MSNBC The Situation - Transcript
Friday, September 30, 2005
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TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Thank you, Joe. We've got a lot to cover tonight.
In just a moment, I'll ask the chairman of the homeland security committee how exactly the war in Iraq is making us safer at home.
We'll also tell you critics of Bill Bennett, and there are many today, are intentionally missing the point about what he said on the radio about abortion.
But first news of Washington, D.C., today "New York times" reporter Judith Miller testified before a grand jury, breaking her silence in the investigation into whether White House officials leaked the name of a CIA officer a year and a half ago.
Miller's source, Scooter Libby, who was also the vice president's chief of staff, gave Miller permission to testify a year ago and once again this week.
Still unanswered is why Miller suddenly decided to go before the grand jury now? Indictments are expected. Who exactly is going to be indicted, we still have no idea. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, reverberations continue from yesterday's dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill. General George Casey who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, told lawmakers that the Iraqi Army is in even sorrier shape than we've known. According to General Casey, only one Iraqi battalion out of 86 is capable of fighting on its own.
So if 2 ½ years after the invasion, the Iraqi Army is still nowhere near capable of protecting its own country, how and when will U.S. forces be able to leave and come home? That's a question for our next guest. He is Congressman Peter King of New York. He's the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's a long-time supporter of this administration's Iraq policy. He joins us now from Washington.
Mr. Chairman, thanks a lot for coming on.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Tucker. Good to be here.
CARLSON: So we've been told from the very beginning be patient. Be patient with the war in Iraq. It's difficult. It's going to take a long time. And I think Americans have been patient.
But this news yesterday from General Casey is genuinely discouraging. It seems obvious we're moving backward. Why should Americans continue to be patient at this point?
KING: Well, first of all, the news is somewhat better than the impression you're giving. Out of those 86 battalions, about 1/3 of them are operational, which means they are Iraqi-led and the U.S. is providing primarily logistical support.
For instance, about 70 percent of the check points in Baghdad are led by Iraqis. About 40 percent of the patrols are led by Iraqis. About 30 percent of the raids in Baghdad are being carried out by Iraqi-led forces. So the armed forces are a lot better than they were.
CARLSON: Wait a minute. Hold on, Mr. Chairman. Sorry to interrupt you, but the full news, and it wasn't even included in the script that I read a second ago, is that there were up until recently three full battalions that were considered capable of fighting on their own.
And now General Casey tells us that's been readjusted to one. That is a movement backwards. I mean, there's no spinning that.
KING: I'm not trying to spin anything. I'm just saying if you compare where we were, let's say a year, a year and a half ago, we're further along. We're not as far along as we'd hoped to be. We did go from three to one.
And I agree with you. But I'm also saying, though, that there were about a third of the battalions are Iraqi-led. Which means they're operational and the U.S. is providing primarily logistical support. But there is a good ways to go.
I was also telling you what the Iraqis are doing on their own or primarily on their own in and around Baghdad as far as checkpoints, as far as patrolling and as far as raids.
Now I agree with you, I think the previous general did the best he could and we do have to dramatically improve the training and results for the Iraqis on the ground.
Now, we are going to be using less U.S. forces in two weeks for the referendum that we had to use in January because the Iraqis are going to be providing more security now than they were then. They are doing a better job than they were six, eight, nine months ago. But they're not as far along as we expected them to be. That's the reality.
CARLSON: OK. But at some point I think very soon, I say this with no glee, just as an observation, this is going to become a huge problem for the Republican Party and for the administration.
The president can't continue to give the same speech again and again. Stay the course. At some point he's got to say this is going to end at this point. What is he going to tell us? When are we going to know we can bring our troops home?
KING: Well, we know we can bring the troops home when the mission has been accomplished or when the Iraqis are capable of defending themselves. It's not going to be easy.
CARLSON: Of course. People accept that and I think they know that and I think they understand the administration is saying that on good faith.
But most people, including me, have lost track of what the mission is. Can you state it in one sentence: what do the mission and when do we know it's accomplished?
KING: The mission is to stabilize Iraq and thereby help stabilize Iraq and thereby help to stabilize the Mideast and defeat al Qaeda.
KING: And we could not have done that as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.
CARLSON: But that's so broad and general and amorphous. When do you think we'll achieve that?
KING: No. We had to get rid of Saddam Hussein. We did that. Secondly, we had to get a constitution. We are going that and the large number of Iraqi people are behind the movement to democracy.
You can democratize Iraq with a reasonable amount of support and when they can provide their own protection, that will be a tremendous step forward in the war on terrorism. I agree with you the crucial test will be how effective the training is. That's what we have to improve. But again, progress has been made. We can't pull the plug.
CARLSON: If you can't even drive safely from Baghdad out of the country, and you can't, as you know. If you travel to Iraq, you really can't drive. You have to to fly. How meaningful is an election at that point if you can't even send your kids to school. You can't go the barber. You can't go outside uncovered if you're a woman. You can't buy liquor at liquor stores that existed before the invasion, et cetera, et cetera. Does any of this democracy talk mean anything to ordinary Iraqis, who are afraid of getting killed?
KING: If 90 percent of the people come out and vote, obviously, it
means something to them because they are told if they go out and vote
they're going to be killed
So if 90 percent run the risk of being murdered by terrorists, it shows they are wanting to make it work. So many people are willing to put their lives on the line to show their faith in democracy. That's a tremendous expression of support.
Having said that. I agree with you that this cannot go on forever and that the key point is going to be when more and more can be turned over to the Iraqis. We cannot-that is the time table that, again, we have to look for. But we cannot be setting definite dates of what's going to happen at a certain time because then you just give the enemy a target to aim for.
CARLSON: If I were a Republican in a questionable seat with this mid-term election looming, I'd be really concerned. And I'd be complaining to the White House, I'd be saying to the White House, "Gee, give a better storyline here."
Are Republicans doing that? Do you know?
KING: Well, first of all, I don't think you should be looking for story lines when we're talking about national security. What we do is I agree with you. We have to articulate the case better. We have to make it stronger. But the reality is we shouldn't be basing campaigns just on-or put it this way. We should be basing military policy to help our campaign.
CARLSON: I'm not suggesting that per se. I'm just saying when almost 2,000 Americans have died, you need to have a way to convince Americans that their deaths were worth something.
I asked this exact question of one of your colleagues, Congressman Wolf, Republican of Virginia, the other night. And he said point blank on the show what you're saying is hurting the troops.
So raising the question, according to Congressman Wolf, was an attack on the armed forces. That's an outrageous thing to say. But that's kind of the stock line, right? You question the war and you're somehow hurting the war effort. There's got to be a better explanation of why this is worth it coming from the White House, and I don't hear it. Do you?
KING: Well, Tucker, I'm not asking you to stop the questions. I think we can ask legitimate questions.
But I'm just saying that I believe this is going in the right direction and I saw that as a Republican congressman who is running next year, I'm not going to ask the White House to change their strategy or their policies to make my election easier.
I agree that if they can make the case stronger-we can make the case stronger, fine. But our national security is at risk. I believe the war in Iraq is essential to our national security. It's essential to the war against terrorism. And I'm not going to ask anyone to address their policies to make my re-election bid easier.
I do believe-and I've said this-that we have to do a better job of training the Iraqi forces. That's something we have to do. We can't be altering or changing our policy just with the election cycle.
That's been tried in the past. I think one of the reasons, the problems we had going back over a period of years with terrorism is it's we've looked toward the next election. I'm saying let's look toward winning this. If we want this, that will be its own reward. And I am more than willing to carry this fight to my constituency so my voters know where I stand and let them decide next November.
CARLSON: All right. Pete King, new chairman of the homeland security committee, thanks a lot.
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