HARDBALL For May 5, 2004
BYLINE: Chris Matthews; David Gregory; David Shuster; Pat Buchanan
GUESTS: Hossam Shaltout; Thomas Nelson; Anna Eshoo; Maria Shriver
President Bush appears on Arab television to condemn the abuse of Iraqi detainees. A Canadian who was detained in Iraq says he was also abused by U.S. guards. So, should Rumsfeld step down? Cumberland, Maryland, home of some of the soldiers accused, deals with the news.
May 5, 2004 Wednesday
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REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Are we talking about the prison scandal now or...
MATTHEWS: I'm talking about the question of the credibility of the Defense Department all the way to the top.
KING: OK. If you're talking about WMD, obviously, Bill Clinton, Al Gore said the exact same thing. So did every intelligence agency in the world.
As far as the situation in the prisons, if this is confined to six people or 12 people or 15 people...
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe if they're all being sold the same garbage by Ahmed Chalabi, maybe they all bought the same crap. Maybe it's all their fault.
Why do you forgive our defense intelligence agencies...
ESHOO: He's an employee of Mr. Rumsfeld.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we're paying him $350,000 a month. Why do we forgive-why do you forgive our people for getting it wrong because the Brits get it wrong?
KING: Are we talking about the prison or talking about the WMD?
KING: Every intelligence agency in the world, including the United Nations, said he had WMD.
MATTHEWS: Well, how did it happen? How'd it happen?
KING: Because he did have them, and he didn't account for how-for getting rid of them. It would be irresponsible for us not to go to war.
MATTHEWS: President Bush went to war.
KING: It was the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton didn't go to war.
KING: He certainly did. He attacked in 1998.
MATTHEWS: That wasn't a war.
KING: Four days of bombing is war.
Listen. No. This is an important point. It would have been irresponsible not to go to war after September 11 if a dictator says he has weapons of mass destruction, refuses to account for them. You cannot give someone like Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.
Rumsfeld was right. Bush was right. Hillary Clinton was right. And so is John Kerry in voting for the war.
MATTHEWS: So they're right even though they're wrong?
KING: Absolutely. Because you set a precedent. You cannot allow someone after September 11 to say he has WMD and not account for them. Absolutely right. And that's why Libya came over to our side.
MATTHEWS: So you find the United States credible in the aftermath?
KING: Certainly, it's credible.
MATTHEWS: So we're credible in saying there are weapons of mass destruction that cannot be found. We're credible in saying there's a connection or implying a correction to 9/11.
KING: We never said there was a connection to 9/11. We never said there was a connection to 9/11.
MATTHEWS: We never did? We never did?
ESHOO: Well, the administration continues to, on the campaign trail, draw a nexus between 9 -- war on terrorism and Iraq. In fact...
MATTHEWS: Why did the overwhelming number of people that still support this war believe there was a connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein?
KING: Because a majority...
MATTHEWS: Why do a majority of them believe, up to about 70 percent, believe that somehow Iraqis attacked us 9/11?
KING: Well, it's part of the war on terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Why do they believe Iraq attacked us 9/11?
KING: Maybe because they see-Don't blame George Bush. George Bush never said that. George Bush never said it. Colin Powell never said it.
What he did say was there were links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, but nobody ever tied it to September 11. None whatsoever.
ESHOO: There's never been a shred of intelligence that draws a nexus between Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, and the attack on our country.
MATTHEWS: And there certainly-who's going to question the credibility...
ESHOO: And what has happened in this debacle is that there is a war on terrorism in which we've departed.
MATTHEWS: OK. We're talking about a simple question. If somebody gets it wrong-Congressman King, you made your point. You say they were right in being wrong or they were wrong in being right. Whatever.
But the fact is they've now have a string of four problems here. Bad intel on WMD, maybe bad intel shared by other countries.
No. 2, a problem here on making the case to 9/11.
And No. 3, the case it was going to be an easy occupation.
And fourth, now, this problem of treatment of prisoners.
KING: OK. Let's go to the treatment of prisoners. We don't know how far it started. If we're talking about five, 10, 15 people, there's no way the president of the United States or the secretary of defense is responsible. Any more than Franklin Roosevelt was responsible when German prisoners were mashed in World War II.
MATTHEWS: What does he have to do?
KING: What he's doing now. I think the president is doing the right thing. He's going forward...
MATTHEWS: Should heads roll?
KING: As far up as it has to go, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: How high would you go?
KING: As high as it goes. As far-you track it. You have an investigation.
MATTHEWS: Should this woman Karpinski go, the one who was the commandant of this prison, as well as those other facilities?
KING: I think we should see what the report shows.
ESHOO: Failure from what we see on her hands.
MATTHEWS: That's a hot topic. And it ain't getting any cooler.
Anyway, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Congressman Pete King.
Coming up, a live report from Cumberland, Maryland, home to several of the Americans accused of prison abuse.
You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
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