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Public Statements

MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Democratic Eric Massa of New York is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which heard testimony today from the commander on the ground in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, and the ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. And Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Congressman Massa, what do you make of this? I can"t tell. Are we in there basically until 2011, when we start to pull out, or is that just when we just start to reduce the surge, but really stay in? What is it?

REP. ERIC MASSA (D), NEW YORK: We don"t know. And, in fact, after testimony today, those waters are even cloudier.

Chris, the most important thing we can do to support our troops in the field is to give them a mission they can achieve. And they cannot build an Afghan national identity. We are now well into nation-building, as it was testified very clearly today, and that cannot and will not work. If it is the mission of our military, we should come home now, emphatically and clearly.

You know, we invaded Afghanistan with 1,000 special forces personnel. We hunted down, we killed, we captured 99 percent of the terrorists that we were looking for. And as a military man, all my entire life, my entire body screams that this policy is a tremendous mistake.

When I hear someone say we have to win, and then cannot tell us what win means, I think we"re going down the wrong road, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me go--let me go to Congressman--Congressman Jack Kingston on that thought.

Your thoughts about the president"s commitment. How do you see it?

Is it basically stay in to win, or begin to pull out in 2011 in July?

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Chris, I"m like Eric.

I think we, in both parties, are genuinely confused. The president has said it"s an 18-month time frame, and yet General McChrystal said today, well, that time frame is not poured in stone. Yesterday, Karzai said to Gates in Afghanistan that, well, it"s going to take us five years to have our folks ready to take the primary responsibilities, and 15 years before we can start training for it.

So, we"re getting a lot of mixed signals. We don"t know if this 18 months is real or not. One of my concerns is, well, maybe you can have the troops stepping back. I don"t know what 18 months, withdrawal really means. Maybe they stay there, but they don"t--do not do any of the fighting.

But Karzai, again, he said yesterday, we can"t take the fighting up for another five years, not on the primary basis.

So, one thing I think the president and his administration needs to do is retool. If we are in it, the fight, to win, give the troops everything they need, including, as Eric said, a mission, but also the tools, the number of troops, the ammunition, and everything else, especially a plan and fight to win or bring them all home.

And--and I think there is a growing frustration on Capitol Hill in both parties that we"re not getting that plan.

MATTHEWS: Well, I hear you on the choice. But, just for a minute there, Congressman, how do you define victory? Is it defeating the--the Taliban and all those Pashtun types, all those people that don"t like the central government? Is it knocking them out of business, to the point where they don"t even matter?

MASSA: Chris, can I...

MATTHEWS: Could we possibly do that?

MASSA: Can I offer you some observations that were made today during the hearing?

MATTHEWS: OK, sir, you first, then Congressman Kingston. I want to hear what he thinks, because victory is so elusive in a country...

MASSA: It"s not--it"s not only elusive. It has not been defined. We have achieved military victory, an unprecedented military victory in the 21st century. And that is why it is now time to come home.

And for those who say, somehow, that al Qaeda re-insurgence in Afghanistan is not only guaranteed, but it will happen, we will find them, we will hunt them down, and we will kill them, not only in Afghanistan, but wherever they are.

The reality is, we have been told we are partnering, and that our partnering has to include the Afghan government, one of the most corrupt governments on the face of the planet. How can you ask somebody to corrupt with an--to cooperate with a narco state, when the brother of the president is one of the biggest narco traffickers known to our own intelligence forces? We are asking American men and women to fight and die for something that Afghans will not stand up and fight and die for. If the Afghan civilian population and their now police and security forces think that the Taliban are so horrible, then they should fight and defend themselves, at least equally to what they"re asking us to do.

We"ve seen this movie before.

MATTHEWS: Here"s what Afghan President Karzai said earlier today about his country"s ability to pay for its own security forces. Let"s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT: For a number of years, maybe for another 15 to 20 years, Afghanistan will not be able to sustain a force of that nature and capability with its own resources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Fifteen to 20 years, to pay for their own defense. Here"s what Defense Secretary Robert Gates said about the time frame, in terms of both troop presence and financial assistance. Let"s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whether it"s three years or two years or four years, I think, remains to be seen. But as the president--as President Obama has made very clear, this is not an open-ended commitment on the part of the United States.

I think that there is a realism on our part that it will be some time before Afghanistan is able to sustain its security forces entirely on its own. And whether that"s 15 or 20 years, we"ll hope for accelerated economic development in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, in those old Lone Ranger movies, Mr. Kingston, congressman, Tonto would say, you speak with forked tongue. Everybody knew what it meant. It was some sort of American--supposedly Native American language, made up by Hollywood script writers. Forked tongue meaning you"re talking to two different people with two different points of view. Do you think the president is telling Hillary Clinton and maybe Secretary Gates he"s a hawk, and he"s telling Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel he"s a dove? In other words, he"s saying to one crowd, I"m sticking in for the long haul, and he"s telling the other crowd, don"t worry, we"re out of there July of 2011? Do you think he"s up to that?

KINGSTON: I think something"s going on, because they"re not all on the same message. That"s what bothers us in Congress. The president has said 18 months, and that, as you suggest, is something for the left, who wants out of there. And then the representatives of the administration come to Capitol Hill and they say, well, that time-line is not poured in concrete, and we want to fight to win, whatever it takes.

What we want over there is a military that is pro-American--or a government that"s reasonably pro-American, and a government that is stable, both from a political and an economic point of view, and a country that is viable. And the reason why that is important to America is because we really don"t want Afghanistan, particularly the Taliban and al Qaeda, getting the nuclear weapons that they have in Pakistan. And so a stable Afghanistan is in US interests, only as it respects Pakistan.

MATTHEWS: By the way, George Will is among those on the left, as you call it, who want us to get out of there. There are a lot of people who are very much libertarian in their views and pro-American in their views that think this is not in America"s interest to be over there stuck in that part of the world. I"m not sure--sometimes you can apply the left/right syndrome, but I"m not sure here. Congressman, your thought, Mr. Massa?

MASSA: Thank you. It"s not left and right.

MATTHEWS: I don"t think it is either.

KINGSTON: No, I agree. I think it"s a big mixed bag. I think you have people on all sides of it. But I will say, still, generally you do have a conservative, probably pro-policy group in Congress. But let me be the first to agree with Eric and you, that is deteriorating, and you have a lot of people all over the court on this, just like the administration itself seems to be.

MATTHEWS: That"s a pretty good thought. That little rabbit punch you put in there might be appropriate. Thank you, congressman Jack Kingston. Thank you, Eric Massa, congressman from New York State.

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