Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Last Word.

This is the trasnscript of the debate on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Again I have respect for Paul, just not his views. Paul is very much against this war.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A day after President Bush talked openly for the first time about the large number of Americans killed in Iraq, he was forced to answer a question today about why he won‘t meet with Cindy Sheehan again at his Crawford ranch.

Here‘s what the president said.


BUSH: Well, I did meet with Cindy Sheehan. I strongly support her right to protest. There‘s a lot of people protesting. And there‘s a lot of points of view about the Iraq war.

As you know, in Crawford last weekend, there was people from both sides of the issue or from all sides of the issue there to express their opinions.

I sent Deputy Chief of Staff Hagen and National Security Adviser Hadley to meet with Ms. Sheehan early on.

She expressed her opinion. I disagree with it. I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. I think those who advocate immediate withdrawal from not only Iraq but the Middle East are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States.

So I appreciate her right to protest. I understand her anguish. I‘ve met with a lot of families. She doesn‘t represent the view of a lot of families I have met with. And I‘ll continue to meet with families.


MATTHEWS: “She doesn‘t represent the views of a lot of families I have met with,” those are the operative words.

Sergeant John Byrnes served in Iraq last year and wrote an op-ed in today‘s “New York Post,” disagreeing with Senator Chuck Hagel‘s comparison of the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam. And Paul Rieckhoff served a tour of duty in Iraq from April 2003 to February of just last year. He is executive director of Operation Truth.

Gentlemen, I respect both of your services. It seems to me, what‘s happening now is not just this back-and-forth about, will the president meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother—Gold Star mother, or not? But both sides now seem to be saying, because there are casualties in this war, 2,000 dead now, and, what, 5,000 or 10,000 casualties, wounded, if you count a different way, seriously wounded, as opposed to just wounded for a day or two, that if you have casualties, that‘s proof we should not fight anymore, we should pull out. And the other side says, well, we have had casualties—that‘s the president speaking—so, we should stay in, because we owe it to them.

Does either side have a point, Sergeant Byrnes?

SGT. JOHN BYRNES, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, I think both sides have a point, but I certainly agree with the president‘s point of view strongly on that.

I think that the worst thing that you could do to dishonor those who have fallen, whether finally or have simply fallen to get up and fight again another day, the worst thing you could do to their memory is to restore Iraq to the kind of dictatorship that it had three years ago or to let it erode into a totally chaotic situation, where there‘s absolutely no control of the borders and the people have absolutely no hope for economic or political benefit.

MATTHEWS: Paul Rieckhoff, your view. Do you think it‘s fair to use the dead, basically, the people who have served their country to the ultimate price, paying the ultimate price, as to make a case for a policy?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATION TRUTH: I honestly don‘t think so. And neither does Senator Hagel.

What he‘s saying is, by other metrics, we don‘t have any success. He talks about oil production. He talks about electricity production. He talks about the never-ending security problems. And I think this all stems from the president‘s failure to articulate what success looks like. He has never communicated to the American public, to the Iraqi people and to the troops on the ground what right looks like. How do we know when we‘re done? And give us a ballpark. How long is it going to take?

To demand an exit strategy is not the same as advocating for an immediate pullout. I think it is a strategic military plan and it makes sense to know how long we are going to be there and what kind of resources we need to extend and also how to prepare the American people for it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Sergeant, or John, if—you‘re still on ready reserve, right? So I got to...


BYRNES: You can call me Sergeant or not.


BYRNES: ... John...


MATTHEWS: Well, I will call you both.


MATTHEWS: So, let me ask you this about the—the serious question about policy and how long we should stay.

Shouldn‘t the question be, can we get something done over there between now and the next couple of years? We are not going to stay there forever. So, it‘s, should we stay another year or two or another four or five years? That‘s probably the range we‘re arguing about here, isn‘t it?

BYRNES: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: It‘s whether—it‘s a matter of a couple of years difference between the pullout experts or the pullout advocates. Nobody is really going to say—because it‘s not going to happen—we are pulling out tomorrow. So, we begin to pull out next year. We begin to pull out in three or four years, is probably the argument. What can we get done in that three or four years we can‘t get done in a year?

BYRNES: Well, I think that we could stabilize the government. We can provide security for longer.

It will give us more time to train up and to equip the Iraqi forces. But I think what is happening here is, we‘re conflating several different arguments. The people who are saying pull out now, I think that‘s a ridiculous argument. And I think even Senator Hagel recognizes that as a ridiculous argument.

The problem that I had with Senator Hagel‘s comments on Thursday and particularly on Sunday morning were that he was waving the banner of Vietnam. He was saying that we‘re not achieving anything. And he was contradicting himself. He said that pulling out would leave a power vacuum that would destabilize the region, but that staying there would destabilize the region.

And having gotten the press attention that he got on Thursday, I didn‘t understand why he couldn‘t on Sunday make some constructive remarks, rather than to wave that Vietnam flag again and to bring up all these issues of: We should leave now. We are destabilizing the region.

Senator Hagel, if you have a plan that will help, if you have some ideas that will do something, go ahead and share them with us. But don‘t just—just beat on the Vietnam drum and tell us how bad we‘re doing.

MATTHEWS: Paul, do you think there‘s a parallel between Vietnam and Iraq?

RIECKHOFF: I think there are some parallels. I think there are similarities.

And Chuck Hagel would know. He served honorably in Vietnam and was—was awarded two Purple Hearts. Even Henry Kissinger is starting to talk about parallels between Vietnam. The issue is not just, should we stay or should we pull out, but should we change course? And you‘re hearing that from all sides at this point. You‘re hearing it from—especially from the veterans, like John McCain, like Senator Hagel.

You‘re hearing it from people on the inside during Vietnam, like Henry Kissinger. The question before the president is, right now, why does your view of Iraq look so much different from these people? And why haven‘t you changed course? You don‘t need to necessarily pull out, but doing exactly what we‘re doing over and over again is not working. And that‘s clear now to everyone in America.

MATTHEWS: Let‘s assume there‘s costs and benefits to staying another three or four years in Iraq. The costs are people getting killed, our guys, us killing them, making more enemies.

The problem that always comes, a kind of human tissue rejection. Sooner or later, country nationals want the foreigners to leave. It just happens, good guys or bad guys. You can be handing out candy bars and building schools. They still say, enough already. How do you figure the costs and benefits here of how long we stay?

BYRNES: Well, it is obviously a very, very complicated calculus.

I personally think that we need to plan to leave. I‘m not disagreeing with anybody who says that. I certainly don‘t want to...


MATTHEWS: In five years? Three or four years.

BYRNES: Four or five years.

But I think focusing on a number is the wrong thing. One of the things that Senator Hagel might have had right is focusing on things that we need to achieve, electricity, sewage, security. But, again, had he come up with some suggestions, had he made any positive remarks in that direction, they would have been welcome.

But what he did was, he beat the Vietnam drum and he turned on the president from within his own party, and he basically did so in a way that was designed to generate publicity for himself.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he is running for office?

BYRNES: I absolutely think he is running for office.

MATTHEWS: For what?

BYRNES: I think he is running for president and I think he‘s running for president now to get funding, so that he can run for president in 2008.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree there‘s a political coloration to what he‘s been saying, Paul?

RIECKHOFF: I think there probably is some political coloration.

But let‘s make a distinction here. This is not Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich talking about advocating for a change of policy here. This is Chuck Hagel. This is John McCain. It‘s people who have been on the ground in Vietnam. And they‘ve also been there in Iraq. And they‘ve seen that the president is off the mark here. He‘s doing it wrong.

And we have got to evolve our strategy here and try to learn from our mistakes. To continue to run headlong into a wall is just stupid. And it is not working. And, in the end, it will end up making more enemies for us than we can kill. That‘s what it is all about. You‘re right, Chris. It‘s about a net gain or a net loss. Are we making more enemies than we are killing?

And, right now, if you stick with President Bush‘s continuing foreign policy, we‘re not. We are not going to gain ground.

MATTHEWS: Would you agree—we only have a second or two. You agree, though, Paul, that pulling out now, yanking the plug, sending the troops home in the next couple weeks and months, would be bad news?

RIECKHOFF: I do. I think it is unrealistic and I also think it‘s morally irresponsible. I think, at this point, we do have an obligation to the Iraqi people.

The reality is that this thing, this thing at this point is so screwed up, that, if we stay, it is going to be bad and, if we leave, it is going to be bad. There‘s no silver-bullet argument. We have to admit that first. Then we can start to develop a plan including all parties.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is a good argument.

By the way, I respect the service of both of you gentlemen. I‘m mean that. And I especially respect the fact, in addition to that, that this is a smart argument.

Anyway, thank you, Sergeant John Byrnes.

And, thank you, Paul Rieckhoff.

Due to timing Paul got off the last shot. But I hate not getting the last word in. Paul agreed that "yankin the plug" would be "unrealistic and I also think it‘s morally irresponsible". Here's the deal plain and simple. It's why without meaning to Chuck Hagel and Paul Reikoff come off sounding like Micael Moore et al. It's why the president is sticking to his guns. The siganl for when it's time to leave is when the job is done. We can estimate that, but we can't dictate it. When Iraq is ready to stand on its own, secure its borders and run a peaceful civil society, everyone can come home.
These calls for an exit strategy have not been helpful. Particularly from Republicans because they bolster the left's bring em home now mantra. Why did the President step on the Pentagon's own plan to reduce the troop numbers next year. Probably because it was announced at a time where it looked like a cut and run strategy.
My guess is if the Iraqis can get their S--t together with this constitution, the December elections and their security forces, the Pentagon's plan will come off. More quietly, and maybe a little later than Spring. But if the Iraqis still haven't got a clue by early next Summer, with midterm elections looming, then an administration policy shift is seriously possible. As long as there are sign's of prgress like successful election's, constitutional compromise, and courageous Iraqis signing up to defend the state, we'll be staying the course.


Blogger bethtopaz said...

Hi, my new friend! I read the transcript and you were great -- when they let you talk -- I would have liked to hear more from you. You said Chris is a nice enough guy, but he drives me nuts - I can't watch him. He reminds me of those proverbs in the Bible about fools. He does a lot of talking for someone who doesn't seem to know what he's talking about.

Anyway, like I said, I liked what you said, would have like to hear you say more.

It's nice to know men like you are on the "front lines" here at home fighting the internal enemy.

You know, if we had had pressure to get a constitution together and
in the kind of time frame we're putting on Iraq, who knows what kind of shape we'd be in. Or -- could you imagine the 24/7 cable news network reporting on the process of the founding of our great country? I'm sure it would have driven our Founding Fathers nuts!

One of the posters on Free Republic has this on this tagline: (33% for the war, 33% against the war, 33% undecided: the statistics during the American Revolution)

Glad I found you, Sgt. Byrnes!! : )
Beth Barnat
Winters, CA

Thu Aug 25, 12:51:00 AM 2005  

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