Iraq: What's Next?
MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Iranian President Mohammad Khatami says America has exploited September 11th. Visiting a liberated Afghanistan yesterday, Khatami warned President Bush against attacking Iraq.
Quote - "The events of September 11th were horrific, but the American leaders misuse them, too. Those who planned to launch this war"-he's talking about Iraq-"shouldn't think the that effects will be felt only where they attack. If you believe that, you can make people-to believe that you can make people submit by force is wrong. We know that this approach only brings anger and destruction."
Well, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld discounted Khatami's remarks, accusing Iran of harboring al Qaeda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They are permitting al Qaeda to be present in their country today and it may very well be that for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries, but they've not turned any to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Peter Arnett is chief correspondent for CameraPlanet.com. Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia and author of the great new book "Militant Islam Reaches America," and Colonel David Hackworth is author of "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts."
Let's go to Peter Arnett. What do you make of this interesting disconnect in Iran, in Tehran. Why are they releasing some of their al Qaeda people, the terrorists they've picked up, giving them to the Saudis with the intent of transferring them to us, and at the same time, being challenged by Secretary Rumsfeld as being protectors of al Qaeda?
PETER ARNETT, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, CAMERAPLANET: I think part of it, Chris, is regional politics, that it is very clear that Iran does have al Qaeda. They were seen escaping into that country. Iran, three or four months ago, actually admitted having, you know, dissident Afghans on their soil. They said they would return them to Afghanistan. So I think it's regional politics. They'll give a few over to try to pacify the critics.
MATTHEWS: OK, let's go to Daniel Pipes. You've been writing about Islam in this country. Let's talk about Islam back in the world of Islam. Why is Iran defending Iraq against the United States?
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Iran is very afraid that the United States is going to topple Saddam Hussein and that will put the United States on the west of Iran. The United States is already on the east of Iran.
MATTHEWS: But won't that give them a shot at grabbing all those Shiite Muslims to the south of Baghdad as part of their country now?
PIPES: I don't think so. Not if we're there. They're much more afraid of us than they are of Saddam Hussein. So they're saying just, please, stay away from here and they're threatening us as well. But ...
MATTHEWS: Well, do they think that we will begin a domino effect like in the Cold War, only we'll be the Soviets or the Communists and we will grab Iraq, then grab Iran? Is that what they're afraid of?
PIPES: I think that's exactly what they're afraid of.
MATTHEWS: Should they be?
PIPES: No, I don't think so, because I don't think there are any American intentions to topple the regime ...
MATTHEWS: Even though they're part of the axis of evil?
PIPES: Even though.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the Muslim world and why it's so united. Colonel, why do you think the whole Muslim world has gotten so united against us, at least on paper, at least in the public reports?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, AUTHOR, "STEEL MY SOLDIERS' HEARTS": Well, a lot of propaganda has gone down that we are really the bad guy, and they've been beating this drum for a very long time, and I think that is the major reason.
MATTHEWS: When you travel, you've traveled extensively throughout your life, do you sense any difference in, say, 30 years ago? When I traveled around a lot after the Peace Corps, do you sense in the streets man-to-man, person-to-person more hostility or is about the same individually, and it's addressed to our country? How do you see it?
PIPES: I think there's a lot of fear. I think there is a change and it has to do with fear of a United States that is run rampant, that has no Soviet Union to block it anymore. I think there's a profound misunderstanding of what the United States is about. They're projecting, they're imagining that if they were in our position of what the French call hyperpower ...
MATTHEWS: They'd be jumping on us.
PIPES: They would be jumping, exactly. But we're not doing that, as you well know ...
MATTHEWS: So the simple fact that there's no duality, there's no us against the Soviets and then all-a balancing act where the third world always did well because they played us both ...
MATTHEWS: ... right? They fear oh now we're going to jump and take over everything.
PIPES: I once interviewed the Egyptian foreign minister and he as much as said, although he's formally our ally, that he really rues the fact that there's no Soviet Union to balance the United States.
MATTHEWS: Well, they used to play us well against each other, didn't they? Let's go back to Peter Arnett. You're another expert. You've been over in that part of the world. Just making a body (ph) to gut check here. Thirty years ago when you wandered around among the people of Arabian, the Islamic world, did they like us more than they do now?
ARNETT: Definitely, Chris. Don't forget, Osama bin Laden basically rose to notoriety, complaining about U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia at the Muslim holy places. Before the Gulf War, there was very little U.S. presence in the Middle East. It has been said that the fact that the U.S. failed to go and nail Saddam Hussein a decade ago when they had the chance that many say is the reason that they had to keep troops there and that has been the force, I think, that has militated many Arabs against the U.S., of course, is the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too, that brings bloody headlines and pictures throughout the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about next spring and the possibility of something like-I'm not going to use this in religious terms, but something like a near-term Armageddon. The United States puts 25,000 troops or 250,000 troops basing them perhaps in Kuwait and perhaps with the help of Turkey, we go into Baghdad. The war is on. Saddam Hussein has the choice, then, whether to use his biological weapons, we've seen some movement on today, and his chemical weapons, we know he has them, and perhaps some kind of dirty bomb, he's got as well, with nuclear potential.
Does he, in fact, not directly then go right after Israel, make this an east verses west, Zionist, as he puts it, versus Arab world fight, Peter Arnett, and make it hell to pay for us no matter what happens in the field?
ARNETT: I think that - I don't think he'll be able to link his war with the Palestinian war, no matter how much he does ...
MATTHEWS: Suppose he launches Scud missiles against Israel and the Arrow missiles aren't able to stop them and they go into Tel Aviv and kill a lot of people. What happens then?
ARNETT: Well, of course, if he was able to use the Scuds he may have with some weapon of mass destruction against Israel, I think it's pretty sure that Israel would retaliate ...
ARNETT: ... but the scale of the retaliation would leave, I mean, the Arab world pretty confounded. I think the Israelis would use the ultimate weapon probably, and I don't think the Arab-what could the Arab world do in the face of American power and Israeli power? I think they'd get really mad, but they'd also get pretty frightened.
MATTHEWS: Well, they'd be rooting for the other side, that's for sure, wouldn't they?
ARNETT: They would be rooting for the other side, but there'd be a question of what would they really be able to do in a concrete form. And if Saddam did use a weapon of mass destruction, I mean, he would lose enormous prestige, even in the Arab world ...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you that big question. I want to go around-the-clock on this. Everyone has expertise in this area to some extent, and it's the key question to American foreign policy to me right now.
If we go in, will Saddam Hussein behave like the Germans did in World War II and not use the gas, the poisonous gas, the chemical weaponry they used so effectively in World War I for fear it will be used against them? Will Saddam Hussein be sane when we attack, or insane and use that kind of weaponry? Peter, first.
ARNETT: I interviewed Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I asked him, it is known that he had weapons of mass destruction. Would he ever use them against Israel or the U.S. He said only if I was pushed to the wall would I ever use any ultimate weapons, whether I have them or not. But you know, in the end, he didn't. So I think the question is, you know, he was pushed to the wall there. Would he use them if, indeed, he has them?
MATTHEWS: He didn't use them in the Persian Gulf ...
ARNETT: I don't think so ...
MATTHEWS: ... a great Islamic character question here. Maybe it's a psychobabble question. Will a guy -- Hitler didn't use them and he was in the bunker. He was going to die and committed suicide. Will this guy use chemical and biological against us and Israel if we go in?
PIPES: I can't answer it. But what I can tell you is that I'd much prefer to face a Saddam Hussein who has chemical and biological, but no nuclear weapons, than I would a Saddam Hussein who has biological, chemical and nuclear ...
MATTHEWS: Has he got a shot at true nuclear or only a dirty bomb?
PIPES: He has a shot at true nuclear, and part of the urgency of our military campaign against Iraq is to stop him from getting it.
MATTHEWS: Political assessment here, military assessment. Colonel Hackworth, will this guy use the doomsday device? Will he use his chemical and not biological if we go in?
HACKWORTH: Well, his profile says he's very narcissistic. So, bottom line is he'll know that he's going down, that George Jr. is not going to make the mistake of his old man and he is going to go down for the count. So it seems to me that he'll use chemical and biological, and I certainly agree with Daniel. If he's got nuke weapons, it changes the whole balance of power...
MATTHEWS: I agree with that ...
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next more with Peter Arnett, Daniel Pipes and Colonel David Hackworth on the consequences in America if America attacks Iraq. …
You're watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We got a heavyweight panel here -- David Hackworth, Colonel David Hackworth, Daniel Pipes and Peter Arnett. Let me ask you gentlemen, one in a row. Is the president committed to an attack on Iraq next spring? Daniel Pipes.
PIPES: I think he is. I'm not sure if it's next spring. It might be earlier. But ...
MATTHEWS: He's going.
PIPES: He's going.
MATTHEWS: The decision to go has been made.
PIPES: I think this is an administration in which the Defense Department is the key actor, and you know the Defense Department wants to do this.
MATTHEWS: I know they do. I know. Let's go right to Colonel Hackworth. Is this-the president has made the decision. Are we going to Iraq militarily?
HACKWORTH: If the president and hopefully Congress and the people support it, we can go to Iraq and it will be slam, bam, good-bye, Saddam.
MATTHEWS: I don't think you have to worry about Congress, because they'll get out of the way. I've watched the politicians in this town for 30 years. They get out of the way when questions of peace and war. What do you think-what do you think, Peter Arnett? Do you think this president has got it in his gut to go?
ARNETT: I think he has. I think what we're seeing, Chris, is what they call the fog of war. I think when the time comes, the U.S. will find unimaginative causes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to go into this war (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You know if the reason is already presented and not enough, you know, we had the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam ...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I understand.
MATTHEWS: There could be some slippery business there. I accept that.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the geopolitics. What is the most likely base if we go in, in strength, with a quarter million troops? Peter, you first.
ARNETT: What was that again? I'm ...
MATTHEWS: A quarter million troops ...
MATTHEWS: I'm not talking about the charge of the light brigade here. I'm talking 250,000 men at least. Don't you have to go into a big country like Turkey? Can you squeeze it through Kuwait or do you have to go in through Turkey?
ARNETT: I think Turkey, Kuwait and you know and massive forces and, you know, and really hard with a lot of bombing. I think there'll be a lot of casualties.
MATTHEWS: This can't be an airborne assault. It has to be heavy troops, right?
ARNETT: Airborne ...
MATTHEWS: We need armor and everything.
ARNETT: I would really think so, because don't ...
ARNETT: ... forget Saddam Hussein didn't fight much in Kuwait, but after the Gulf War, his troops did fight viciously against Kurdish and Shiite rebellions. They know how to fight.
HACKWORTH: OK, can I-can I jump in there?
MATTHEWS: Yes sir, quickly Colonel. Go ahead.
HACKWORTH: The weapons we have today are really genius weapons compared to the smart weapons we had during Desert Storm in 1991 and the Iraqi military is just not there.
HACKWORTH: My guess is Saddam Hussein will probably go out from with inside. He's like a Mafia leader and the gang knows he's got to go because he's too dangerous.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let's talk -- Peter Arnett, it's great to have you. Daniel Pipes, the name of your book is?
PIPES: "Militant Islam Reaches America."
MATTHEWS: It sure does. Anyway, thank you for joining us, Colonel David Hackworth.
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