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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: Congressman Dennis Kucinich is an Ohio Democrat who thinks we should get out of Afghanistan now, and Republican congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas says we need to send in more troops.

Let's get to the issue right now with both of you. Congressman Kucinich, you first. Are we losing the war in Afghanistan?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: We should have never been there. We got to get beyond equations of win or lose. We can't-we can't win in a situation where there's a weak central government, widespread fraud, where occupations fuel insurgency, where there's drugs involved. This is a nightmare. We need to get out troops out of there and get them out of there as fast as we can.

MATTHEWS: But I want an answer. Are we losing? The general says our mission is failing. Do you agree with him, General McChrystal?

KUCINICH: Well, I-again, I don't think we should have ever gone in

or stayed in there to begin with. So I don't even-my level (ph)

analysis on this, Chris, is-it goes beyond winning and losing. We win

by leaving.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, that's an interesting point of view. I'm trying to figure out whether we're beating the Taliban or whether we can't beat them, they're going to be there when we're gone.

Let me go to Congressman Thornberry. Are we losing the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan?

REP. MAC THORNBERRY ®, TEXAS: Well, I trust General McChrystal's assessment that things are going badly. That does not mean we are losing to the Taliban, but it means we-things are going in the wrong direction, which means the Taliban is gaining, and as they gain, al Qaeda has more room to maneuver and to plan and to plot against us.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, Congressman Kucinich, if you get your way, if we pull out of Afghanistan quickly, what will be the consequences of that decision?

KUCINICH: Well, I think, immediately, we don't just pull out without consulting with nations in the region. And we have to make sure that we-that we have an ongoing observation of what's going on in that region. But I think the immediate consequence is that the United States will be spared the loss of more troops, is that we won't see the U.S. in a position where during our occupation, the production of opium goes up in the country. I think that we'll start to be in a position of stabilizing our situation in other parts of the world. I think we'll be in a stronger position to play a hand with Iran.

I don't think we're-I think we're destabilizing our power by being in Afghanistan, and I think we should get out of there and we should get out of Iraq, as well.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe if we pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will defeat the central government of Karzai?

KUCINICH: I think that the central government of Karzai right now is

so corrupt and so weak that if we stay in there, we can't prop it up. It's

despised by the people of Afghanistan. So whoever takes over, you know,

they're going to have a difficult time being able to control Afghanistan

until, number one, they get control of the drug situation, which is really

the warlords and the drug lords have taken over much of Afghanistan. So whoever takes over that central government, they're going to have a tough time holding on. You're looking at-you're looking at controlled chaos for quite a few years.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Thornberry, what happens if we give General McChrystal the 40,000 more troops he wants? What will be the result of that decision?

THORNBERRY: Well, remember, he's not just asking for more troops. He wants to implement a new strategy. And what that strategy seeks to achieve is to help the Afghans stand up their own police and their own military so that they can take care of their own security so, ideally, given the time and training and so forth, Afghans can secure their territory and prevent it from becoming another base to be used against terrorist-as terrorist attacks against us, and Pakistan can also prevent its territory from being used as a base against us, and the government of Pakistan can be stabilized, as well.

Remember, it's not just what happens within the borders of Afghanistan that's important, it's neighboring Pakistan with nuclear weapons that we have to keep our eye on.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that President Karzai's party won that last election? Do you believe that was a clean election? Do you believe we're defending a legitimate government? You first, Mr. Thornberry.

THORNBERRY: It's obviously not a clean election. Exactly who won, I don't know, and we'll be watching for the studies and the investigations on that.

But remember, we're not there to defend the Karzai government. We're there to prevent a sanctuary from being used to attack us here at home and we're there to prevent the government of Pakistan from being destabilized. And I would say, as a benefit, a side benefit, in a way, we are there to prevent return of the Taliban rule. And nobody should underestimate the humanitarian disaster that those stadium executions and the other things that went on during the Taliban rule brought on the people of Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: I'm just trying to figure out, gentlemen, what exactly will happen if your policy prescriptions are carried through. I want to go back to Congressman Thornberry. You seem very unclear as to what we're protecting over in-are we protecting the government there? How do we-who are we for-who are we for in Afghanistan? Who are we for?

THORNBERRY: We're for us and we are for stabilizing...

MATTHEWS: We're for us in Afghanistan?

THORNBERRY: Yes, sir. We are stabilizing the government in Afghanistan so that Afghanistan...

MATTHEWS: The Government of Karzai?

THORNBERRY: ... Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan cannot be used as a sanctuary to attack us.

MATTHEWS: OK.

THORNBERRY: This is what it's about. Now, they're imperfect, but remember, their military and their police force is building up. And rather than focus on the head in Kabul, we need to look at their whole national capabilities and whether they can effectively prevent...

MATTHEWS: OK.

THORNBERRY: ... al Qaeda from using it as a base against us.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Congressman Kucinich because you seem hesitant, sir. I think I know your philosophy here, but I don't get your particular belief. Do you believe that General McChrystal is correct in saying our mission is a failure, that we are losing the ground war against the Taliban?

KUCINICH: What he said is predicated on him wanting to send more troops.

MATTHEWS: Right.

KUCINICH: And I disagree with that, Chris. So I think that-you know, his whole view is you look at improving the counterinsurgency. It's wrong strategy for Afghanistan. You need-counterinsurgencies are built for more stable situations than have you in Afghanistan. The idea that we're going to put an-a democracy in Afghanistan, when you consider all the corruption that they've had, ballot stuffing, ballot shredding, intimidation, it's kind of like thinking that you can have a rock-or have a rose grow out of a-out of a-out of sheer granite. It's not going to happen. It's the wrong soil.

MATTHEWS: When-Mr. Thornberry, you want us to give the 40,000 troops that General McChrystal's asked for. When do you believe we'll be able to leave Afghanistan in force? In other words, leave with a big force we have there. We'll have over 100,000 troops there, if he gets his request. When do you think we can leave?

THORNBERRY: I don't know what the timetable is. And it would be a mistake...

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. We've been there eight years. Should we stay eight more years?

THORNBERRY: OK. It would be a mistake-it would be a mistake for us to set a timetable, just like it was a mistake to set ahead of time a timetable in Iraq. What I do know is General McChrystal says the next 12 to 18 months will be a critical period in deciding how this goes. And we either need to trust the commander that has been given the responsibility, that is on the ground, who is one of the best our country has...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

THORNBERRY: ... or if the president doesn't trust him, he needs to replace him. I mean, we need to either...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you...

THORNBERRY: ... go one way or another.

MATTHEWS: I'm not asking you to set a timetable. I'm asking you, as a politician who represents people in this country, in a civilian-controlled situation here-which we are in this country, thank God-how long do you think we should fight this war in Afghanistan? In other words, eight years now and counting. Can we stay there another eight years, continuing to take the casualties we're taking. How long can we make this commitment?

THORNBERRY: Well, we need to make the commitment to defend the country, whatever time it takes. And whether that is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen or Somalia, wherever al Qaeda may squirt (ph) out to, we have to have the commitment to defend ourselves.

But I believe-as, apparently, General McChrystal believes, that if we have a new strategy with the resources to back it up, we have a very good chance...

MATTHEWS: OK...

THORNBERRY: ... for success in Iraq-I mean, in Afghanistan, just as we have been having success in Iraq, despite all...

MATTHEWS: OK...

THORNBERRY: ... the naysayers and despite all the doubts about that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, Thank you very much, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Sir, thank you for joining us. Thank you, Mac Thornberry of Texas.

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