Guest: King Abdullah, Dutch Ruppersberger, Frank Gaffney, Laura Ingraham, Marie Cocco
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Tonight one of America‘s key allies in the Middle East, I asked Jordan‘s King Abdullah whether the Ayatollah Sistani, the religious leader expected to dominate Iraq after January‘s election is secretly loyal to Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is the feeling in our part of the world that that is the case. But there is a relationship with Iran, he does have a lot of following on the streets of Iraq, but his allegiance at the end of the day will be to Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And the king says Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile championed by many in the Bush administration will cause America to lose out in Iraq. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Will Iraq‘s elections in January yield an Islamic republic? I interviewed His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan today and he said that the country the United States has spilled blood to save could quickly become a captive of neighboring Iran.
He said the Ayatollah Sistani, the religious leader of the majority Shia has loyalties to Iran. He also said we need a viable Palestinian state established within a year or so or else Israel and the Arabs will be face decades of bloodshed. I began by asking King Abdullah who our enemy in Iraq really is.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s start with Iraq. What is the United States facing over there when you see news accounts, you get them in Jordan, who are the enemy for the United States?
HIS MAJESTY KING ABDULLAH II, KING OF JORDAN: At the moment, the Americans feel that the insurgents and the Baath extremists are the enemy. I think it‘s more complicated than that. There‘s frustration in different parts of Iraqi society and as we move closer to the elections, it‘s not clear to the Iraqis where the future lies. We hope that the election on January 30 will bring the country together and give it an opportunity to move forward.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense of a worse outcome that might play out in Iraq after the elections?
ABDULLAH: The worst outcome is you don‘t have a secular state. In other words the new government is strongly represented by those who might have support from Iran. We hope that‘s not the case. As you are aware, there‘s an issue of the Sunnis, we want them to go to the elections, we want them to be part of the process. If they‘re not then there could be more difficulties.
MATTHEWS: Do you fear that the Shia majority may win the election, declare an Islamic state and form a close alliance with Iran?
ABDULLAH: There is a lot of Iraqi Shia that are Iraqi and believe in the future of Iraq but at the same time there is Iranian influence on the Iraqi street and I think that is the worst-case scenario that Iranian influenced government comes to power and then where do we go from there.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that would be a danger to the region, an alliance between a Shia-led Iraq and Iran?
ABDULLAH: If it was a Shia-led Iraq that had a special relationship with Iran and you look at that relationship with Syria and Hezbollah and Lebanon, then we have this now crescent that appears that will be very destabilizing for the Gulf countries and for the whole region.
MATTHEWS: What would it do to the United States in the Middle East?
ABDULLAH: It would make it far more difficult. There‘s some red lines that will have to be drawn because what you‘re doing is creating an issue in Iraq that goes beyond the borders of Iraq and then you would have to look at the stability of the Gulf countries, of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab Peninsula.
MATTHEWS: Are you concerned that the Ayatollah Sistani is Iranian-born, it‘s said that he speaks with a Persian accent, with an Iranian accent, he seems like he comes from Iran more than just because of his birth, are you concerned that he may have loyalty to Iran?
ABDULLAH: I think that is the feeling in our part of the woods that that is the case, that there is a relationship with Iran. He does have a lot of following on the streets in Iraq. But his allegiance at the end of the day would be to Iran and not to Iraq.
MATTHEWS: The goal of the Iranian people I understand is to try to gain control of the holy places within Iraq. Explain why that‘s so important in this conflict between Shia and Sunni.
ABDULLAH: For Shia, the traditional holy places are in Iraq. Obviously when Iraq became an independent country, Shia religious authority moved to come in Iran. It is for this reason why it‘s very important for Iranians to get involved in southern Iraq because I don‘t think they want that religious authority to be transferred to another country. They are the bastion of the Shia sector of Islam and to have Iraq as a place of reverence is very destabilizing for them.
MATTHEWS: But the Iranian people would like to get control of those holy places.
ABDULLAH: It is for their own strategic interests so that their religious clergy can control from southern Iraq, Najaf and Karbala, as well as the authority in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Ahmed Chalabi. He‘s a wanted man still in Jordan, isn‘t he?
ABDULLAH: He is wanted by a court of law in Jordan and in Lebanon, I believe. And he is in Iraq at the moment. He has from what I know, very good relationships with the Iranians and it will be interesting to see how that pans out. I know for a fact that him and Sistani I think are on the same ticket when it comes to elections.
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine a picture sometime in late January of the photograph of the new government of Iraq with a picture of everyone. Right in there as the new oil minister, Ahmad Chalabi? Can you imagine that picture?
ABDULLAH: Quite conceivable.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t that be odd to have a wanted man as oil minister of a country?
ABDULLAH: It will be interesting how American policy will deal with that because I believe that he has very good relationships with Iran and I think that he has played people off and I think America will lose out.
MATTHEWS: Watching American policy in terms of beginning with the invasion of Iraq right through, how would you grade it for its success?
ABDULLAH: The argument is are we better off today or are we worse off? If Iraq moves in the right direction as part of international community, we‘re going to be better off. I think it‘s difficult to take a little snapshot in history. Elections is a new phase in Iraqi life. If it moves in the right direction and Iraq can be pulled into the international community, then we will be better off.
MATTHEWS: Do you think as of the time we speak today in December of 2004, do you believe there are more terrorists in the world today because of our invasion of Iraq?
ABDULLAH: I think there are more terrorists in the world today because the Israeli-Palestinian situation is not being resolved. The battle against terrorism is not killing terrorists it‘s trying to solve the root cause of terror. The root cause of terror in our part of the world is the core problem which is the Israeli/Palestinian issue.
MATTHEWS: Let me put it in the worst-case scenario. If we fail to find a role for a Palestinian state in that part of the world, your part of the world, what are the stakes?
ABDULLAH: The stakes mean that we will doom the region to many more decades of violence. His late majesty always believed that for Israel to be fully integrated into the Middle East, we keep saying that Israel‘s future should be from Morocco in the Atlantic to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Indian Ocean. The Arab countries have all signed on to declarations of full normal relations with Israel that guarantee their security and their future. But that comes at a price and the price is the future for the Palestinians. The problem that we have on the ground physically is what we call the viable Palestinian state. I think we‘ll lose the viable part of this platform in the next year or so if we don‘t move the road map along. And if there‘s no future for the Palestinians, how can there be a future between the Israelis and the Arabs. And that‘s what concerns me the most.
MATTHEWS: If we don‘t get a viable Palestinian state will Israel be viable?
ABDULLAH: Well, it would be viable because there will be those that will use the excuse that we need Israel as a front line. For how many more decades do parents and children have to suffer? Let us have peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians so we can have peace between the Arabs and Israelis and let us all get on with our lives.
MATTHEWS: We get two views of the deal that was turned down by Yasser Arafat back at the end of the Clinton administration. One is that he was being offered a bunch of Swiss cheese, Israeli settlements all over the West Bank, big highways flying by little Arab communities, everybody cut off from each other and not a real country. And not enough influence, in fact, a sovereignty within Jerusalem. How did you see that offer? Was it a good offer or a bad offer that Yasser Arafat turned down?
ABDULLAH: I thought it was a good offer. It was not for me or anybody else in the Arab world to make that decision, it was up to the Palestinians. If we go back to 1998, we‘re talking about 98 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. We‘re talking less than 40, 50 percent today. What will we talk about tomorrow? And I have to point out again, a viable independent Palestinian state and the problem is the viability aspect of this.
MATTHEWS: What are the parameters? What does it take to be viable?
ABDULLAH: Jerusalem and a decent part of the West Bank that makes sense. If you have cantonize (ph) the West Bank and have just little hamlets and pockets of Palestinian Authority, that‘s not a state. There will never be the feeling of reassurance between the Arabs and Israelis to move...
MATTHEWS: Do you think President Bush is ready to move in the direction of pushing for that kind of resolution?
ABDULLAH: I believe so. President Bush right after the election was adamant to point out his support for the peace process. He spent more time than I expected in his conference with Tony Blair several weeks ago. With me he was very direct that he wants to really push for the process. Now hopefully after the Palestinians have their elections on January 9, there will be a Palestinian partner for peace. Our job now is to make sure then is to get the Palestinian Authority to engage with the Israelis and then it takes the quartet, the United States, the United Nations, Europe Union and Rush, to step in and say enough, you too sides have to go through the road map. .
MATTHEWS: Are you more optimistic your highness, today, about a peace in the Middle East then you were say, a year ago?
ABDULLAH: The circumstances have changed. Obviously...
MATTHEWS: Yasser Arafat has passed away.
ABDULLAH: Passed away. New leadership.
MATTHEWS: Has the president changed in his tone lately since the election?
ABDULLAH: The president—the president was the first American president to articulate a viable Palestinian state by 2005. I think he put 2005 on purpose, so that we can be fixated that there is a time problem, and he created a vehicle to get there, which was called a road map. Obviously, I think the election process here, people were more busy with domestic issues than international. But I think the president is ready now be able to engage. There‘s a slight delayed problem which is January 8, make sure the Palestinians have a new leader—have a new authority. And then we‘ll take it from there.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Your majesty we‘ll be right back. King Abdullah, we‘ll have more with the king in just a moment.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More now with my interview with King Abdullah of Jordan.
I asked the King how he would advise the president on the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: For a moment I would like you to play the role of Karl Rove, the president‘s chief advisor. And in the area of the Middle East, which you live in, you‘re from, you are one of the leaders of.
What‘s the best advice you could give the president right now about the Middle East?
ABDULLAH: Well, I think it‘s, obviously, for a president in his second term is what sort of legacy will he leave in the Middle East. Eight American president have had to suffer with the Israeli/Palestinian problem, how many more president will have to go through this process. I think in this particular term, the president can bring peace to the Israeli and the Palestinians, which will allow an immediate peace between the Israelis and the Arabs, and a new start for the Middle East. We‘re at this crossroads, does the Middle East really go down hill or is there chance for young people to look to the future and have hope? And when I say young people, it‘s Israelis, Palestinians, you know, everyone across the region.
MATTHEWS: Prime Minister Sharon, do you sense any new softness on his part? I guess he wouldn‘t like that word, but do you have sense that he has been more open to helping the Palestinians form a state lately?
ABDULLAH: Well, again the argument that has been used by the Israelis and to an extent, the administration, is that they didn‘t want to deal with Arafat, they had no partner for peace. I hope after January 9, there is a partner for peace. So, that‘s no longer an execution. But we need to nudge the Israelis and Palestinians forward.
MATTHEWS: Can Mahmoud Abbas play this role of leader—negotiating partner.
ABDULLAH: I believe he can. He has, I think, a very good understanding of what needs to be done for the peace process. He‘s been involved for a long time. He has, I think, good relations with people in the West. And I think he‘s well respected. And I think that he will have the backbone to be able to sign on the dotted line if he can get something for the Palestinians.
MATTHEWS: If he signs, will you back him up?
ABDULLAH: Whatever the Palestinians want, we will support.
MATTHEWS: Will the Saudis.
ABDULLAH: The—every country in the Middle East will support.
MATTHEWS: Would Bashar Assad?
ABDULLAH: Bashar Assad—you‘ve got to remember that in Beirut two years ago, the Arab message was extending to Israel everything they wanted, peace, security, normal relations, even the government of Saddam Hussein signed on at the price, obviously, of a future for the Palestinians.
MATTHEWS: In other words the Palestinians have self determination within the Arab community as well. They‘re allowed to cut a deal.
MATTHEWS: And they won‘t be treated as traitors if they accept the existence of Israel?
ABDULLAH: Exactly. And the problem that we have is we can‘t do that, otherwise the Palestinians will hold us to task. So, it‘s up the Palestinians. I think the Arab community want things to move forward. Whatever will make the Palestinians happy, every single Arab country will support.
MATTHEWS: Does the wall have to go?
Let me ask you the economic question your majesty, there‘s a lot of need in Israel for labor, there‘s a lot of people in the Palestinian territories right now would like to get jobs and get good Western salaries you get in Israel. Is it a good idea to integrate those economies or keep the separate?
ABDULLAH: Historically, walls have never worked. And if anything it‘s going to damage, I think—you said economically. I think—forget the politics, but it will hurt Israel economically. I see the very well-educated Israeli population, Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, if we are allowed to integrate with each other to give a new future for the Middle East, it‘s going to be a fantastic part of the world. And walls, you know, don‘t work.
MATTHEWS: Mahmoud Abbas, you say is up to the job, is Sharon? Of cutting a final deal that recognizes that the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, as the Lucid block referred to it, will not be part of—at least part of legal Israel. Will not be part of the country under it‘s sovereignty.
ABDULLAH: It simply comes back to what Israelis want. Do they want to live in suspicion and fear for the next decades or do they want to have an opportunity for peace.
Now as I said to you earlier on, his late (ph) majesty has always said, peace for my children, and their children‘s children. He‘s talking about us at the moment. We deserve the peace, Israelis, Arab, Palestinians. And we can‘t afford to give it to another generation.
MATTHEWS: If I were Israeli I‘d want to get one commitment, I think, from a Palestinian government. Don‘t make us kill Arabs, we don‘t want to do it. So you‘re going to have to protect that border.
Do you think Mahmoud Abbas is willing to kill people who violate Israeli territory and kill Israelis?
ABDULLAH: I think if the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, if they have a hopeful future and they know that at the end of the tunnel there is a light, they themselves will stop people from effecting that future.
MATTHEWS: And that kind of toughness...
ABDULLAH: Is possible today. When you have suicide bombings and you see the economic hardship that the Palestinians are going through, because there‘s no alternative, there‘s no process at the moment, the silent majority is sitting at home not doing anything. But if you put the future of their welfare at stake, the Palestinians themselves will stop people taking these actions against the Israelis, because it‘s their lively hood that‘s at stake at the end of the day.
MATTHEWS: One last question about our role in Iraq. This country is about evenly divided whether we should have gone to Iraq.
Do you think the cost to us in treasure and lives has been worth it so far?
ABDULLAH: Well, again it goes back to the question. I mean, it‘s difficult to take that snapshot of time right now. The whole point was to remove Saddam, to bring Iraq back into the international community. If we could achieve that. Iraq is the cradle of civilization. It is an ancient land with tremendous capabilities with very educated and very smart people. To be part of the international community, to be giving to the world, Iraq would be one of the most stabilizing factors of the Middle East, but we have to achieve that.
MATTHEWS: Thank you again your majesty. We‘ll be right back with King Abdullah.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More now with his majesty King Abdullah of Jordan. I asked the king about the price of making peace in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: The role of the peacekeeper in the Middle East is a dangerous role, for yourself, for your father, for Yitzak Rabin the late prime minister of Israel for President Sadat. I always wound up looked at Arafat, each day of his life, he said do I want to die today for cutting a peace deal? Is it that difficult to cut a peace deal in the Middle East?
ABDULLAH: It‘s always a danger to take a risk. But if you‘re taking the risk for the right reasons, then, you know, and you‘re true to your people and true to your heart, take those risks. His late majesty, Prime Minister Rabin knew what was at stake. But the reason why they were in positions of leadership was to serve their country. And those 2 men brought Jordan and Israel to the peace tables. I strongly believe that if Rabin had been alive, we would have peace today. But that‘s the risk that people have to take.
MATTHEWS: A lot of Israelis fear, and American people who worry about Israel, worry that there is no line that they could pull back to that would be accepted by the Arab world. They could pull back to 10 inches from the Mediterranean, people would say that Israel was too large.
ABDULLAH: Not at all. In the commitment of the Arab countries at the Beirut summit, we had gone to what the road map outlined as being sort of the 67 borders. They were even very flexible on the issue of refugee, by saying an agreed upon solution so that we won‘t antagonize the....
MATTHEWS: In other words the right of return of Palestinians to what is Israel proper today...
ABDULLAH: To what is a Palestinian state, and hopefully some sort of significant face-saving issue on Palestinians to Israel proper. But the statement was done very ambiguously so as no to intimidate or antagonize Israel.
MATTHEWS: So right of return wouldn‘t be a monkey wrench in the peace deal?
ABDULLAH: When you get people to sit down around the table, it can be done.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the vision that you, a moderate would have for the Middle East. And this is really the last question. When you imagine the map, there‘s some countries, some of the Palestinian territories are taught in school there is no Israel. They have a map that doesn‘t include that. You have Likud block kids in Israel who don‘t want to even give up an inch of what they see as greater Israel. How do you re-educate people to the fact of co-existence?
ABDULLAH: Peace by itself will open people‘s hearts. And again, you have to understand that 50 percent of the Middle East is under the age of 18. There‘s a young population that at the end of the day just want to get on with their lives. They want to have security, they want to have jobs, they want to be able to bring up their children. And we as leaders have to give them that opportunity.
And education today cannot be closed. You know, people turn on the
TV, everybody has satellites, computers, the world sees what‘s going on and
there is a young Arab population that is very frustrated if their
governments don‘t lean out towards them and give them the opportunities of
a better life. That
is at the end of the day. Unfortunately, it‘s us politicians that make life difficult. But if you give it to the youth, they want peace and they want to get on with their lives.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, your majesty. Thank you for your time, very much.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld found himself on the receiving end of some very sharp questions from U.S. troops at a military base in Kuwait today. One soldier asked the secretary why they lacked the proper vehicle armament for combat.
Let‘s take a look at this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPC. THOMAS WILSON, U.S. ARMY: Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles and why don‘t we have those resources readily available to us?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It‘s a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Are U.S. troops actually paying the price for bad postwar planning in Iraq?
Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland toured Iraq a month ago. He‘s also member of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Government Reform Committee. And Frank Gaffney is president of the Center For Security Policy.
Congressman, I noticed that interesting dynamic here. Here‘s the secretary of defense, the top guy in the chain of command below the president. They didn‘t clap right away. They waited a couple seconds. But they did clap at that question about the troopers being ill-served by their equipment.
REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: Because their lives are on the line.
And, you know, what‘s important, we in Congress have been sending a message. We are going to do whatever we can do to give the resources to our troops to, No. 1 win the peace in Iraq and, secondly, to protect the lives of our men and women who are over there and putting their lives on the line.
MATTHEWS: Is this a new higher standard, that you‘ve got armorized vehicles? Is this need for armor a result of the IEDs, those improvised explosive devices they face all along the road, which was an unexpected part of this war?
RUPPERSBERGER: One of the biggest problems we have in Iraq, we don‘t know who the enemy is and where they are. And those IEDs are hurting and they‘re hurting our military.
These men and women want to protect themselves, as everyone would. And we need to whatever we can to send a message. It took a member of the National Guard from Tennessee to get the message to Secretary Rumsfeld. And we in Congress have to make sure we stand behind that message and give the troops the resources they need to do the job.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know if this is an ideological fight or not.
Is it, Frank? Is this just a fight about guys getting ticked because they‘re getting hit and they don‘t feel they have enough armor, or is this a battle over whether we were right to go to war because we didn‘t have the right prep to go in there; we weren‘t planning ahead?
FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: No, it is an ideological battle in the sense that decisions were made a decade or more ago that are shaking out now.
Decisions are made about what kind of forces we have now, the size, the number, the equipment that they have. And, as Don Rumsfeld said, it takes time to fix errors that were made before. And as one of those who was pointing out at the time, particularly when people were telling us, let‘s cash in on the peace dividend...
GAFFNEY: Don‘t do it. You‘re going to need better capabilities, whether you do right...
MATTHEWS: Was Donald Rumsfeld pushing for armorizing of the vehicles, which I think is the main issue here? Because they‘re talking about going around and finding materials at junkyards to fortify their Hummers. Was he talking about that in 2001 or is he just talking about it since the war started?
GAFFNEY: This is a problem fundamentally of whose armor. The guys in the active-duty forces, by and large, I believe, by now have pretty much up-armored Humvees throughout their force.
MATTHEWS: Regular Army.
GAFFNEY: The guys who have always gotten sort of second-hand materials or less high-quality materials...
MATTHEWS: The Guard and the Reserves.
GAFFNEY: The Guard and Reserves. And we just are using a lot more of them. Therefore, they‘re more in harm‘s way as a result.
RUPPERSBERGER: That‘s unacceptable. Whether or not you‘re the Guard, Reserve or you‘re...
MATTHEWS: Is that rhetoric unacceptable or is that a fact?
RUPPERSBERGER: Yes. It‘s a fact.
MATTHEWS: Unacceptable, meaning you could have fixed it easy.
RUPPERSBERGER: If you are a member of our armed services...
RUPPERSBERGER: ... we need to give the resources to protect their lives.
MATTHEWS: Sure. But Don Rumsfeld is as hawkish as you can get. He‘s trying to get the money. He‘s trying to get the material. What do you mean by unacceptable?
RUPPERSBERGER: It‘s unacceptable, the argument that you made that...
MATTHEWS: You mean we shouldn‘t have gone to war?
RUPPERSBERGER: No. We‘ll talk about that, too.
What‘s unacceptable is the fact that there shouldn‘t be a difference between the career military, whether National Guard or the Reserve. I just said goodbye this morning to 40 people in my district in Aberdeen, with their families and their children very upset. These men and women who have never been to Iraq were very concerned. The least we can do is to give the resources. Now, we didn‘t have the plan. But that‘s history. We need to learn from our mistakes and move forward.
MATTHEWS: How long does it take?
RUPPERSBERGER: How long does it take? Nobody knows how long it is going to take.
But what we do know is that we‘re going to give the resources to the secretary. Now, what the secretary...
GAFFNEY: Can I get a word in here?
RUPPERSBERGER: ... was alluding to when he made those comments is that he was not—that we didn‘t have a position—we weren‘t in the position to manufacture the Humvees fast enough to protect our troops that are patrolling on the streets of Baghdad and other areas.
GAFFNEY: And that‘s true.
We have not got the production capabilities to manufacture as much gear as we need to backfit people who have, under successive administrations, I have to say, not gotten as good equipment as they should. And, Chris, again, this is the point. I‘m delighted to hear the congressman say, we‘re going to give these guys everything they need.
You will remember, a couple of months ago, it was very much in the heart of the debate. Was the $87 billion supposed to be spent for this purpose?
GAFFNEY: John Kerry said no. We need this kind of money. We need to up-armor these troops. And we need to give them the full support of the American people.
MATTHEWS: The fact that that soldier is from Tennessee who spoke today...
MATTHEWS: The fact that he‘s a Guardsman—he‘s a Guardsman—the fact that he spoke up today, is that going to be—is this going to be like a Norman Rockwell reality, where a guy has the nerve to stand up, so we‘re going to have an accelerated program to armor these guys?
RUPPERSBERGER: I would hope that his message was heard.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is. It‘s on TV tonight.
RUPPERSBERGER: It has been heard.
GAFFNEY: This has been going on for some time.
GAFFNEY: This is not new news.
RUPPERSBERGER: Let‘s not talk about messages.
GAFFNEY: It‘s been fixed in parts of...
RUPPERSBERGER: ... about getting it done.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s ask about King Abdullah. I got a rare opportunity to speak with his majesty this morning.
I asked him—he said—if he‘s worried the form that a new Shiite government might take. Obviously, the people know about this by now. The majority of the people living in Iraq are Shia Muslim. The minority are Sunni and Kurd. If the Shia wins, the majority wins, which is what happens in a democracy, they put in the Ayatollah Sistani, who‘s their religious leader, who comes from Iran, who speaks with an Iranian accent.
And I asked whether this could be a problem, of the government falling under the influence of a government we don‘t particularly like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you fear that the Shia majority may win the election, declare an Islamic state and form a close alliance with Iran?
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: Well, there‘s a lot of Iraqi Shia that are Iraqi and believe in the future of Iraq.
But, at the same time, there is Iranian influence on the Iraqi street. And that is I think the worst-case scenario, that an Iranian-influenced government comes to power and then, where do we go from there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that something?
GAFFNEY: Well, it‘s my understanding it‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Do you see that coming?
GAFFNEY: Historically, historically, the schism between Iran‘s Shia mullahs, who run the country, and the Shia like Sistani in Iraq has been, Sistani doesn‘t believe it‘s possible for there to be this union of church and state, or mosque and state.
He has insisted on being only....
MATTHEWS: An Iraq...
GAFFNEY: Well, and being an Iraqi, too.
And the idea that these guys are all going to be under the thrall of these mullahs who are blaspheming, sacrileging the religion as far as the Shiites are concerned in Iraq...
MATTHEWS: What is Chalabi doing bopping back and forth across the border?
GAFFNEY: I think Chalabi is doing what any politician in America or any place else would do, which is to try to figure out how does he position himself to be a player when the elections take place.
MATTHEWS: Oil minister, right?
GAFFNEY: Well, who knows.
RUPPERSBERGER: Chalabi has more than nine lives.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder whether America fought a war so that we could create another Islamic republic like Iran that is going to hate us and it‘s going to be difficult all over the place with regard to oil and everything else, as well as endorsing terrorism.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Iran endorses Hezbollah. It underwrites Hezbollah. We may have knocked off a government we don‘t like with a government that is going to be a truly terrorist-supporting government.
GAFFNEY: If we don‘t counter Iran, it‘s got nothing better to do than to fool with us in Iraq. We‘ve got to deal with the fact that these Iranians are...
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got to invade another country?
GAFFNEY: I‘m not saying invade them. I‘m saying help the people of Iran get rid of this regime, as they did in ‘79 the shah. That‘s a strategy.
MATTHEWS: Last word.
RUPPERSBERGER: We know Iran harbors terrorists. We know that it‘s a difficult situation.
GAFFNEY: Weapons of mass destruction.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we may have created two Irans.
Anyway, thank you, Congressman. Please come back.
RUPPERSBERGER: Fine. Sure.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Dutch...
GAFFNEY: Can I come back, too?
You always do, Frank Gaffney, just like Ahmad Chalabi.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, syndicated columnist Laura Ingraham and “Newsday”‘s Marie Cocco on Donald Rumsfeld‘s run-in with the troops we just saw.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Laura Ingraham is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. And Marie Cocco is a columnist with “Newsday.”
And, as we reported earlier, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came under fire today from troops stationed in Kuwait.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles and why don‘t we have those resources readily available to us?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RUMSFELD: It‘s a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Rummy didn‘t like that clapping, did he, Laura?
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think, to some extent, you have to expect this.
The war has gone on longer than people would have wanted. The insurgents are turning up the heat before the election. And these soldiers are frustrated. You can‘t blame them. And the administration has to know that, as long as this goes on, there are going to be these complaints. It‘s not going to be perfect. It‘s going to be difficult.
But I think it‘s good that he got up there before the soldiers. I think it‘s important that he did that. The press has been demanding that, and I think it‘s fine. The question, though, is if—if this is true and these things aren‘t being given to the soldiers that they need, that‘s ridiculous. We should be doing without things here to make sure the soldiers get everything they deserve and everything that they need, both here in the United States when they come home injured and abroad when they‘re fighting the good fight. And I think all Americans want that.
MATTHEWS: Marie, the administration has taken pride in the fact that this was an elective war. They did it at the time of their choosing, to use their phrase. If they had the opportunity to select the timing, why didn‘t they have the material and the ordnance and the uniforms ready, the armor especially, for this kind of campaign?
MARIE COCCO, “NEWSDAY”: Well, that would have been my follow-up question, actually, to Secretary Rumsfeld, who gave that answer. You go to war with the Army you have. Well, they went to war by choice on the timetable of their choice.
Now, Laura just said, if this were true. Of course, it‘s true. We just had a South Carolina Army Reserve unit disciplined for refusing to go on a mission in a caravan of vehicles that they felt were not armored and were insufficient to protect them. And they felt it was a suicide mission. Now, those soldiers were just disciplined for having refused a direct order, which of course is always the prerogative in the military.
The question I think that arises from this is, why are those soldiers being held accountable? Why were the soldiers involved in the torture abuses at Abu Ghraib held accountable, but none politically ranking people...
INGRAHAM: They actually did the torture. And it wasn‘t torture, by the way.
COCCO: Excuse me. I let you finish, and I will appreciate the same.
The people who have carried out this policy have...
COCCO: ... are never held accountable, but the soldiers are.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what King Abdullah—Abdullah—of Jordan had to say to me today. I asked him about the war in Iraq. And I asked if whether it was encouraging the recruitment by the other side of terrorists. Let‘s take a look at what he said.
MATTHEWS: Do you think, as of the time we speak today, in December of 2004, do you believe there are more terrorists in the world today because of our invasion of Iraq?
ABDULLAH: I think there are more terrorists in the world today because the Israeli-Palestinian situation has not been resolved. It‘s—the battle against terrorists is not killing terrorists. It‘s trying to solve the root cause of terror. And the root cause of terror in our part of the world is the core problem, which is the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I was struck by that, because that is what the terrorists are saying themselves, from a different perspective, obviously. Here‘s a peaceful moderate saying the situation in Iraq isn‘t causing the problem in the world. The recruitment is being caused by the fact that the Israelis and the Palestinians can‘t find peace.
INGRAHAM: For us to keep saying that this is a political—there‘s a political justification for the mass slaughter of innocents and the brutalization of innocents I think is just the wrong way to look at it.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s we? I‘m saying—he‘s the king of Jordan saying this.
INGRAHAM: Well, I‘m saying—with all due respect to the king of Jordan, I think we‘re dealing with a situation in Iraq where people are out of control, trying to kill innocents and stop freedom from being on the march. Maybe the people of Iraq don‘t want freedom. We‘ll see. If they‘re willing to step forward...
MATTHEWS: But it‘s not confined to that area.
MATTHEWS: In the Middle East, where we see terrorism everywhere, the king is saying, if you want to know the heart of the pain over there, what is causing the embarrassment of the Iraqi, the Saudi, the Jordanian, whatever, it‘s all about the humiliation they feel about the Middle East. That is what he‘s saying.
INGRAHAM: Well, they shouldn‘t have walked away from the last peace deal that was on the table when Bill Clinton was president.
And Yasser Arafat was directly responsible for that.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the interview, he said he liked that deal. In the interview, he said he thought that deal was OK.
INGRAHAM: Well, if this is achievable now, post-Yasser Arafat, this will be a good thing for all of us. There is no doubt about it. But let‘s be very clear on Zarqawi and bin Laden.
The idea that they‘re going to stop what they‘re doing if peace is achieved in the Middle East, do we really believe that? I don‘t believe that for a second. They‘re about power.
MATTHEWS: I asked him a particular question, not whether there are bad guys in the world, which is your point, which there are, but would they be successful at recruitment if they didn‘t have that open sore of the Middle East?
What do you think, Marie?
COCCO: Well, the open sore...
MATTHEWS: The king is talking. I‘m not...
COCCO: The open sore of the Middle East peace conflict, everyone, as long as I have known, going back to the Reagan administration in the ‘80s, has always been pinpointed by both the West, as well as the leaders in the Middle East, as an essential source of terrorism. I disagree with the king on this point.
I do not believe that al Qaeda and the stateless terrorists have that as their sole motivation or their sole recruiting tool. What we have now, what we saw transforming in the ‘90s was this idea that there were going to be stateless terrorists that transcend national boundaries that might be in the Philippines, might be in Hamburg, Germany, might be in Pakistan, might be in Afghanistan.
And they‘re not necessarily motivated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They have a laundry list of grievances against the West and the United States in particular.
COCCO: And I do disagree to the extent that I don‘t think anymore that all terrorism in the world is specifically related to the Middle East conflict.
MATTHEWS: I know you‘re ready. I‘m sorry. I know you‘re poised here.
INGRAHAM: It‘s all right.
MATTHEWS: But why do they always, the bad guys, the terrorists, Zarqawi, the people—Zawahri, bin Laden, every time they get a little national television—international television time because they put out these videotapes, they wave that shirt of Palestinian rights?
COCCO: But so does Tony Blair.
MATTHEWS: Well, in other words, it must work.
INGRAHAM: What else are they going to say?
MATTHEWS: What I‘m saying to you, isn‘t that a recruitment tool?
INGRAHAM: I don‘t know. I can‘t say that.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are they doing it all the time?
INGRAHAM: Well, they do it because they would like some of the Middle Eastern leaders not to cause trouble for them. If they can say that they have a political allegiance with some legitimate leaders in the Middle East, they might think that they‘re going to be propped up a little bit.
MATTHEWS: So if they claim a popular cause as their own, they will look like good guys.
I think—and so what we have, Chris, is we have in the Wahhabist textbooks now being used in German schools and where the Saudis are sending their kids, Saudi diplomats in German schools, they‘re teaching not Middle East peace. They‘re teaching destroy Israel. That‘s the bottom line.
MATTHEWS: I know. We talked about that.
By the way, that‘s all in the interview we had tonight. And I talked to him about—I asked him about, what good is it if kids are learning—the kids on the West Bank that that‘s going to be theirs forever, or Arab kids told there‘s no Israel? Both sides are being taught this delusional stuff, not that there‘s a moral equivalency, but both sides are doing a lot of propagandizing here.
Coming up, Democratic Leader Harry Reid takes a shot at Justice Clarence Thomas. Are we in for another rancorous fight over judicial nominees on Capitol Hill?
And don‘t forget, check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.
Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back for more with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham and “Newsday” columnist Marie Cocco.
Here‘s incoming Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on why he could not support Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be chief justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I think that he‘s been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don‘t think that he‘s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Was that a fair shot, to go on knocking Clarence Thomas, and, at the same time, praising Scalia, Antonin Scalia, whose opinions are very similar to Thomas‘?
INGRAHAM: Well, first of all, I would have liked a follow-up to that by Tim Russert. Hey, well, Senator Reid, what opinion specifically are you talking about?
MATTHEWS: Right. Which one you don‘t like the...
INGRAHAM: Would it be the Michigan affirmative action opinion that has been, by critics and supporters of Justice Thomas, heralded as brilliantly worded, brilliantly written, or is it some of his establishment clause cases, or maybe the free exercise cases or the death penalty cases?
I‘ve got to tell you, for the Democrats to complain about a polarized America, a vitriolic political debate, and then to say that about a sitting Supreme Court justice who has been praised by people in the academic community, even those who disagree with him, people on the court, his colleagues on the court—you know, I clerked for Justice Thomas, so I am biased here. But I thought that that was so out of line. And I think Harry Reid really stepped in it on that one. Bad move.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it was a personal shot?
COCCO: No, I don‘t think it was a personal shot.
I think he was reflecting what a lot of court observers have said.
There‘s been a lot...
COCCO: There‘s been a lot of accounts of how silent Clarence Thomas has been in arguments.
MATTHEWS: That‘s true. That‘s true.
COCCO: And, frankly, between the two, Scalia and Thomas very often vote together. And I think, generally speaking, Justice Scalia is seen as the leader of that dynamic duo.
COCCO: And that was what Senator Reid was trying to express.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s just parse the language here.
To call a member of the United States Supreme Court an embarrassment is a hell of a shot. An embarrassment means you make your own people embarrassed to have you there. I haven‘t heard any Republicans embarrassed by him. Who‘s embarrassed by him?
COCCO: Well, I have to tell you, one of the single-most important cases in the entire war on terrorism was this question of whether the president of the United States has the sole authority to detain anyone he wants for as long as he wants, under no judicial review. And the only member of the court who said that was OK was Clarence Thomas.
INGRAHAM: Well, wait a second. Is that the standard...
MATTHEWS: Are you familiar with this finding?
COCCO: He was far on the opposite end of the spectrum from Justice Scalia, who said, for example, that you either suspend the writ of habeas corpus or you release these people.
MATTHEWS: I want some legal language here.
MATTHEWS: Justice Thomas is known for original intent.
MATTHEWS: Original intent.
Is this one of the things he believes is the right of a president under—under—as his commander in chief?
INGRAHAM: During war. During war, commander in chief, special powers, increased powers to the executive, absolutely.
INGRAHAM: Let me finish.
MATTHEWS: So he would have let Lincoln do what he did. He would have let Lincoln do it.
INGRAHAM: I can‘t speak for Justice Thomas.
But this is something I know about. First of all, to say that because someone is in the minority in a decision, because he‘s one justice who writes his mind and reflects his thoughts in his opinion, that that‘s somehow embarrassing, I suggest that, Marie, you go back and look at some of Justice Marshall‘s opinions and some of Justice Marshall‘s court after court after court after court oral arguments where he said nothing.
And I‘ll tell you, if a Republican senator had gone on “Meet the Press” and said that Thurgood Marshall was an embarrassment to the court, he would have been roundly ridiculed and roundly criticized for that. That was outrageous.
COCCO: As you‘re now doing with Senator Reid.
INGRAHAM: It was outrageous.
COCCO: ... both ways.
INGRAHAM: The Democrats and Republicans would have done it. It was out of line.
If you have specific cases that you want to cite as emblematic of his entire 12 years on the court, that‘s one thing. He didn‘t do it, because I bet you Harry Reid has not read one of Justice Thomas‘ opinions, and I would bet my house on that one.
MATTHEWS: That would have been a great follow-up, I know.
INGRAHAM: Yes. It would have been. Yes.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a couple days later.
Let me ask you, Marie, about Howard Dean. Do you think he‘d make a good chairman of the DNC?
COCCO: No, and I don‘t think he‘ll ever be it.
You know who‘s on the DNC. They‘re not exactly Howard Dean voters.
MATTHEWS: They‘re rich guys.
COCCO: They‘re big fund raisers, big money men, state chairmen.
MATTHEWS: Let me suggest something.
What‘s wrong with the Democratic Party is, it started to support issues like abortion rights and trial lawyers and forgot working people, because of the role of money in the party.
COCCO: Chris, Howard Dean was rejected by Democratic voters in closed primaries.
He is not going to be accepted by DNC members.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who is it going to be?
COCCO: I don‘t have a prediction on who it‘s going to be.
I can, I think, predict who it‘s not going to be. I do believe the Democrats will go with some kind of consensus candidate, along the lines of Jim Blanchard.
MATTHEWS: A moderate?
COCCO: A Jim Blanchard, former governor of Michigan, broad appeal, I think, to labor.
MATTHEWS: He was defeated for governor.
COCCO: Howard Dean was defeated for president.
MATTHEWS: Not by his own state.
COCCO: In Democratic primaries.
MATTHEWS: But when you get defeated by your own state, doesn‘t that kill you?
INGRAHAM: Chris, I don‘t think the problem is with who heads up the DNC. Terry McAuliffe raised a lot of money at the DNC. He is very popular around political circles.
INGRAHAM: He‘s a fun guy to talk to at parties. The problem with the Democratic Party is what you said. Its ideas on some key issues are not connecting with what the heart and soul of the American people are. That‘s the problem. It‘s not the DNC.
MATTHEWS: The people who pay the piper call the tune, and the Democrats are not calling the tune of the average working stiff, male or female anymore. They don‘t even know what it‘s like.
Anyway, Laura Ingraham, Marie Cocco.
On Friday, former President Jimmy Carter is going to be my guest right here at this table occupied by these two ladies right there. That‘s on Friday here on HARDBALL.
And join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
See you then.
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