Hardball: Pro-war vet says we invaded Iraq because we needed it as a base
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Chris Matthews presented a debate Tuesday over reviving the draft between conservative Iraq War veteran Mark Finelli and veteran John Bruhns of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.
Finelli started off by arguing that the war effort has been poorly planned and poorly equipped because the "elite of this country don't have a vested personal interest in winning the war." He stated his belief that if the middle class was subject to a draft, the excuse that "we don't have enough money" for proper equipment would no longer be heard.
"George Bush took us into war on a fallacy," Bruhns began. "He took us in there under-equipped -- I totally agree with Mark on that -- under-manned, no plan to win the peace. He managed the war with utter incompetence." However, when asked if a draft might bring a quick end to the war, Bruhns replied, "Over 70% of the American people are against this war. I could not endorse trying to force people to go over and fight George Bush's war against their will."
"The reason why 70% of the American public is against the war is because we're not winning decisively," insisted Finelli. In seeming contradiction to his earlier argument in favor of a draft, he added, "The surge is working, and I could tell America this: If you don't want a draft, let us finish the job there. ... If we leave Iraq, the next terrorist attack in this country is going to be far more devastating than September 11th ever was."
Bruhns pointed out that even Secretary of Defense Gates recently said that "the purpose of the surge was so that we could have a political reconciliation," but that now seems "almost impossible."
"What does victory look like?" Matthews then asked, setting off an extraordinary interchange between him and Finelli.
"After September 11th, we did have 20,000 troops in Saudi Arabia; we were asked to leave," Finelli said. "Essentially, bin Laden was restoring the caliphate. He's dictating to the American people where our troops can and cannot be. Operation Iraqi Freedom is essentially about that. So victory essentially is maintaining our geopolitical ..."
"You mean we needed a country to base our troops in so we took over Iraq?" asked Matthews.
"Essentially, yes," agreed Finelli.
"That's a pretty frightening admission on the part of a warhawk!" exclaimed Matthews. "We went there because we wanted a country we could use as a base in a very imperial way!"
"I'm not going to debate that -- but zero terrorist attacks in the country for five years," said Finelli. "Zero. And this is a major reason why."
Matthews then referred to a new CBS poll which showed that Americans "three to one, roughly, believe the more we fight in Iraq, the more terrorists we create. ... There's very few countries in that part of the world we don't control. Can't you imagine, from their perspective ... don't they see us coming?"
"They were coming after us anyway," said Finelli.
"Who's they?" asked Matthews, pointing out that the 9/11 hijackers all came from countries that are our allies, but "now we go attack the one country that they didn't come from."
Asked to offer a final observation, Bruhns said earnestly, "Chris, we've got to end this war. We've got to find a way out. ... I want to bring our troops home." However, Finelli couldn't resist jumping in to get the last word, saying, "a draft is inevitable if you run."
The following video is from MSNBC's Hardball, broadcast on August 14.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Frequent tours for U.S. forces over in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and MADE it worth considering a return to a military draft. That is according to President Bush‘s new war adviser, his war czar, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute.
That is tonight‘s debate on HARDBALL: Should young American men be drafted to fight the Iraqi war? It could not be more basic.
Mark Finelli is an Iraq war veteran, and he is supporting the draft. And John Bruhns is also an Iraq war veteran who is with an organization called Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. He opposes the draft.
Mark, why do we need a draft?
MARK FINELLI, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, very simply, Chris, America has had a lot of shortcomings as far as the planning for this war, especially as far as the equipment that is needed to support our troops on the ground.
It has taken roughly three years to get the best trucks out there that are necessary. And, you know, a big reason for that is the political, social, and economic elite of this country don‘t have a vested personal interest in winning the war.
MATTHEWS: And, so, if you force the elite, the upper-middle class, the middle class, to share the responsibilities with the working class to fight the wars, then what will happen? We will get real equipment out front out there?
FINELLI: Well, that‘s—that is the first thing.
For example, the MRAP truck, this truck basically eats IEDs for breakfast. It is an incredible piece of equipment. Yet, when I was in Iraq, I rarely saw them. But, when I did, the private companies were driving them around. So, this is—this was very disturbing for me—to me.
I remember speaking to my commanding officer and saying, hey, sir—this was roughly, I think, November 2005 -- I was saying, sir, that is what I want for Christmas and Hanukkah, because I want to come back alive.
And I was playing the averages there. I am a Christian. But it is very important that we get the best equipment out there as possible. And, again, without the—the most elite of America having a personal vested interest in the war, that is just not going to happen, on an infantryman‘s timetable, anyway.
Every solution that I brought up, you know, all the opinions that I
had on how to best go against the IED attack, the answer was always, to me
it would be, “Sir, can we do this?”
It would be, “Well, we don‘t have enough money to do that,” every single time.
MATTHEWS: So, war on the cheap because the people who are being brought over there are not from the upper classes and powerful people.
Your view, John. Should we have a draft? You say no.
JOHN BRUHNS, AMERICANS AGAINST ESCALATION IN IRAQ: I say no, absolutely.
I mean, just from the start, Chris, George Bush took us into war on a fallacy. He took us in there underequipped—I totally agree with Mark on that—undermanned, no plan to win the peace. He managed the war with utter incompetence. I mean, every single day, Iraqis are being killed. American troops are being killed.
MATTHEWS: But wouldn‘t the war be quickly ended if people were forced to fight?
BRUHNS: Chris, over 70 percent of the American people are against this war.
I—I—I cannot endorse trying to force people to go over and fight George Bush‘s war against their will, absolutely not. I mean—and then, plus, you are going to have the people who are—who say, hey, I—I support George Bush. And I support his war on terror, as long as it‘s not my kids going to Fallujah, as long as it‘s not my kids going to Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that a good reason to have a draft? You can draft all the Romney kids. Well, --
MATTHEWS: You would not be able to pull a number like a lot of the hawks do, of saying I want a war, but I want someone else to it, not my family.
BRUHNS: Right, --
FINELLI: The reason why 70 percent of the American public is against the war is because we‘re not winning decisively. It‘s not because we went to war in Iraq. To win decisively, get us the proper equipment, give us a real strategy, which is working, by the way. It is going tremendously better than it was prior to that.
We have seen a horrible attack—I just learned about it when I came into the studio here. You notice, that was in northern Iraq. It wasn‘t in Baghdad or Fallujah. The surge is working. And I can tell America this, if you don‘t want a draft, let us finish the job there. Because regardless of who wins this next election, I assure you if we leave Iraq, the next terrorist attack in this country is going to be far more devastating than September 11th ever was.
BRUHNS: I would like to say something too, Chris. Last week I saw Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on “Meet the Press.” He is a lot better than Donald Rumsfeld, yet when he was speaking, he would barely look into the camera, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that tell you?
BRUHNS: Here is what he said: he said that he sees military progress, but the purpose of the surge was so that we could have a political reconciliation. But he really lacked faith in political reconciliation. He said that the divide and mistrust between Sunnis and Shiites is so deep and has been going on for centuries that it is almost impossible.
MATTHEWS: I guess that raises the question mark, what is victory of there for Americans? Is it a peace treaty between the Sunnis and Shiites? What does victory look like?
FINELLI: Victory for America—it‘s very important that America grasp this. I truly did not understand the Iraq war either, because the Bush administration hasn‘t really done a great job in selling the reasons that we‘re there. I‘m not here to plug a book. I don‘t work for this company, but one book I read that truly changed my outlook was a company called—excuse me, a book called “America‘s Secret War” by a gentleman named Dr. George Freeman.
There actually is a rhyme and reason for us being there, most notably after September 11th, we did have 20,000 troops in Saudi Arabia. We were asked to leave. Essentially, Bin Laden was restoring the Caliphate. He is dictating to the American people where our troops can and can not be. Operation Iraqi Freedom is essentially about that.
So victory essentially is maintaining our geo-political supremacy.
MATTHEWS: We needed a country to base our troops in, so we took over Iraq?
FINELLI: Essentially, yes—Essentially yes.
MATTHEWS: That is a pretty frightening admission on the part of a war hawk. To say that we didn‘t go to a war to fight WMD. We didn‘t go to a war because of Saddam being a bad guy. We went there because we wanted a country we could use as a base in a very imperial way. That is imperialism.
FINELLI: It is to a certain extent, I‘m not going to debate that, but zero terrorist attacks in the country for five years, zero. This is --
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s the reason why? The CBS poll that just came out today, Mark—and these arguments are going to go on as long as we live—but the CBS poll today found that people three to one, roughly, believe that the more we fight in Iraq, the more terrorists we create.
FINELLI: These people, unfortunately, already hated us.
MATTHEWS: No, create.
FINELLI: They are created. They are created in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: The argument is that it is a poster for war, that kids are becoming terrorist bombers and IED-creators and suicide bombers because they hate us so much because we have invaded their part of the world. We have Iraq, we have got Afghanistan, we have client states like Jordan and Egypt, we‘ve got a partnership with Israel. There‘s very few countries in that part of the world we don‘t control.
Can‘t you imagine their perspective—I‘m not defending it. But from their perspective, don‘t they see us coming?
FINELLI: They were coming after us anyway.
MATTHEWS: Who is they? Who attacked us 9/11?
FINELLI: Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Where were they from?
FINELLI: They were essentially financially supported by elements of the Saudi regime.
MATTHEWS: Our ally.
FINELLI: It‘s a duplicitous regime, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know, but we‘ve got our allies—their kids came over from Saudi and Egypt and the emirates, and now we go attack the one country they did not come from. Last word here, Mark.
FINELLI: Unfortunately, the Saudis have their hand on the oil spigot of the world. So you can‘t attack Saudi Arabia. And I make the argument for the draft coming back. I also make a very strong argument that we should have a Manhattan-project level of effort to get off of Middle Eastern oil. Tom Friedman says it all the time.
MATTHEWS: We can agree on that one. John, last word?
BRUHNS: Chris, it goes back to the beginning. The war was based on a total fallacy. We now have General Petraeus saying that it‘s going to take nine to 10 years to develop a proper counter-insurgency plan. We have our war czar, General Lute, saying that now we need to implement the draft.
MATTHEWS: He says we should think about it.
BRUHNS: We should not take it off the table in order to sustain it. And during the 2004 election, President Bush said, hey, if you do not want the draft, vote for me. Now where are we? Now they‘re brining it up.
Chris, we‘ve got to end this war. We‘ve got to find a way out in order to
avoid the draft. If this war keeps going on the way it is, a draft is
inevitable. And I want this war over. I want to bring our troops home
FINELLI: A draft is inevitable if we run.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much. We‘ve got two Iraq war veterans.
Thank you guys both for your service. Mark, thank you for your service.
Thank you, John.
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