O`DONNELL: Katie, you could have sat back and hoped that someone else
might bring a lawsuit like this. What made you willing and ready go first
with this in South Carolina?
BRADACS: I could have. But I think that is the problem that people
think, is that they could stand by and just let it happen. But the
question is, when will it happen? And it needs to happen now, thanks to
the United States versus Windsor, she kind of paved the road for us to do
The are plenty of homosexuals here in South Carolina. Normally, they
don`t come out because they`re afraid of what could happen or how they`re
viewed here. So it just -- it is sad, you worry about your job and your
security if you let people know about your personal life. And that is a
fear that we have had in the past. And we still continue to have. So that
is one of the reasons that this is important, that this has happened.
O`DONNELL: Katie, Tracie, and Jordan, thank you all very much for
joining us tonight.
GOODWIN: Thank you very much.
BRADACS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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