MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews - Transcript
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MATTHEWS: Thank you David Shuster.
Is President Bush smart to argue that withdrawing from Iraq now could make the situation worse? Im joined now by two Iraq war veterans who fall on opposite sides of the issue. Paul Hackett has been a vocal critic of the war and was heavily recruited by Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, only to be pressured out of the race. Hes now a board member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American political action committee.
And Van Taylor is the only Republican among a handful of Iraq war veterans running for Congress. Hes trying to unseat eight-term incumbent, Congressman Chet Edwards in the district thats home to President Bushs Crawford ranch.
Let me start with you, Mr. Taylor. Thank you very much for joining us. Do you think we are right to be in Iraq?
VAN TAYLOR (R-TX), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We need to stay in Iraq until we get the job done there. We have got to defeat al Qaeda terrorists that are trying to take over the country of Iraq and use it as a launching pad to conduct terrorist attacks in the region and possibly even on the United States.
MATTHEWS: And where did al Qaeda come from?
TAYLOR: Al Qaeda is an amorphous organization.
MATTHEWS: No no, the people that are fighting it that you say are threatening us in Iraq, where did they come from?
TAYLOR: Al Qaeda made a conscious, tactical decision to do battle with the United States in Iraq and we have responded and fought them there. We need to fight them there because if we dont fight them there, rMD+IN_rMD+BO_rMDNM_we are going to fight them here at home.
MATTHEWS: So they came in since we went in?
TAYLOR: There is no question. I mean, they made a decision in the summer of 2003 to come into Iraq and launch an attack against the United States forces.
MATTHEWS: So there wouldnt have been an al Qaeda component of the size there is -- there wouldnt have been that threat if we hadnt gone in in the first place.
TAYLOR: Well al Qaeda could choose to do battle with us somewhere else, possibly in Europe or even in the United States. So clearly fighting in Iraq meant that they didnt fight us somewhere else.
MATTHEWS: So the people that are killing 3,000 people a month in Iraq are al Qaeda, you are saying? All the deaths we are seeing on television is caused by al Qaeda? Thats against all the reporting we are getting. Thats why Im raising this sir. I dont get any reporting saying those people are being getting killed by al Qaeda -- 3,000, 100 people a day are getting in that war between the Shia and the Sunni and I just wonder why you keep bringing in al Qaeda, which is by every estimate of every military man, is an isolated five percent maybe of the action over there.
TAYLOR: We need to be in Iraq because of al Qaeda and we cannot leave Iraq until al Qaeda is eradicated from that country.
MATTHEWS: Well those are talking points. Where do they fit into the fact that 3,000 a month are being killed over there? Who is killing those people that we are watching on television every night. Is that al Qaeda doing that?
TAYLOR: Al Qaeda is trying to foment a civil war in Iraq and we need to stop them from doing that. We need to make sure that Iraq is a stable democracy.
MATTHEWS: OK, what percentage being killed over there are being killed by al Qaeda, as you say? Every day on the headlines? Who is doing all the killing?
TAYLOR: You are asking two different questions.
MATTHEWS: No, Im asking one question, sir. What is the role of al Qaeda? You brought it up. Whats the role of al Qaeda in Iraq? Im just asking.
TAYLOR: Al Qaeda is trying to foment an insurgency in Iraq. We have got to secure our country against terrorists and they are attacking us right now, U.S. forces are risking their lives fighting al Qaeda terrorists that seek to destroy our country and our way of life. We have got to do whatever it takes to finish the job in Iraq and make sure that we give a secure country to our children.
MATTHEWS: OK, same set of questions to you, Mr. Hackett. First of all, the first question is should we be in Iraq?
PAUL HACKETT, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: No the war is over. Every single military goal that can be accomplished with the U.S. military has been accomplished. We are a nation builder.
MATTHEWS: OK, what are we watching on television? Same question I did to Mr. Taylor. What are we watching on television every night and picking up newspapers and seeing the blood on the newspapers of 3,000 people a month getting killed over there?
HACKETT: What we are seeing, Chris, is chaos, pandemonium, civil war. This is not something thats going to happen in the future if we leave because we are going to leave. Its something that is happening every single day in Iraq because this administration has mismanaged this war, has mismanaged the military, has redirected the military, has ignored the advice of the military leaders and has made America the laughing stock of the world.
They have depleted our prestige. They have depleted our strength as a country. And, frankly, Mr. Taylor is an apologist for this failed mission, lack of policy, lack of strategy, lack of goal-oriented mission accomplishment. There is no goal. There is no strategy, there is no plan. This administration is floundering on the world stage and you and I are paying the price for it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask Mr. Taylor to take all the time he needs to give you an answer to that.
TAYLOR: We need to send people to Washington that understand the war on terror. There was a time in our country ...
HACKETT: Look the war on terror, terror is a strategy. Its not a philosophy.
TAYLOR: ... with many members of had Congress have served better
Paul, Im going to finish this. Youve interrupted me in the past. You are not going to interrupt me here.
MATTHEWS: Let him finish, please.
TAYLOR: OK, we have got to win the war on terror. Al Qaeda is a vicious terrorist organization. They are seeking to destroy our way of life. They have come to this country. They have attacked us. They are attacking U.S. forces in Iraq. They have attacked U.S. forces around the world. Theyve got to be dealt with. You cannot put your head in the sand. You cannot walk away.
HACKETT: So whats the strategy?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you the question. Mr. Taylor, the president of the United States held a press conference yesterday and he was asked what role did Iraq play on the al Qaeda attack on us on 9/11? He said nothing, no role. You say something different it sounds like.
TAYLOR: Today, in Iraq al Qaeda ...
MATTHEWS: No, he said they had nothinghe saidno, he said they had nothingdo you agree with that, with the president that they had nothing to do with the attack of 9/11?
TAYLOR: They had no direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you mean no direct? Answer the question.
The president said no connection. What connection do you draw?
TAYLOR: As far as I know, I do not believe they have any direct involvement with the attack on 9/11. I agree with the president.
MATTHEWS: So why did we attack Iraq then? Why did we attack Iraq then?
TAYLOR: Regardless of why we may have started fighting, and I served as a marine ...
MATTHEWS: Im asking the question, why did we attack Iraq? Why did we go into Iraq?
TAYLOR: Thats not the question that we need answered.
MATTHEWS: Its mine.
TAYLOR: Its what do we do now?
MATTHEWS: Whats wrong with me asking the question? We are in a war.
Pearl Harbor started World War II.
TAYLOR: Thats a question you can ask ...
MATTHEWS: What start it? Why did we go into Iraq?
TAYLOR: That is a question you can ask historians, but today we need to send people to Washington who understand the war on terror. There is not a single member of the United States Congress that has served in the war on terror, and there are only two dozen combat veterans. I will be the very first. We need to send people like me in Washington.
HACKETT: Chris, if I may interjectif I may interject, Chris, Van obviously doesnt understand the war on terror. Where is Osama bin Laden? Where is the 62" white robe-dressed, left-handed Arab who is walking around in Pakistan or Afghanistan? That was the war against those who attacked us on our soil.
War on terror? I mean, thats a ridiculous soundbite. Terror, as you know, Van, is a military strategy. Its not a philosophy. You are not going to defeat a strategy. You are going to defeat a philosophy. And if you want to defeat it, you have to address what compels those people to sacrifice their lives and kill innocent women and children.
MATTHEWS: Well, give us that answer. Full answer now, take all your time. We have 90 seconds, please, go ahead, Mr. Taylor.
TAYLOR: We need to grind down this insurgency, we need to destroy al Qaeda, wherever they may be.
TAYLOR: We need to support our troops. We need to support our troops, and if you take, for instance, the incumbent Im running against here in Texas, he actually did not support our troops. He took thousands of dollars of campaign contributions to help crooked insurance agents rip off thousands of ...
HACKETT: You have taken thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from Dick Cheney, from Exxon oil, the $5 million worth of stock that you inherited. Come on, Van. Be honest. Really talk about the war.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you aboutyou guys are getting personal here. Look, I just want to ask you Mr. Taylor, because you got a chance to respond and you got a little time here. It seems to me like 60 percent of the people in Iraq are Shia. We are learning all this as we go along, and even the fighting men are learning this, and women.
Sixty percent are Shia, about 20 some percent are Sunni. The Sunni insurgents dont like being ruled by the 60 percent. Theyve been fighting, as we call them, insurgents. The majority include people like militia peopleal-Sadr and people like thatwho are pretty dangerous characters who are also fighting back and forth. Where does al Qaeda fit into this?
TAYLOR: Al Qaeda is there in Iraq today seeking to kill Americans. And welook, I would rather put my body armor back on and kiss my two children and my wife in central Texas goodbye and go fight in Iraq rather than have to fight al Qaeda in the United States. They choose to do battle with us in Iraq. We need though them fight them there.
HACKETT: That is a false choice and its silly and ridiculous to even imply that. Al Qaeda represents a small faction of the people who are fighting there. They came there because we are there. We rocked the boat there. At this point, this administration has no strategy to fix the problem.
HACKETT: I can I tell you this. We can paint all the schools we want to paint. Its not going to fix the problem. Sorry, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Mr. HackettMr. Hackett ...
HACKETT: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: ...you are very passionate and vigilant on this issue. Its too bad you are not the candidate up there. It looks like the candidate is way ahead in the polls. Is this bugging you that the Sherrod Brown has got the nomination and not you?
HACKETT: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Send money to Sherrod Brown. He is a hell of a guy, and we hope he is our next senator from Ohio.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you gentlemen. Thank you for joining us, Van Taylor.
HACKETT: Thank you, Chris.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you down in Texas, you are racing against the incumbent Chet Edwards, right? And Paul Hackett, you are not running for the Senate, OK?
HACKETT: Absolutely not. Im running Hackett Law Offices. If you need a good lawyer, call me.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, sir. Coming up ...
TAYLOR: And if you want to support a Iraq veteran running for Congress vantaylor.com.
MATTHEWS: I think we heard that. Thank you, sir, for joining us.
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