Guest: Michael Ware, Richard Perle
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: In Iraq, the Marines are investigating whether U.S. troops illegally killed a wounded unarmed enemy fighter.
Plus, President Bush has named Condoleezza Rice to replace Secretary of State Colin Powell. As the Bush administration restocks the cabinet, who will be on the president‘s team during the second term? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I am Chris Matthews. And the news is moving fast.
Tonight President Bush has named Condoleezza Rice to be the new secretary of state, replacing Colin Powell in that top position.
First, the U.S. Marines are currently investigating what may be the illegal killing of a wounded, unarmed insurgent inside a mosque during combat operations in Fallujah. NBC News has decided not to air the most gruesome of the images, but the incident you‘ll see in this report is raising the question: is there ever a justification for shooting an unarmed enemy? NBC‘s Kevin Sites has this exclusive firsthand account of what happened inside that mosque.
KEVIN SITES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These U.S. Marines have had to fight for nearly every inch of ground taken in Fallujah. They‘ve inflicted heavy casualties on insurgents here. But have also suffered many of their own some from a new and harrowing tactic, booby trapping dead bodies to explode when Marines come near.
On Friday insurgents attacked the Marine unit NBC was with, firing on them with rifles and RPGs from this mosque. Marines hit back, killing 10 insurgents, and wounding five inside. These weapons were collected from the dead.
This Marine‘s belief (ph) is just one more example that mosques are being used by insurgents as fighting positions. They treat the five wounded but leave them behind to be picked up later as Marines continue their offensive south.
(on camera): The next day the Marines got reports that some of the areas they had cleared the day before had been reoccupied by insurgents including the mosque.
(voice-over): What happens that Saturday isn‘t entirely clear. A Marine unit which was not involved in the prior day‘s attack on the mosque now fights its way up the street toward the mosque. They‘re taking fire, perhaps from the mosque. One squad moves around the back. A second approaches through the front. There are gunshots. When the second squad, followed by NBC reaches the entrance, the first has already been inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had two in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You shoot them?
SITES: Inside the mosque, the same five men that were wounded the day before are still there. But now one of them is dead while three others lay dying. Only one is untouched. Then a Marine notices one of the severely wounded men is still breathing. He did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way. In fact, there were no weapons visible in the room except those carried by the Marines. The Marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man‘s head. The pictures are too graphic for to us broadcast. At the same time, just a block away, one Marine was killed and five wounded by the booby-trapped body of a dead insurgent.
So as dangerous as Iraq is, could the shooting be self-defense? Lieutenant Colonel Bob Miller is heading up a full scale investigation into the case.
LT. COL. BOB MILLER, STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE, 1ST MARINES: The policy of the rules of engagement authorize the Marines to use force when presented with a hostile act of hostility.
SITES: The Marine who pulled the trigger in this case has been removed from the field and is currently being questioned pending possible charges. Just the day before he was shot in the face during combat but had already returned to duty.
MILLER: Any wounded, in this case insurgents, who don‘t pose a threat would not be considered hostile.
SITES: But this war zone like most is rife with uncertainty and confusion. Young men here are often forced to shoot faster than they can think. And that can create a deadly place indeed. Kevin Sites, NBC News, Fallujah.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get reaction from the Pentagon and NBC News correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Mick, what is the military‘s reaction to this?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon‘s reaction is that this is in the hands of the military, the military justice system. There‘s an investigation under way. And Pentagon officials with oversight think that the military will indeed conduct a thorough investigation. I can tell you the military‘s reaction to this is one of somewhat resigned sadness that they know in the heat of combat, that situations like this often occur but they really hate to hear about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, the question here is—first of all, I thought the NBC piece was very carefully reported, wasn‘t it?
There was a lot of context from Kevin. It wasn‘t just, here‘s the picture. It talks for itself. He tried to explain the environment. The soldier had been shot himself in the face. There were cases of booby-trapped bodies. All kinds of reasons to believe that a body, a wounded person wasn‘t necessarily a wounded person.
MIKLASZEWSKI: And Chris, if you hear the voice of the soldier who pulls the trigger, he‘s clearly jazzed. He is really wound pretty tightly. And you can only imagine what the intensity of that combat does to many of these troops after several days. On the other hand, if indeed this was a wounded, unarmed combatant, the military code of justice says there is no justification for doing that. Earlier in the battle of Najaf, there was an incident where a combatant, an enemy combatant was seriously wounded to the point that he was clearly dying. A U.S. soldier walked up and put a bullet into his head. He says, it was a mercy killing. However, the army looked at it differently. They pulled him out of service and he‘s been charged with homicide. And that trial is yet to the begin.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be listening to that tape. We didn‘t hear it quite clearly. I didn‘t hear it. The comments made by the trooper, did they sound like he was malicious? Is there any way to read the comments at this point?
MIKLASZEWSKI: It doesn‘t sound malicious at all. Not like he was sneering. Nothing like that at all. He just sounded wound tightly. He said with some expletives in it, he is faking he is dead. He‘s faking he‘s dead. And then boom! You hear the shot. So clearly, it‘s possible that he had in his mind the fact that one of his comrades was killed on the streets of Fallujah only a few days before by a body of an insurgent that was booby-trapped. However, again, the uniform code of military justice looks at this much differently and even in the heat of battle, while they recognize that sometimes these things can sort of spin out of control, ultimately, the letter of the law says there is no justification for shooting an unarmed wounded combatant.
And Kevin Sites was pretty clear to say that the—all the weapons that were in that mosque had been removed the day before when another squad of Marines had gone in there and there was no evidence of any weapons inside.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the high command with the Pentagon, where you are right now. It looks to me like Rummy is the last man standing here. Is he going to stick around through the next term with Colin Powell resigning, with the attorney general resigning? All this activity at the top, is he going to stick around and remain the last first termer to go to the second term?
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, at 72 years old, nobody thinks he will stick around for the full second term. But everybody in this building believes, and Rumsfeld is holding his cards very close to his vest, everybody believes that Rumsfeld will at least stay through the January scheduled elections in Iraq and perhaps a little beyond that to see the military transition that he came in to the Pentagon intent on enacting transforming the entire military, how they fight, how they deploy, how they spend their money and the like. That he sees some progress in that before he leaves. But regardless, nobody believes, and people here have said it that Rumsfeld is going to leave if it appears that he‘s being forced out because the situation in Iraq hasn‘t gone all that well.
MATTHEWS: Tough customer. Thank you very much, Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon.
And as we‘ve been reporting, Condoleezza Rice is President Bush‘s pick to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state. NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell is at the State Department. Andrea, you couldn‘t be in a better place at a better time. We have a new secretary of state. Why Condi?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: She has been so close to the president. He trusts her. He is, like—they‘re like family together. He in fact broke precedent and went on Saturday night to a surprise birthday party for Condi Rice at the British embassy and stayed the whole evening. This is not what George Bush likes to do on a Saturday night. He is not exactly a black tie kind of guy on Saturday night. Usually he‘s at Camp David. He was terribly affectionate to her and really praising her extravagantly at that event. It really spoke to his deep regard for Condi Rice.
She has been unlike any previous foreign policy adviser. She goes to Texas with the Bushes. She goes to Camp David every weekend. She has really been his sidekick really on foreign policy. The important thing is that this is much bigger than just Colin Powell leaving. This is, I am told, a complete top to bottom makeover of the State Department. And she has long wanted this to happen.
MATTHEWS: Will she be an independent force within this administration, someone who brings her personality and her views to bear as one of the leaders of the government or will she be the president‘s agent?
MITCHELL: I think she is really going to reflect the president‘s policy. And I think there‘s been long frustration at the White House that there were so-called moderates here at the State Department who were pushing back on policy issues. Even though Colin Powell was the good soldier and was overruled on issues from North Korea to Iran to most notably Iraq, there were others that the—undersecretary and assistant secretary, deputy secretary level, who were not in sync with the hard-liners in the vice president‘s office and at the Pentagon. You‘re going to see a big change. I expect that you will see at least the trial balloon is that John Bolton, the very hard line weapons expert here, the undersecretary of state, will become the deputy secretary under Condi Rice if he is confirmed. And that you‘re going to see other big changes throughout this regime at the assistant secretary level. They‘ve not been pleased with the Middle East negotiators.
They want a much tougher policy, more pro-Israel, if you will. And this is the most important thing we‘re going to see, is that whatever shifts you might have expected with the passing of Arafat will likely not happen. The president has told people that the most important book they can read right now is the book he‘s just finished, Natan Sharanksy‘s new book on how democracy can spread in the Middle East. Sharansky, a hard-line member of the Knesset, who heads the home office actually for Ariel Sharon. Of course, the famous Russian emigre to Israel, was in with the president for an hour last Thursday, and also met with Condi Rice.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, what seems to be the rise of the right within the administration. You point out that John Bolton may well move up to deputy secretary of state under Condoleezza Rice. We read tonight that Stephen Hadley, the deputy over at the NSC, may replace Condoleezza Rice. But just tonight on this program, you‘re going to hear, we taped it earlier, you‘re going to hear Richard Perle, the former head—chief adviser to the Defense Department, a real hawk, saying he wanted to get Paul Wolfowitz established as head of the National Security Council.
Is this a power play by the right or is it the president saying to the right, you‘re my people?
MITCHELL: Well, I think this is really largely the influence of Dick Cheney and also the president. The president‘s policies have been very different. They needed Colin Powell during the campaign in 2000. He still was and still remains the most popular member of the cabinet. But the president has now been reelected, it sort of let Bush be Bush. And he doesn‘t have to put up with moderates if he doesn‘t feel in sync with them. It is his administration. Powell was willing to stay longer and put his people in place. And make sure that his assistant secretaries were confirmed. And the president didn‘t ask him to. So basically, Powell had signalled that he was not going to stay for a full second term. And George Bush most significantly did not ask him to stay.
MATTHEWS: Was this a firing or a resignation or somewhere in between?
MITCHELL: Sort of in between. Nobody fires Colin Powell. But certainly, when the secretary of state has indicated for quite sometime that he wasn‘t willing to stay for a full second term, and that the president didn‘t ask him to stay any longer, I think there were signals that he was willing to stay for a couple more months. Might have tried to put his imprint on the Middle East policy. He is going back to the region. He is going to be in Sharm El Sheikh in another week for an Iraq donor‘s conference. And clearly there are opportunities there to go to Israel or even go to see the Palestinians as well.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about sexism in the world. Do you think—do you think that Condoleezza Rice will have a hard time dealing in the Arab world as the president‘s chief envoy?
MITCHELL: As long as she is representing the president, and is viewed as having his ear, she will not have a hard time. Actually, Madeleine Albright was of course secretary of state and I traveled with her to all of the Gulf states. And there was a lot of talk that she‘d have a hard time. She really didn‘t. But the most significant thing about Condoleezza Rice is that she is really an extension of George Bush. So there won‘t be any daylight there.
And where Colin Powell was on occasion marginalized because he would go to the Middle East, start trying to get tough with Ariel Sharon and then the White House in the briefing room, you know, at one point, Ari Fleischer undercut what Powell was saying while Powell was in the meeting with Sharon, at the very same moment. The policy was shifted back in Washington. Well, you don‘t recover from that kind of snub. And Condi Rice, that will not happen to Condi Rice.
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t help to have the vice president meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, when you meeting with Sharon. It‘s a suggests a willingness to move to the even further right in the Middle East.
Any ways, thank you very much. NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.
When we come back, reaction from the White House to Condoleezza Rice‘s promotion to secretary of state. We‘ll get a report from MSNBC‘s David Gregory.
Plus, retired army colonel Ken Allard on the investigation into what did happened in that mosque in Falluja. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Condoleezza Rice is President Bush‘s pick to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state. NBC‘s White House correspondent David Gregory join us now.
David, I want to be blunt here now. The pecking order has been for four years. The president, the vice president, Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, the Condoleezza Rice, in fourth place. By getting the secretary of state‘s post, isn‘t she still in fourth place?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what‘s changed is that she is going to be the chief diplomat of the United States who has also got an excellent relationship in a line of communication with the president, that even Colin Powell did not have that. She‘s also got experience from a different vantage point, dealing with Donald Rumsfeld and indeed the vice president is going to know how to perhaps negotiate those waters a little bit better than even Colin Powell could. She may not have had all the experiences that Colin Powell did, but she‘s got an unique relationship with this president, to make sure that she‘s heard and to also negotiate the channel of America‘s foreign policy in a second term as they‘re trying to bring an exit strategy to conclusion in Iraq. It‘s just a different time.
MATTHEWS: She won. Who lost?
GREGORY: Well, I think it‘s an interesting question of who lost. And we‘re going to have to see over some period of time. If you look at Steve Hadley, who is her deputy, very capable, a good relationship with her but also an excellent relationship with the vice president. The immediate question is, did moderates lose within the administration?
Did those moderate voices who have prevailed upon this president successfully, if you look at Colin Powell‘s history of secretary of state in this first term, and others within the State Department, did they lose?
Are there going to be whole sale change that take a harder line when it comes to a second term foreign policy, particularly, Chris, because people close to Don Rumsfeld say, while he‘s being deliberately coy about what he‘s going to do right now, that there is the expectation among his top advisers that he sticks around. Maybe perhaps two years of a second term. So, there‘s a lot that‘s moving forward here, that some within the administration, those close to Colin Powell may see as a hard line agenda that might move forward with some alacrity with some of these changes.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that she will grow in stature because of her new position of being a separate person, a separate political individual from the president, or will she continue to be president‘s best and purest agent?
GREGORY: Well, it‘s a good question. I don‘t have the answer to it, and I don‘t know who does yet at this point. I think what‘s interesting, and what we‘ve seen so far, if you look at the cabinet changes, is that the president is projecting to the cabinet people who are very close to him. John Ashcroft steps down, Alberto Gonzales is tapped for attorney general, he was White House Counsel. Condoleezza Rice, now moves forward into the cabinet. So, he‘s got people who are very close to him, know his thinking. He knows theirs. And now they‘re going to be in a different position.
But there‘s going to be a lot of challenges for her. Don‘t forget, she butted heads with Donald Rumsfeld before over Iraq policy when she ultimately took over the management of the policy last year. Trying to play a more aggressive coordinating role at the request of the president.
So she‘s going to have to fight these battles again, with also a new challenge of running the State Department and refashioning foreign policy in the second term, at a time when the administration, when the president has said point blank, I‘ve got to spend more of my political capital on the Middle East peace process, as not only dealing with that particular problem, but as a general method of dealing with the Arab world as a whole, dealing with the major emotional problem of the Arab world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So she‘s been heavily involved in that, and now she‘s going to take an even greater role.
MATTHEWS: The decision today, Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, to replace Condy Rice as the top person at national security, does that slow down the power of the so-called neocons, the archconservatives, the hawks? Paul Wolfowitz is being put up again on this program tonight, in an earlier piece we taped earlier. The very impressive Richard Perle, who was once the chief adviser to the Pentagon, called for a clear cut endorsement of Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary, to become national security adviser. Is that a loss for the right within the administration?
GREGORY: Well, I don‘t think it is as clear cut as that, Chris. To be honest, Steve Hadley is someone who has worked for Dick Cheney at the Pentagon when he was secretary of defense. He is closely aligned with a lot of these advisers that you mentioned, Paul Wolfowitz being one. So he‘s—it is not only continuity for the president, since he has got a relationship with Steven Hadley, but it‘s the six degrees of Dick Cheney as well. I mean, people who are close to him that he is vouching for as well.
MATTHEWS: He‘s everywhere.
Let me ask about Condy Rice. You know, we‘ve been—like all the Washington watchers like me, and you included, I hope, because it will be consistent with what I think, everybody thought Condoleezza Rice wanted to be the first secretary of defense, first woman secretary of defense. That she did enjoy that kind of organizational control that the defense chief has, and didn‘t want to be involved in the whole complicated, somewhat illusory, sometimes diplomatic efforts around the world. Why didn‘t she get that job?
GREGORY: Well, because the president asked her to do this job. I think part of this is tied into the fact that Rumsfeld, again, according to advisers close to him, is going to stay at least for some period of time. The president‘s wish for continuity here as well. And the set of goals that he wants Don Rumsfeld to fulfill, reorganization of the military and the like.
Look, the expectation was that she wanted to go home, that she was just going to leave, and it was only in the last few months that some, and notably the president, prevailed upon her to take on a new and different challenge.
But you‘re right. And what is interesting about the secretary of state job is that, you know, there are many in this White House, the president included, who have not been big fans of the State Department and some of the diplomatic tracks that have been pursued and some of those diplomatic sensitivities, as we‘ve seen, in their conduct of foreign policy. And now she has to step into that culture, manage that culture, win friends there, but also, as you suggested earlier, be consistent and faithful to the president‘s goals of foreign policy here in the second term, even as that foreign policy continues to take some nuanced terms along the way.
MATTHEWS: Right, some sensitivity is good, if it‘s aimed at the president.
Anyway, thank you very much, NBC‘s David Gregory at the White House.
When we come back, retired Army Colonel Ken Allard on Condoleezza Rice‘s promotion to be secretary of state, made tonight, apparently. Plus, we‘ll get his thoughts, Colonel Allard‘s, on the investigation into whether a U.S. Marine illegally killed a wounded, unarmed insurgent in Falluja. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re talking about the U.S. Marines‘ investigation today into what may be the illegal killing of a wounded, unarmed insurgent during combat operations in Fallujah. Joining me right now is MSNBC‘s military analyst and retired U.S. Army Colonel Ken Allard.
Colonel, it‘s a tough one. What did you make of the pictures? You‘ve seen the raw footage.
COL. KEN ALLARD (RET)., U.S. ARMY: Yeah. Chris, I‘ve got to tell you, if I were that kid‘s defense counsel, I would realize that I had a very, very tough case in front of me, and I would try—literally try and pull out every possible stop, and every possible advantage that I could. Including self-defense.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this. If this were the other side, and we were watching an enemy soldier, a rival—I mean, they‘re not bad guys, especially—just people that disagree with it. They‘re in fact the insurgents fighting us in their country.
If we saw one of them do what we saw our guy do to that guy, would we consider that worthy of a war crimes charge?
ALLARD: We probably would. I mean, what you have to remember about all these things is the fact that if what you‘re seeing is enough to inflame the senses, that is precisely the reason why we think of those things in terms of war crimes. And it is also why we tell our soldiers, look, the reason why we have you observe the laws of land warfare is because it makes peace so much easier.
MATTHEWS: The thing is, I guess, I don‘t want to get into the exculpatory mood or the indictive role. That‘s not my role. It is simply to report what we know so far and what its implications are.
Colonel, that fellow was apparently alive, clearly alive at the time the trooper went in there. He wasn‘t some dead guy with—covered up or clouded up with, what do you call it, explosives that were going to blow when the guy was touched. He wasn‘t booby-trapped. Was there any justification for killing him, then?
ALLARD: You would have to say probably not. But I just have to tell you, if you are one of those Marines that we‘ve seen so often going into Fallujah, imagine the incredible tension and imagine the incredible danger. You have got AK-47‘s and RPGs in front of you, and you have got TV cameras right behind you. You cannot imagine a more daunting situation. But all that having been said, that is exactly what these kids are trained for. And you simply have to judge this whole case on the merits.
MATTHEWS: And he knew the cameramen—he knew the cameramen were there. He knew that he was being observed. So whatever he did, he thought he was justified in doing it, it seems to me, that‘s a fair assumption.
Let me ask you about what the rules of engagement are. Watching the battlefield casualties, you don‘t read a lot about wounded Iraqi prisoners. Do we take prisoners? Do we take wounded prisoners? Obviously we‘re sending our troops up to Germany to get fixed up, if we can. They‘re getting the best medical treatment in the world, and they deserve it. What kind of treatment normally goes to the losers? To the other side, the wounded?
ALLARD: One of the things that we do with our kids, is they are trained—yes, indeed, we do take prisoners. Yes, indeed, we are responsible for evacuating them and making sure they receive competent medical care. It is one of the laws of land warfare. It is one of the points of honor of the U.S. force that we take care of the enemy‘s wounded as well as our own, even if that means that you are taking chances you would not otherwise want to take, even if it means you‘re putting yourself in harm‘s way to do that. That‘s what we do.
MATTHEWS: But we don‘t send them up to Germany for the best medical care in the West, do we? Like we do our own guys?
ALLARD: I think we try and treat most of those guys in country. We have a very elaborate military evacuation system, but I think most of those people are probably treated in that theater.
MATTHEWS: So what—it‘s not one of those things when on the offensive, you take no prisoners? It‘s not? There are times when that does occur, though, right?
ALLARD: Well, in the heat of battle, Chris, I‘m not going to say that there are not some very, very tough decisions that those soldiers have to make. I...
MATTHEWS: I mean, you can‘t take prisoners when you‘re fighting in a mosque and fighting against the enemy that all—potentially all around you. You can‘t very much start putting the stretchers up, can you?
ALLARD: No. In fact, one of the things that we do not do is, we do not demand that those kids put themselves deliberately in danger.
It is a very, very tough line that you have to always be prepared to defend. But I just have to tell you that what we always try and do is to stress the humanitarian values, consonant with the mission they‘re on. The mission that they‘re on is to kill insurgents.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Colonel Ken Allard.
ALLARD: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for that. I know a lot more.
Up next, when we come back, a report from Fallujah, where U.S. troops are taking control of the city from Iraqi insurgents. But with new uprisings in other parts of Iraq, is America winning this war? We‘ll get the latest from the front lines.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, Condoleezza Rice is President Bush‘s pick to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state. We‘ll get the latest on that change and what it means for President Bush‘s foreign policy in his second term—plus, a front-lines update on the fighting in Fallujah.
But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In Iraq, American commanders say they‘ve retaken the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. “TIME” magazine‘s Michael Ware has been embedded with the Army‘s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry, and joins us now from Fallujah.
Michael, thank you for joining us. Are we winning this war?
MICHAEL WARE, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”: Well, I wouldn‘t say that we‘re losing this war at this stage, but I‘m certainly not of the view that we‘re winning.
The best that we can say that we‘re doing is that we‘re holding ground. I mean, just as an example, as a journalist, I was free until March this year to travel the breadth of this country. Then, after April, I was much more restricted to the confines of the metropolis of Baghdad. Well, we‘ve lost Baghdad.
Sitting in my own compound in the city, I‘m prone to mortar fire. They have kidnapped teams circling our block. A journalist was kidnapped 300 meters outside our gate. Zarqawi controls central nodes of the city, including the most infamous Haifa Street, the scene of bloody engagements for months now, where he is within range of mortars directly impacting into the Green Zone and the U.S. Embassy. So, are we winning? That doesn‘t feel like winning to me.
MATTHEWS: What role has the taking of Fallujah played in the war?
WARE: It is a significant event. And it cannot be underrated.
In military terms, this was a sweeping victory. We have reseized the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. We‘re now denying them sanctuary from which they could launch their suicide car bombs and other attacks on Iraqi and coalition targets. We‘ve denied them meeting and recruiting and training grounds. We‘ve also removed a political eyesore, upon which there was an imperative to rid it from the landscape of Iraq before the elections.
But have we beaten the insurgency? No. No, I suspect we‘re far from that. They will now be more decentralized. I was interviewing cells weeks before the operation who had long fled. Documents I have from Zarqawi‘s people which are after-action reports on the previous uprising in April show just how they did it then, evacuating the leadership. All indications are that they did this again, leaving a rear guard action behind to fight a suicidal death march, just like the one that we‘ve seen here in Afghanistan and in Northern Iraq against Ansar al-Islam. In many ways, this is deja vu.
MATTHEWS: Well, is it going back to the wars in Indochina? The American forces in Indochina and Vietnam and South Vietnam were able to hold the cities and retake them when they were lost. The same with the French back in the ‘50s.
Are we in the same kind of syndrome, where the outside forces are able to take cities, hold them, retake them when they have to, but all the time, the enemy is growing in force?
WARE: I mean, I try to shy away from analogies or comparisons to Vietnam. But, sometimes, it can be chilling.
It was once said that the only ground the U.S. soldier could control is that beneath his feet. Well, in many regards, so it is in Iraq. We do not control this country. We may have territory, but we do not have the substance of the people, nor of the land. So it‘s difficult to say.
We‘re certainly encountering very similar insurgency practices, methods, techniques, tactics, a mind-set that we did see in Indochina. And indeed, indeed, something that resonates with me to this day is interviews I‘ve done with senior insurgent leaders, the upper echelons. And they talk to me about reading Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general. They talk to me about reading Che Guevara, Mao Zedong.
They‘re bringing it straight from the Vietnam and the broader insurgency playbook.
MATTHEWS: Well, one of the key pages in that playbook, Michael, was to swim in the sea of people. Are they able to swim in the sea of Iraqi people and hide from us moving from city to city and, as we defeat them in different cities, they simply move to Mosul or somewhere else?
WARE: Absolutely. It is almost as if we‘re blinded, despite all our best efforts. The manner in which they can dissolve back into the population is almost magical.
I mean, this is one of the fundamental tenets of classic counterinsurgency warfare. The name of the game is deny the population to the insurgents. That‘s what we‘re trying to do, winning hearts and minds. But we‘re not winning them. Day by day, there‘s a steady drip feed of hearts and minds slipping away us from. Last year, middle Iraq was sitting and waiting, giving us the chance to see how we fared, to see what we delivered. Well, that window is closed.
And I fear that we‘ve lost them. The insurgents may not have won them, but we certainly don‘t have their attention anymore. So, yes, we will see the insurgency continue to evolve as it moves almost with complete freedom of movement throughout the country.
MATTHEWS: Michael Ware, it is great to have your report from “TIME” magazine, Michael Ware who is with the troops through the battle in Fallujah. Thank you, Michael.
What a nervy guy.
When we come back, reaction to Colin Powell‘s resignation from former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle on the future of Bush foreign policy now that Colin Powell is stepping down as secretary of state.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: As we‘ve been reporting, President Bush has picked National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state.
Earlier today, I spoke to Richard Perle, who was assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. And I asked him whether Powell‘s resignation was his own decision.
RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Oh, I believe it was Secretary Powell‘s decision. He had made it pretty clear, even before the election, that he intended to stay only for one term.
MATTHEWS: Would he have stayed longer had his more diplomatic approach to foreign policy been followed by the president?
PERLE: Chris, I don‘t think it was a question of the approach the president followed.
The question was, what could be made effective after September 11? Could diplomacy cope with the principal challenges we faced? Could diplomacy cope with Osama bin Laden or with the Taliban regime or with Saddam Hussein? I think it was Colin Powell‘s fate to be the nation‘s top diplomat, and a very good one, at a moment when diplomacy didn‘t have the answers to the main challenges.
MATTHEWS: When he was selected, do you think that die had been cast?
PERLE: No. Before September 11, it was an open situation. And we had every reason to believe that diplomatic skills and effectiveness would be decisive.
MATTHEWS: But many within the administration had already set their sights on Iraq as a primary source of terror in the world and a threat to the United States.
PERLE: We had delayed for a long time coming to terms with Saddam Hussein. After all, he had thrown the inspectors out. He had defied the United Nations. It was very difficult to cling to the sanctions. They came up for renewal every six months. They were wildly unpopular. This president was going to have to deal with Iraq sooner or later. And September 11 simply advanced the timetable.
MATTHEWS: As you know, with your people—you know every foreign policy expert. You have so many connections throughout the administration and outside it. Is it your assessment that Secretary Powell ever fully believed in the war against Iraq?
PERLE: I believe he came to the conclusion, as he presented it to the United Nations, in good faith and on the basis of the best information that was available at the time, that Saddam posed the kind of threat he described at the U.N. But he‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... not answering the question directly. Did he support going to war and turning over—overturning that regime, occupying Iraq? Did he believe in that?
PERLE: Yes. I believe did he.
And I think Colin Powell is an honorable patriot. And had he not believed in the administration‘s policy, I think he would have resigned at the time.
MATTHEWS: And do you think he was clear on that to the country?
PERLE: I do believe he was clear on that.
There was lots of scope for debate on how far we worked with the United Nations, how much hope we could invest on bringing the U.N. on our side. But, on the fundamentals of the president‘s policy, I think Colin Powell would not have remained in an administration that he didn‘t agree with.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about who is in this administration right now.
I‘ll just throw this out. It‘s my suggestion—you can reject it—that there was a pecking order of power, the president first, the vice president, close, very close, advising the president with a lot of authority on his own. It had been delegated. The secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Do you accept that as the top three in this administration before this event of Powell leaving?
PERLE: I think the alignment depended a little bit on what issue one is talking about.
PERLE: On Iraq, because this was a wartime situation, I think the president, vice president, secretary of defense would be the right pecking order.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about Condi Rice as NSC director and the secretary of defense—of state, Colin Powell. Who had more clout with President Bush, Colin Powell or Condi Rice?
PERLE: Well, Condi Rice is very close to the president. It‘s an almost familial relationship.
MATTHEWS: Right. It seems like it.
PERLE: And the national security adviser sees the president six, eight, 10 times a day, from first thing in the morning until late at night. That is—it‘s very difficult to match that access if you‘re outside the West Wing of the White House.
MATTHEWS: Right, which the secretary of state is.
Now, if we have a pecking order of president, vice president, DOD, NSC, State, how will that be changed at all, or will that even be significant to change in having a new secretary of state, given the setup of—the president is still here. The vice president is going to be here. He‘s been reelected as well. Rumsfeld is here, as far as we know, for a while at least, and perhaps for a long period of time.
What difference does it make who is secretary of state if all the decisions seem to be made higher up?
PERLE: In fact, the decisions get made by the president. And whose advice is most important in arriving at those decisions depends on the issue.
If it‘s fundamentally a political and a diplomatic issue, then I think Don Rumsfeld probably doesn‘t even offer much advice. And he certainly doesn‘t expect to be the decisive influence on the president‘s thinking.
MATTHEWS: But on matters of war and peace, the ones we worry about, the continuation of the effort in Iraq, the continued threat from Iran and North Korea, Donald Rumsfeld is the man, right?
PERLE: Well, certainly on Iraq.
With respect to Iran, for example, where the policy is not yet fully shaped, it is impossible to say whether the president will be more influenced by political and diplomatic considerations or by national security considerations.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s make some news, Paul. Who do you want to be the next secretary of state?
PERLE: Well, my guess is that Condoleezza Rice would be first in line. And I think she would be a fine secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: Who will replace her? Who would you like to see replace her?
PERLE: If the president wanted a man with broad conceptual knowledge and deep experience, he would choose Paul Wolfowitz.
MATTHEWS: Anyone else? Or do you want to keep it simple?
PERLE: John Bolton is...
MATTHEWS: From State.
PERLE: Who is now at State, is experienced, tough-minded, close to the president.
MATTHEWS: We‘re coming back with more from former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle.
And keep up with all the issues on Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re talking about Secretary of State Colin Powell‘s resignation just today with one of the real powerhouses in the city, Richard Perle.
Do you believe—we were talking about it briefly before, a lot of change in the Cabinet today, the most significant of course being Secretary Powell, his leaving. And you think Condi Rice may be the first in line the way you see it.
PERLE: I would think so, because of the close relationship with the president.
MATTHEWS: And you would like to see Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense, possibly take that. In fact, you would like to see him take her position if it opens up.
PERLE: Well, I think he would be very good in that job. He would be good as secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense that Rumsfeld may outlive the
expectations of, say, a few months ago and actually go on to be second term
· the second-term secretary of defense?
PERLE: Oh, I believe he will remain. And I think he has done a very good job and will continue to do a good job.
MATTHEWS: As a student of Machiavelli, you must understand that one of the goals of every prince, or leader like the president, is to make sure that everyone understands they‘re independent in their movement. And they‘ve gradually disowned if not destroyed their sponsors.
It is just the way things are. President Bush has made it clear he is not his father‘s son in term of foreign policy or domestic policy or political skill. He has made it clear he is his own man. At what point do you think he might say to the vice president: “You‘ve been a great, basically, chief of staff to me. You‘ve been my prime minister in many way. I‘m going to go on my own now. I‘m going to be independent of your thinking. I‘m going to bring in a balance of power in here in this administration and challenge your authority”?
He won‘t say it, but will he do it?
MATTHEWS: In other words, the vice president has been reelected to the same power he had in the first term.
PERLE: I think the president has justifiably great confidence in Dick Cheney‘s judgment. And he also understands that Dick Cheney is not trying to unseat him.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no. That‘s clear.
PERLE: He is not looking—not looking for his job.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t—doesn‘t history and human nature show you eventually want to show that you don‘t require anyone else to do your job?
PERLE: I think the policies of this president are this president‘s policies.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not challenging that. But can he operate free of Dick Cheney?
PERLE: Of course he can. Of course he can. They happen to see eye to eye on the principle issues.
And Dick Cheney has brought to the White House a depth of experience, having run the Department of Defense, having been a member of Congress in the leadership in Congress. That has been enormously helpful to the president.
MATTHEWS: And so you see no light between the two of them, between the president‘s policies and his obvious goal of some kind of legacy and the hard-line policies of the vice president? You don‘t see them in conflict?
PERLE: I think the president is very comfortable with a hard-line policy because he believes it is essential to protect the nation. And so does the vice president think that way. And I think they will go on together.
MATTHEWS: Is there any difference between your views and the vice president‘s?
PERLE: Not that I‘m aware of.
MATTHEWS: I didn‘t think so either.
Let me ask you about some practical short-run things. You‘re a Middle Eastern expert, as well as being an expert on security. What do you think the Arab world is going to be looking at with Powell gone, a man they saw possibly as their friend, or friendlier, more dovish, subtly? What do you think will be the impact over there in terms of any kind of attempt to rein in? We are all questioning, of course, the Middle East, if—the new prime minister, when he gets office, will he be able to rein them in at all of course is another preliminary question.
PERLE: The key in this next phase is going to be whether the Palestinians take advantage of the opportunity that Yasser Arafat‘s demise has presented them...
PERLE: ... to elect a leadership that is ready to make peace with Israel. And, if so, I think we will see significant movement in the direction of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
MATTHEWS: Mahmoud Abbas, is he at least a coexistent force with Israel?
PERLE: I don‘t know. It remains to be seen.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not sure.
PERLE: I‘m not sure. What I want to see is how the person who is elected responds to that mandate and what he says to the Palestinian people in Arabic.
MATTHEWS: Right, in other words, none of this double-speak, of having an Arab message that we‘re going to overrun them and a Western message of, we want peace.
PERLE: That‘s what we had under Arafat. And I hope we‘ll see the end of that now.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we‘ll ever see a map in the Palestinian high schools that has a map of Israel?
PERLE: If we don‘t, we won‘t see peace.
MATTHEWS: Join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for our HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report, “The Passion of the Right,” as we explore the role of the religious right in American politics.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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