November 12, 2003 | Broadcast


Tonight NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Paul Bremer’s meeting with President Bush and how the White House plans to accelerate the transfer of political power to Iraqis.

Plus, former CIA director James Woolsey on a new CIA report that warns of Iraqis losing faith in the U.S. occupation and turning increasingly sympathetic to the insurgence.

U.S. forces mounted the second largest raid in the past two months, capturing the suspect who downed last week’s Black Hawk helicopter. And Colonel James Hickey, who led last night’s offensive, will detail how he broke the back of a Fedayeen cell.

MSNBC’s Bob Arnot covers the progress being made in one Iraqi town that isn’t being reported by Al-Jazeera.

Mark Bowden, the author of “Black Hawk Down” on whether Iraq is turning into another Somalia.

And Larry Flynt on whether Jessica Lynch is really an American hero.

Now, here’s Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s play HARDBALL.

Tonight and all this week, the big story is Iraq and what’s really happening on the ground six months after U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein.

Here’s what’s happening right now.

The 1st Armored Division launched a military operation in Baghdad late today, targeting a facility used as a meeting and storage place by insurgents.

The military operation came hours after a suicide bombing killed at least 26 people, including 18 Italians at the headquarters for Italian forces in Nasiriyah. The attack was the deadliest assault on American allies in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad.

And the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer met with President Bush and said the president remains steadfast in his determination to defeat terrorism in Iraq and transfer political power to Iraqis.


AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: The stakes are very high. The stakes are very high for the war on terrorism, and the stakes are very high for moving towards a sovereign Iraqi government.

It is a tough situation. I have said repeatedly in my discussions, both private and public, for six months that I am completely confident and optimistic about the outcome in Iraq. But we will face some difficult days, like today when we had the attack on the Italian soldiers in the south.

We’re going to have difficult days ahead, because the terrorists are determined to deny the Iraqis the right to run their own country. We’re not going to let them get away with that.


MATTHEWS: Andrea Mitchell is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent.

Is the president worried about the transfer of power and how it’s going?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I think they are all worried. And the fact that Bremer came back so precipitously for these meetings, meetings that had to be held, really, before the president goes to London for his summit with Tony Blair next week.

It is not going well militarily. But more significantly right now, it’s not going well politically. And even though they are bleeding militarily, they have made no progress at all politically.

They have a December 15 deadline that we sought in a U.N. resolution that we fought for at the Security Council. And they by then are supposed to have a timetable for a constitution. And the Iraqi Governing Council has really been a disaster.

MATTHEWS: Are these people that we picked for the governing council as the first government to stand up over there after Saddam Hussein, are they just greedy guys out for themselves? Is that the problem here?

MITCHELL: Well, I guess it’s very easy for us in the safety of Washington to say that. So I don’t want to join in that degree of criticism.

But a number of them are the same exile leaders who have no support at home, have not been in Iraq for decades. Not their own fault but because of, you know, the horrific regime there.


MITCHELL: They couldn’t go back.

But they are the same people who brought us the weapons of mass destruction. They’re the people who were telling Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz that there were these weapons that, of course, colored the whole sales pitch that Colin Powell made to the United Nations.

So they misled us before the war. They are guilty of bad intelligence, if nothing else. And certainly are not tuned in, not plugged in and not supported by people on the ground.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, my favorite question is always where’s the conflict within our administration? Are the people in the vice president’s office, especially the vice president, still big on Chalabi, Ahmed Chalabi? Is there a division between the hawks in the Defense Department and the vice president now over whether we proceed slowly or we stick around in that country longer, or rather get out faster, I should say.

MITCHELL: At this point, you know, there are so many divisions, where to start.

One of the big decisions is that Paul Bremer relied too heavily on the Iraqi Governing Council and wanted to give them more time. And the Pentagon has rapidly lost confidence in his ability to push the Iraqis along quickly enough.

The State Department, of course, had long ago lost confidence in this and has been shut out by Rumsfeld and others. So the State Department people were sent packing. These are the people who know something, at least, about nation building and about political transference of power. And they’re the ones who were told to get out, that this would be a Pentagon operation.

Now we see exactly where those chickens are coming home to roost. The vice president’s office has to be a little bit disenchanted with the people it backed on the ground.

MATTHEWS: Any chance for a big meeting like we had in Afghanistan, where we got a big town hall all together and get them all to make a big decision, together with lots of people in the room?

MITCHELL: I don’t think they want lots of people in the room. But they are, I think, looking for new leaders and a way to layer the Iraqi Governing Council and precipitate.

Potentially — they’ve got a number of options. One option is to do a Hamid Karzai kind of model. Where you put somebody up and then worry about the constitution.

Another way would be to have elections, really, in the short term, elections of people who would then write the constitution.

But I don’t think there’s much chance that the current Iraqi Governing Council is going to be the one to spell it out.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL: My pleasure. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: James Woolsey is the former director of the CIA.

You were head of the CIA for two years, Jim. Let me ask you about this. What do you make of this new CIA analysis that we’re losing our sort of favored position over in Iraq now?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, if it comes from someone senior there, it could well have some validity, especially within this Sunni Triangle, within this 15 percent or so of Iraq, where the military says over 90 percent of the attacks are coming from, even the ones that — the attacks that occur outside.

And we really have to get Iraqis in there to tell us who’s who so that we can get the right people arrested and attacked, if need be.

We went in, Chris, without enough Iraqis going with us. The State Department refused to train them for about five years. They had the money, beginning in 1998, and they didn’t do it.

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the predicament our folks are in over there, our troops and our allies.

You’ve got a lot of guys over there who don’t speak Arabic. They don’t really know the local terrain or the culture. They need help, as you point out. They need Iraqis to spot the bad guys.

Do you think the rules of engagement should be that we go out and find nests of opposition, people who are clearly politically allied, still, with the old regime and go after them? Or should we follow the rules of criminal investigation and have to find evidence that particular people committed certain acts of terrorism to go after them?

WOOLSEY: Well, you need to do both and put the highest priority, I think, on getting people you know are tied up with the Ba’athists and are launching attacks.

But it seems to me that an arrest on suspicion, a house with guns on it and so forth, if you don’t kill people, if you are trying to pacify an area, and you, even if you arrest more people for a time than you — than ultimately proves to be the right number, we have to get rather aggressive in there. And not just blowing up buildings in Baghdad, but getting after the people who are actually launching these attacks.

MATTHEWS: Is there a problem here in knowing what a terrorist looks like? It’s not like an ethnic group. I mean, you can’t go say this guy is a member of this tribe, we’re going to nail him. You have to look for a guy who’s actually involved with some kind of terrorist operation. Isn’t that the challenge?

WOOLSEY: That is a huge challenge. There should be, I think, some kind of bias, frankly, in looking very hard at the Tikritis. Because this was a Tikriti dictatorship. And they’re only a small share of the Ba’athists — I mean, of the Sunnis. I don’t know what they are, one percent or two percent of the population, maximum.

And Saddam had a lot of them in as officers in the Republican Guard, running Saddam’s Fedayeen. People in his intelligence service. So to some extent, one could focus very hard on that particular claim.

But also, there are other people we need to at least take custody of and get it sorted out.

MATTHEWS: What do you say the real hard — You’re a pretty hard line guy on the policy question.

But what do you say to Americans? You hear them on talk radio. “Why don’t we go there and just kill them? Get those people. Kill them.”

What is the intellectual response to that emotion?

WOOLSEY: Well, we’re at war, and to some extent, that’s right. But it has to be the right people. We don’t want to get into the business of killing innocent, even men, much less women and children.

And what we have to do is be discriminating with our use of power. But we have to have it be smart power.

And what we really have to have is more and more Iraqis going in who can tell from the kind of shoes the guy is wearing, that he just spent 10 years in Iran. Or from his accents, that he’s just in from Tikrit. That’s the kind of thing that, as you said, you can’t really do if you’re a younger version of like me from Oklahoma. Even if you speak Arabic. You just can’t do that. You’ve got to have Iraqis doing that.

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about building the government over there. The phrase, standing up a new government was very commonly used by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, a couple of — maybe a month ago. Not hearing much of that lately.

Is that because we have slowed down in our success in putting up a new government over there to replace the old one?

WOOLSEY: I don’t think the government needs to be an either/or. That is, full sovereignty over the whole country right away, full new constitution, elections, or not having any control.

Bernard Lewis, the great scholar in the Middle East, and I had a piece in the “Wall Street Journal” a couple weeks ago that said you could, on an interim basis, you could use the 1925 constitution, which has an elected legislature, has a bill of rights, has an appointed senate. Might use the governing council as the Senate. It does have a Hashemite king. But…

MATTHEWS: Can’t you skip that part?

WOOLSEY: Well, you might not want to temporarily. You might be able to have someone like former Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, who’s a decent individual and could work with Bremer. And then if the elected body, under the constitution, decided it would be a presidential election and not a king anymore, fine, they could amend the constitution.

MATTHEWS: What about having one of though big meetings where you bring as many people — like a town meeting like we did so successfully in Afghanistan. Bring a ton of people into a big tent, room and say, “Let’s figure out our country here.”

WOOLSEY: Well, I must say, it took us a long hot summer in Philadelphia to do that. And we did it in secret and with relatively few people 225 years or so years ago. And I think that doing this all under the full glare of publicity with the ethnic and religious animosities that exist in Iraq is going to be very, very hard. It’s hard in Afghanistan. Some could say it didn’t work all that well with the…

MATTHEWS: Optimistic or pessimistic right now, Jim Woolsey?

WOOLSEY: I’m still optimistic, mainly based upon the incredible abilities and adaptability of the American military. They’re doing a phenomenal job over there. In spite of the fact that they’re taking casualties, in spite of the fact that the threat has changed. It’s different. They’re doing a great job.

MATTHEWS: That’s one of the things we’re seeing on this show. Very impressive stuff on there. A lot of guts.

Anyway, thanks. Jim Woolsey, former DCI, former chairman — director of the CIA.