ZAKARIA: Matthew Hoh is the young Foreign Service officer who resigned this week from his post in Afghanistan. He joins me now.
Matthew, I'm going to just start by reading a bit from your resignation letter. You say, "I fail to see the worth or value in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is truly a 35-year-old civil war."
And then you go on to say, "Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured that their dead have been sacrificed for a purpose worthy of such futures lost, love vanished and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can any more be made. As such, I submit my resignation."
These are very strong words.
Give us some sense of what this insurgency that we are fighting looks like. What did you think people were fighting U.S. troops for?
MATTHEW HOH, FORMER MARINE CAPTAIN AND U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The first place where I really had -- where this was codified for me and where I started to understand what we were doing and how we were involved -- the Korengal Valley, which I'm sure a lot of your viewers are familiar with. It's been on the cover of TIME Magazine. The "New York Times" refers to it as the valley of death. Off the top of my head, unfortunately, I can't remember how many American soldiers we have lost there, but it's probably 30 or 40.
This is a valley, I don't know, 15, 20 kilometers long. There's only 10,000 people in it. They speak their own language. They speak Korengali. In the year 2009 we have a valley with people who speak their own language. Their only trade is the timber trade. And when they move their timber, they don't even leave their valley. Most of the time, I believe, they just take it to the Mazar Valley, and a middleman picks it up and brings it to Pakistan for them.
We show up. We enter their valley. We occupy the richest man's timber mill. And then we bring in Afghan army and Afghan police, who aren't from there.
And then what do we do? Then we have the Afghan police and Afghan army. They say to the Korengalis, they say, "These mountains here that your families have been cutting trees down, sustaining yourselves for hundreds of years, you don't own them. The central government does. And you have to pay tax on that."
I'm not sure how many people anywhere else in the world wouldn't take up arms against something like that.
David Gregory talks to author Jon Krakauer about his new book 'Where Men Win Glory' and Gen. McChrystal's part in the cover up of Pat Tillman's death.
GREGORY: Jon Krakauer, I want to get to a key element of your book, "Where Men Win Glory," about Pat Tillman and how it relates to this current conversation about Afghanistan. Because it does involve General Stanley McChrystal, who was obviously critical on the stage now and was critical in the Tillman story of well. As a reminder, if you look at pictures of Pat Tillman, the NFL star with the Arizona Cardinals, decides to enlist in the Army, serves in the Rangers after 9/11. This was certainly a big story when he enlisted. And at the time, General McChrystal was actually head of Special Operations command.
So Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident and ultimately won the Silver Star, and that's what you focus on in the book and in a subsequent piece that you wrote for The Daily Beast. And here's what you wrote: "An October 5 Newsweek article [said, about General McChrystal] that `he has great political skills; he couldn't have risen to his current position without them.
But he definitelydoes not see himself as the sort of military man who would compromise his principles to do the politically convenient thing.' In the week after Tillman was killed, however, this is precisely what McChrystal appears to have done when he administered a fraudulent medical"--excuse me--"a fraudulent medal recommendation"--we're talking about the Silver Star--"and submitted it to the secretary of the Army, thereby concealing the cause of Tillman's death." Briefly explain what happened.
KRAKAUER: The--after Tillman died, the most important thing to know is that within--instantly, within 24 hours certainly, everybody on the ground, everyone intimately involved knew it was friendly fire. There's never any doubt it was friendly fire. McChrystal was told within 24 hours it was friendly fire. Also, immediately they started this paperwork to give Tillman a Silver Star.
And the Silver Star ended up being at the center of the cover-up. So McChrystal--Tillman faced this devastating fire from his own guys, and he tried to protect a young private by exposing himself to this, this fire. That's why he was killed and the private wasn't. Without friendly fire there's no valor, there's no Silver Star. There was no enemy fire, yet McChrystal authored, he closely supervised over a number of days this fraudulent medal recommendation that talked about devastating enemy fire.
GREGORY: And that's the important piece of it. And, and he actually testified earlier this year before the Senate, and this is what he said about it.
(Videotape, June 2, 2009)
LT. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: Now, what happens, in retrospect, is--and I would do this differently if I had the chance again--in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture--or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.
GREGORY: Even those who were critical of him and the Army say they don't think he willfully deceived anyone.
KRAKAUER: That's correct. He, he just said now he didn't read this hugely important document about the most famous soldier in the military. He didn't read it carefully enough to notice that it talked about enemy fire instead of friendly fire? That's preposterous. That, that's not believable.
GREGORY: All right, part of this debate. Thank you all very much.
We'll continue our discussion with Jon Krakauer in our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web Extra. Plus, read an excerpt from his book, "Where Men Win Glory." It's all on our Web site at mtp.msnbc.com. And we'll be right back.
When asked by CNN's John King about the Republican Party in-fighting in the NY-23 race and if the party can survive in the Northeast region of the country if there is no room for moderates in their ranks, John Boehner tries to blame the “rebellion” going on now on “people who really have not been actively involved in the political process”. Oh really?
While that may be true of those out protesting, it’s certainly not true of the ones organizing them. Dick Armey and Tim Phillips are hardly people that could be called “not active in the political process”. Quite the opposite. And Sarah Palin who has interjected herself into that race was the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee the last election.
John Boehner has a bigger mess on his hands than he’s willing to admit which is evident by his response at the end of the segment when he says this:
KING: Let me ask you, lastly, though, but sometimes does the party need to draw a line?
What's the point of having a party if people in your party will attack your own nominees? I mean, where do you draw that line?
BOEHNER: Listen, I'm a big believer in Ronald Reagan's 11 commandment -- 11th commandment. Never talk ill about another Republican.
KING: That was not followed in this race.
BOEHNER: I know.
Yes and so do the rest of us who have been watching this John.
Transcript below the fold.
Joe Lieberman claims that he 'wish[es] people would come out and debate me on the public option instead of questioning my motives' when asked about the money he's receiving from the insurance industry. That's news to Rachel Maddow Joe. If you're looking for someone to debate you about your motives, I hear she's still looking for a response from your office.
SCHIEFFER: I’m going to ask you this question because I want to give you a chance to respond to it. Some of your critics say that the reason that you are so dead set against the public option is because there are so many insurance companies headquartered in your home state in Connecticut and they’ve been some of your biggest supporters. What have they given you this year, $400,000? Something like that? Has that had anything to do with your position on the public option?
LIEBERMAN: No. I wish people would come out and debate me on the public option instead of questioning my motives. If they look at the record, I have never hesitated to get tough on insurance companies when I thought they were wrong. When I was attorney general of Connecticut, I filed an antitrust action against the Connecticut insurance companies.
A few years ago when there was a patient bill of rights in the Senate which the insurance companies opposed, I supported it. Right now, I’ve said that I will support the removal of the antitrust exemption that insurance companies have. That’s not the reason.
But I will say this. This recommendation of a public option, a government health insurance company, takes our government down a road that we’ve never gone down before.
In other words, we believe in a market economy. It’s what’s created the great American middle class. But it doesn’t have a conscience. When it behaves badly, we regulate it, companies. We sue them. I’ve been angry at oil companies. I never had the idea that the government should go into the oil business to make oil companies behave better. I think this would be a terrible mistake.
Rachel Maddow said this at the end of her interview with Glenn Greenwald the other day:
MADDOW: I also want to tell our viewers that we invited Senator Lieberman to come on the show tonight. His office did not even bother to respond to our requests.
But, Senator Lieberman, you should know you have an open invitation as you long have had to come on the show. I promise you will get a fair shake. Actually, at this point, I promise to not only buy you a shake. I will buy you a cookie if you come on the show.
We won't be seeing that happen any time soon. Lieberman won't get the kind of softball interview he received from Bob Schieffer if he comes on Maddow's show.
I don't agree with Bob Schieffer all that often but I do agree with most of his points on this one. From CBS News' Face the Nation, Nov. 1, 2009--A Class in Nation-Building 101:
SCHIEFFER: Finally today, as the president tries to develop a new strategy in Afghanistan, I wonder if this is the real lesson that we’ve learned in Afghanistan so far, that nation-building, like charity, probably begins at home, at least the way we seem to be going about it in Afghanistan.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Terrorism poses a threat to America’s national security, but is trying to build a Western-style nation in Afghanistan by funneling money to its leaders really the best way to combat terrorism?
I guess what set me off is that story about how we’ve secretly put the president of Afghanistan’s brother on the CIA payroll. He’s the one who is supposed to be mixed up in the drug trade. The idea was that, by doing that, he’ll help us pave the way to building a democracy there. Now, that’s good work if you can get it. But I don’t see how that is making us safer.
Whatever the size of the military force the president decides on for Afghanistan, I think he needs to be paying more attention to where the money is going for the non-military spending there. Incredibly, no one really seems to know. The judge by what we’ve gotten from it so far, we’d be much better off with some nation-building back home. Our infrastructure is already a mess.
We could start at the Oakland Bay Bridge, where a 5,000 pound part of the top fell off into the traffic below. That would certainly make us safer, for sure.
In Afghanistan, we’re having to relearn what we should have already known, that we can help others but we can’t do it for them. And when we have to pay others to help themselves, I don’t see how that helps anyone but the guy getting paid.
While discussing how long it is taking for the Obama administration to make a policy decision on Afghanistan and how long the legislative process on health care is taking, Matthews throws this little tidbit out there.
Matthews: And by the way, these kids down in Florida, not to be the old guy about it, they’ve never watched government function before. They don’t know that it is slow. I once said to people, if you want to understand government, watch the Florida recount for five weeks because that was government.
Uh... no Chris, that's what happens when astroturfing GOP paid protesters and the Supreme Court interfere in our election process. There are days I wonder if Tweety even hears half of what comes out of his mouth.
Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe weighed in on Meet the Press on the role Sarah Palin is now playing in the Republican Party and her interjection into the NY 23 District Congressional race. This was before the news broke that Scozzafava endorsed Blue-Dog Democrat Owens over the Conservative Party candidate Hoffman today.
GREGORY: You talk about Palin. Let's put up what you wrote about her. "It was early morning, Denver time ... when my cell phone erupted with calls." This is when she was selected. "Palin--it took me a moment to place the name. ... Palin was a bolt of lightning," you wrote, "a true surprise. She was such a long shot; I didn't even have her research file on my computer. ... I started Googling her, refreshing my memory while I waited for our research to be sent. ... I thought it was downright bizarre, ill-considered, deeply puzzling. ... [McCain] had been shouting from the rooftops that Obama lacked the experience to be president. ... With the Palin pick, he had completely undermined his core argument against us. ... `I just don't understand how this ends up working out for McCain. In the long term, I mean ... when voters step back and analyze how he made this decision; I think he's going to be in big trouble. You just can't swing--wing something like that--it's too important.'" That was then Senator Obama speaking. What about Palin now? Is she a force to be reckoned with in 2012?
PLOUFFE: Well, I think we should thank John McCain for picking her, in terms of how it helped us win in 2008, but I think we should doubly thank him now. What's going on in the special election in New York 23 I think is a remarkable phenomenon and could affect our politics for years to come.
GREGORY: She endorsed the, the independent, more conservative candidate.
GREGORY: And now we've got the Republican candidate who's stepped aside.
PLOUFFE: So a centrist Republican has been ridden out of that race. And I think what you're going to see in the coming months, if not years, is Sarah Palin--you know, by the way, she kind of playing the role as pied piper in the Republican Party, which is something I'm quite comfortable with.
So Sarah Palin, the other Republican candidates who are likely to run, the Limbaughs and Becks of the world are basically hanging a "moderates need not apply" sign outside the Republican National Committee headquarters. And for a party that has historic lows right now, because centrists and moderates are leaving them in droves, they have catastrophic problems with younger voters, Hispanic voters and African-Americans, it's a various curious strategy to kind of repair this damage. So I think they're becoming more a very motivated corps, but a small corps of about 23 percent of the country.
Steve Singiser has more over at Daily KOS on the latest turn of events in that race--NY-23: Did Doug Hoffman Throw The Democrats A Lifeline?
With the battle between Democrat Bill Owens and third-party insurgent candidate Doug Hoffman within the margin of error, Hoffman should have picked off the bulk of the Republican vote from Scozzafava's remaining core group of supporters, and that should have been the ball game.
Few people suspected that in an historically Republican district, Owens could survive without split opposition.
But, then, by virtue of his own gracelessness, Doug Hoffman complicated matters...for himself. [...]
To give a succinct recap: Owens praised Scozzafava and promised to work for upstate New York. Hoffman cackled a quick "I told you so" before returning on the attack.
That might explain why a large number of Scozzafava supporters, from the head of the state's Independence Party to several voices within organized labor, immediately turned to the Democrat Owens rather than her fellow Republican, Hoffman. This morning, one of the more prominent newspapers in the district, The Watertown Daily Times, followed suit, switching its endorsement from Scozzafava to Owens.
And then, in the second shocker from her in as many days, the Republican nominee endorsed the Democratic nominee. [...]
In the final analysis, it might not matter, of course. Owens is still fighting upstream in a GOP district against what is now for all intents and purposes a single GOP opponent. But Hoffman's own lack of class might have made this a lot of harder on him than it could have been.
What do you know? John King decided to almost act like a reporter today when trying to get John Boehner to explain what the Republicans' alternative the Democratic House health care bill was. King held up the two page summary which is what the Republicans have available now on their web site. Boehner said they have eight or nine ideas which they are going to combine and send to the CBO to have scored and present on the House floor for debate.
What the GOP currently has posted on their web site is vague at best, but John Boehner made sure everyone understood one thing it would not do; attempt to cover the 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance. If the Republicans are serious about offering an alternative bill to what the Democrats have proposed, why didn't they put it together months ago? Will they have it posted on line for a few weeks so everyone can read it once it's done? Of course John King didn't ask him for any of those questions for a follow up.
KING: Let's move on to health care and I know you brought something with you, and it's more than 1,900 pages, and that is the House Democratic health care bill. Before we get to that, I want to hold up something else. This is the text of your radio address. It's two pages. Now, this was an effort by the Republican Party to say we have alternatives. It's not a bill, I want to be fair to you, but it lays out a number of things you would like to do in the Republican Party.
What it does not do, and what that does, even though you don't like it, in 1,900 pages, it lays out what they would do. It says how much it would cost. The Congressional Budget Office has said in the end what percentage of people would be covered.
Where is the Republican proposal where you can say to the American people, we'll spend this much over 10 years, it will do this to the deficit, and when we're done, X percent of the American people will have health insurance?
BOEHNER: You can go to healthcare.gop.gov and see our eight or nine ideas about how to make our current health care system work better.
KING: But they're separate pieces of legislation right now...
BOEHNER: There are separate pieces...
KING: But will you have something to stack next to that?
BOEHNER: What I'm hopeful for is to take these eight or nine ideas and put them together in a bill that's being scored right now by the Congressional Budget Office and present it on the House floor during this debate. And I'm hopeful that Speaker Pelosi will allow us to offer an alternative.
But what we do is we try to make the current system work better. We take a step-by-step approach, by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, allowing small businesses and other groups of individuals to group together for the purpose of buying health insurance at lower costs, like big businesses and unions can.
Bill Moyers ended his show this week with an editorial comment on what he thinks we should do if President Obama chooses to escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending more troops--bring back the draft.
I would agree with him if the end result wouldn't be what always happens when this country has had a draft. The poor go fight and the rich find a way out of it. If we could make sure every neocon war monger had to go first, I'd say hell yes, but that's not going to happen.
BILL MOYERS: Watching the CBS Evening News on Afghanistan this week I thought for a moment that I might be watching my grandson playing one of those video war games that are so popular these days.
REPORTER: An American military convoy traveling northwest--
BILL MOYERS: Reporting on the attacks that killed eight Americans, CBS turned to animation to depict what no journalists were around to witness. This is about as close to real war as most of us ever get, safely removed from the blood, the mangled bodies, the screams and shouts.
October, as you know, was the bloodiest month for our troops in all eight years of the war. And beyond the human loss, the United States has spent more than 223 billion dollars there. In 2010 we will be spending roughly 65 billion dollars every year. 65 billion dollars a year.
The President is just about ready to send more troops. Maybe 44 thousand, that's the number General McChrystal wants, bringing the total to over 100 thousand. When I read speculation last weekend that the actual number needed might be 600 thousand, I winced.
I can still see President Lyndon Johnson's face when he asked his generals how many years and how many troops it would take to win in Vietnam. One of them answered, "Ten years and one million." He was right on the time and wrong on the number-- two and a half million American soldiers would serve in Vietnam, and we still lost.
Whatever the total for Afghanistan, every additional thousand troops will cost us about a billion dollars a year. At a time when foreclosures are rising, benefits for the unemployed are running out, cities are firing teachers, closing libraries and cutting essential maintenance and services. That sound you hear is the ripping of our social fabric.
Which makes even more perplexing an editorial in THE WASHINGTON POST last week. You'll remember the "Post" was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, often sounding like a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine. Now it's calling for escalating the war in Afghanistan. In a time of historic budget deficits, the paper said, Afghanistan has to take priority over universal health care for Americans. Fixing Afghanistan, it seems, is "a 'necessity'"; fixing America's social contract is not.
But listen to what an Afghan villager recently told a correspondent for the "Economist:" "We need security. But the Americans are just making trouble for us. They cannot bring peace, not if they stay for 50 years."
Listen, too, to Andrew Bacevich, the long-time professional soldier, graduate of West Point, veteran of Vietnam, and now a respected scholar of military and foreign affairs, who was on this program a year ago. He recently told "The Christian Science Monitor," "The notion that fixing Afghanistan will somehow drive a stake through the heart of jihadism is wrong. …If we give General McChrystal everything he wants, the jihadist threat will still exist."
This from a warrior who lost his own soldier son in Iraq, and who doesn't need animated graphics to know what the rest of us never see.
So here's a suggestion. In a week or so, when the president announces he is escalating the war, let's not hide the reality behind eloquence or animation. No more soaring rhetoric, please. No more video games. If our governing class wants more war, let's not allow them to fight it with young men and women who sign up because they don't have jobs here at home, or can't afford college or health care for their families.
Let's share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let's bring back the draft.
Yes, bring back the draft -- for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to "fix" Afghanistan to their satisfaction.
Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people's sacrifice. Let's insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.
From Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol is hoping that people will see the lines for H1N1 vaccines and come to the conclusion that the government can't run anything properly. As Juan Williams points out, that's what happens when you have Republicans who don't believe in government running things and don't want government to work as we saw in George's Bush's complete indifference to the plight of the victims were during Hurricane Katrina. Williams should have also pointed out to him that Republicans managed to make sure FEMA worked pretty well when it benefited them politically in Florida.
As Williams also noted, these are private companies working with the government that failed to deliver the vaccines in the time frame promised. Fox News and much of the rest of the media seem to have a problem deciding on whether to fear monger about whether vaccines are safe or not and people being forced to get them as Jon Stewart pointed out not long ago on The Daily Show and complaining about them not being delivered fast enough. Now we've got Kristol conflating receiving vaccinations to the government being capable of administering health insurance.
Wallace: Bill you’ve never liked the Democratic health care plan in its various iterations and you especially don’t like this version. In fact you say it combines the most unpopular Democratic and Republican proposals in the last generation.
Kristol: Right, it’s got the Medicare cuts that almost doomed the Gingrich revolution in 1995, the Pelosi Medicare cuts dwarf the Gingrich Medicare cuts of 1995 and it’s got tax hikes—the tax hikes which the Clintons and the Democratic Congress passed on a party line vote in 1993 that cost them the Congress in 1994. And Nancy Pelosi has pulled off a great feat; you called it a compromised vote. It’s like a compromise between awful and horrendous you know. She’s combined tax hikes and Medicare cuts in the same bill in a bill that does nothing to improve the average Americans’ health care or to improve the cost of the average Americans’ health insurance. It’s an amazing feat that she’s done and now she’s pushing this bill, this huge government take over of the health care system at the moment when we have an experiment, an ongoing experiment in government health care—the swine flu epidemic—an emergency the president called it.
If you like how the government’s run swine flu with lines and cues and promises that haven’t come through in terms of having the vaccines available—if you like the government’s swine flu program, you’ll love Pelosi-Care.