MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript
Friday, November 18, 2005
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SCARBOROUGH: All right.
Here to talk about this issue now, Democratic Congress Barney Frank and Republican Congressman Peter King.
Barney, let me bring you in here first.
There's a line that keeps coming out here, sticking out here in this White House statement that really jumps off the page to me and I would guess would upset a lot of Democrats. It says, "Now is not the time to-quote-"surrender to the terrorists."
Do you believe that by calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq, you or other Democrats or moderate Republicans would be surrendering to terrorists?
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, not at all.
What Jack Murtha is strategy, in fact, is that he wants us to be able to fight terrorism more effectively. One of the things that Congressman Murtha is worried about, he has been one of the leading defenders and advocates, as you mentioned, of a strong military. And he believes, based on his very extensive studies, that this is weakening the military.
And we have seen since. We have seen problems with the military. We have seen problems morale in terms of people serving. So, no, I-by the way, one of the problems is, there's been debate about what the president said about weapons of mass destruction.
But one thing that the president, particularly the vice president, said early on in justifying this war on Iraq was clearly wrong. And they haven't got a lot of the people saying it. They were the ones who were claiming that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were somehow linked. There was this argument that the vice president kept making that somehow Iraq had been involved in September 11.
In fact, I voted to go to war in Afghanistan because of their role in September 11. But I don't think there was ever that linkage with regard to Iraq. And that is a misstatement that was made then. And the notion that you strengthen terrorism by leaving I think is exactly opposite of the case. I think that our continuing to be a target there in fact has encouraged terrorism.
The last thing I would say is this. Iraq is a country of 25 or 26 million people. We are told that there are 15,000 or 16,000 or 20,000 of these terrorists. If there really is this kind of support in Iraq that we have been working on for three years, why can't 25 million people deal with 15,000?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, that's-actually, Peter King, that's a question I want to ask you.
I have made it no secret from the beginning of this war I supported it. I supported it then. I still support it now. I don't think we should withdraw. But you know what? It seems to be a fair question that Barney seems to be implying. If this was such a powerful country that we were so afraid, why, two years later, are boys from Boston and Birmingham and young women from Boston and Birmingham dying, instead of Iraqis from Basra and Baghdad?
I mean, at what point do we bring our men and women home and say, this is your country; if you want freedom, if you want democracy, fight for it?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, first of all, Joe, every American death is a tragedy.
I just had a young man in my district who was buried yesterday. So, I have some idea of the suffering involved. But, having said that, there are thousands and thousands of Iraqis who have been killed at a far greater rate than Americans. And the Iraqis are taking over a good deal of the fighting.
Over 70 percent of the patrols in Baghdad are led by Iraqis. There is over 80 battalions who are capable of fighting, many of whom are in the lead.
So, I think it's unfair to say the Iraqis are not fighting. And I think an answer to Barney's question is, you don't need more than a handful of terrorists. I mean, you have had countries with three and four million people where 500 terrorists can keep a war going for 20, 25 years.
I mean, the British said there was never more than 300 people in the IRA, and that war went on for 34 years. So, if you have a determined number of people, they can keep a fight going. But I have been to Iraq a number of times. I think the situation is much better than it is portrayed. And I believe that it is a mistake if we withdraw before there is stability. And I think you will see a greater degree of stability after December 15 elections and after the-under General Petraeus, the Iraqi army has been trained much better than it has been in the past.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman Frank, Vice President Dick Cheney has obviously been out front, accusing Democrats of lying over the past several years regarding the lead-up to the war, the intelligence in lead-up to war.
What is your response to his belief that the Democrats have stepped over the line and are no longer engaged in political debates, but just out-and-out falsehoods?
FRANK: Well, that's just not even serious conversation.
Let's go back to the fact that Vice President Cheney continued to insist long after there was clearly no evidence for it that Osama bin Laden was involved with Saddam Hussein and that Iraq was involved with 9/11. The vice president said that. He then on television would deny that he said it. And they would have to show clips of his saying it.
And I want go back to the central issue, though, Joe. One, Peter makes me a little nervous when his defense is, well, it can take 34 years or 27 years. That's what I'm afraid of. That's what we are facing. And if in fact we are seeing this progress within Iraq, there are 15,000 to 20,000 terrorists. There are 80 battalions or whatever there are of the Iraqis. Yes, they should do the fighting.
The fact is that the-many Iraqis are dying, but the bulk of the fighting is being done by the United States. And I think it becomes a self-fulfilling kind of prophecy that we become the targets. I don't understand why, if there is this kind of support in Iraq, they can't fight their own battle this way.
Secondly, I would say this. When we are told December 15 is going to be the stabilizing event, we have had about eight events that were going to be the stabilizing event, the capture of Saddam Hussein, turning over sovereignty, the constitution. You know, we had the old story of the boy who cried wolf and then nothing bad happened. The president is the boy who cried good doggy. He keeps telling us that everything is going to be OK and things deteriorate.
So, I'm afraid we are faced with an indefinite thing here. And what Congressman Murtha is saying, based on a lot of conversations he's had with the military is, anger at America in fact weakens, rather than strengthens the Iraqi government. We ought to get out of the way and let the majority of the Iraqi people win their own fight.
SCARBOROUGH: Peter King, a lot of people in Middle America agree with Barney Frank. What do you say to those Americans?
KING: I think it's important for Americans to do the right thing.
Now, the president is doing the right thing. As far as the Iraqi army, they are going to be taking over much more of the fighting. I think we are going to see a significant drawdown of American troops over the next year, next year to 18 months.
General Petraeus has done an outstanding job of leading this fight. My concern is not just with the terrorists in Iraq if we pull out, but then you have the Shiites in Iran would have an opening to come into Iraq. One of the reasons the Iraqi army is not capable of doing the fighting it should have been over the last several years is because so much of the army deserted back in March of 2003.
And we restructured the army. So, again, Barney and I have an honest disagreement over this. Where I disagree with Jack Murtha is, I think that withdrawing would send the absolutely wrong signal. It would be disastrous. And it would have a tremendous effect in the Middle East and in the war on terrorism.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. All right. Thank you so much, Congressman Peter King and Barney Frank. I loved serving with you guys. And it is great to have you with us today on the debate.
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