The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell   View more episodes

Aired at 04:00 PM on Thursday, Mar 31, 2011 (3/31/2011)      View all transcripts from this day

Transcript

00:00:01>>> Welcome to "rage and revolution the middle east in " I'm chris jansing reporting to you frommann headquarters in new york.
00:00:07My colleague and co-anchor joins us from the rebel held city of benghazi in libya.
00:00:11Good evening, richard.
00:00:13>> Good evening, chris.
00:00:14Once again I'm live here in benghazi.
00:00:17The rebels seem like they are starting and want to fight.
00:00:22We saw them digging in tonight bringing in reinforcements but a coup would be a lot easier.
00:00:27Is that possible, chris?
00:00:28>> Let's get you caught up on the headlines first of all.
00:00:31More signs.
00:00:32Gadhafi's inner circle may be crumbling.
00:00:35Major defection number two.
00:00:36 general assembly president who worked with gadhafi for decades has fled to egypt.
00:00:43This follows foreign minister moussa koussa's defection to the uk yesterday.
00:00:47The british government says it is in talks with as many as ten senior libyan officials about leaving the country.
00:00:53Gadhafi has posted guards to prevent others from defecting.
00:00:57On the ground richard just talked about this.
00:01:00Rebels are still fighting back following days of retreat.
00:01:02For the first time when coming under attack, they fired back with the weapons they had.
00:01:08Now, it took a few tries to launch some of the rockets but eventually they figured it out.
00:01:14As nato officially took over military command today the military role heated up on capitol hill.
00:01:21Senators on both sides of the aisle hammered defense secretary robert gates and admiral mike mullen on whether gadhafi should be a target.
00:01:29And as far as arming and training the rebels gates told congress someone else, not the u.s. can do that.
00:01:35Here's how it all played out on the airwaves today.
00:01:39>> As of early this morning, nato pursued command of the entire military mission over libya.
00:01:46>> The pressure on gadhafi is intense.
00:01:48The people around him are realizing the days of this regime are numbered.
00:01:52>> Clearly, a lot of people across libya that are ready to rise up against this guy.
00:01:57>> The biggest development of this uprising so far and that's the defection of moussa koussa.
00:02:03This is a huge loss to the regime.
00:02:05I don't know how goat out of there but he is a storehouse of intelligence.
00:02:10>> We cannot afford to assume that time is on our side against gadhafi.
00:02:14>> I'm worried that we may have started something that we're -- that nato is not going to be in a position to finish.
00:02:20>> There are a number of different alternative outcomes here.
00:02:23Only one of which is some sort of proto democracy.
00:02:28I think we're kidding ourselves if we don't think there is going to be some kind of struggle for power.
00:02:33>> There will be blow back from libya for a very long time.
00:02:36>> So even though this is now a nato-led operation the reality as you well know, richard, is america is still very much involved not only in management of nato and in the air but of course on the ground and we've talked about the involvement of the cia.
00:02:51>> Everyone is talking about the cia like this is something new like we should be very surprised.
00:02:57Cia is certainly on the ground here.
00:02:59We're here.
00:03:00It wasn't difficult for us to come in.
00:03:03Aide workers are here.
00:03:05I don't even know who half the people staying in the hotel where we are staying right now when you have a war zone it's easy just to walk across the border and it would be almost negligent if the cia weren't on the ground.
00:03:16We've been told there are small cia teams working with the opposition vetting the opposition and trying to help with some of the targeting.
00:03:24But it seems like what they're doing most effectively is working on these rifts within the internal power struggle and I think that is where you're going to see the biggest developments coming in the next few days.
00:03:35Not necessarily on the battle front.
00:03:37We're seeing a lot of back and forth.
00:03:39There is open desert here and the front line keeps shifting but I think it's become clear intelligence is not focused so much on helping these rebels march all the way to tripoli but creating divisions in tripoli, itself, and working on that internal coup.
00:03:53>> But as all that is unfolding and we're listening to the prayers behind you, richard, you talked a lot yesterday and in recent days about the lack of communication for the rebels between each other and I'm wondering how much they know about is sort of what's going on in the outside world, whether they're aware of where the focus is right now in terms of the u.s. and nato.
00:04:16>> They're aware to a small degree.
00:04:18They can look up in the sky and see that the western air strikes are not coming with the same pace, the same accuracy, the ser ozty as in the first days.
00:04:31In the beginning there was a mission to save benghazi.
00:04:33Now the submission seems to be helping the rebels but not with the same amount of force and the rebels are recognizing this and stepping up and saying they're going to have to take this fight on themselves.
00:04:49The rebels today on gadhafi's troops without western air support.
00:04:53The rebels fight with mortar and rockets.
00:04:55They lack experience.
00:04:56Rebels load a rocket, it doesn't go off.
00:04:59After adjusting it, the rocket eventually fires.
00:05:03But it's way off target.
00:05:04Moments later, gadhafi's troops fire back.
00:05:09There's chaos.
00:05:10Some of the rebels retreat to safer ground but not all of them.
00:05:15The rebels are firing mortars and rockets at gadhafi's forces which are just behind them.
00:05:21Gadhafi's troops are responding with what sounded like tanks and artillery shells.
00:05:24But for the first time here we're seeing that the rebels are staying their ground.
00:05:30Near the front an argument.
00:05:31One rebel is so angry that the others want to run away.
00:05:35He fires his gun at their feet.
00:05:37They stay and bring in reinforcements.
00:05:39On the road we see a convoy of weapons including dozens of what look like new rocket launchers heading out to confront gadhafi's troops.
00:05:47But there may be a quicker way to topple the libyan dictator.
00:05:51An internal coup.
00:05:52Yesterday libya's foreign minister and former intelligence chief moussa koussa, the most powerful man in the regime outside the gadhafi family, defected to the united kingdom, a choice welcomed today by the british foreign minister.
00:06:06>> Gadhafi must be asking himself, who will be the next to abandon him?
00:06:11>> Reporter: In tripoli a government spokesman downplayed the significance of koussa's departure.
00:06:16>> I am not relying on individuals to lead this struggle.
00:06:19This is a struggle of a whole nation.
00:06:22>> Accused of involvement in the lockerbie bombing and the assassination of dissidents, koussa has not been given immunity.
00:06:28But he has a wealth of current intelligence and he's talking.
00:06:34The rebel front line right now is on the outskirts of braga and it was heading in that direction that we saw this big convoy of weapons -- rocket launchers, several hundred men going out to fight.
00:06:47It was the biggest convoy we've seen, the first time the rebels have moved militarily.
00:06:52And they seem like they want to fight gadhafi's troops.
00:06:55A lot different than just getting in their cars, driving in reverse, and coming back practically to benghazi where we are now.
00:07:01>> All right.
00:07:02Thank you so much.
00:07:03We've got more now on that sharp criticism of the president's handling of libya after today's capitol hill grilling at defense secretary robert gates.
00:07:12Some lawmakers clearly unhappy when gates said president obama has no additional military moves in mind to get rid of moammar gadhafi and that's not the only complaint.
00:07:22>> Your timing is exquisite.
00:07:24At a time when the gadhafi forces have literally tragically routed the antigadhafi forces, that's when we announced that the united states was advocating its leadership role and removing some of the most valuable assets that could be used to great effect.
00:07:43>> Strong words from the former presidential candidate.
00:07:45Here with reaction I'm joined now by texas congresswoman sheila jackson lee.
00:07:50Democratic member of the foreign affairs committee.
00:07:53Good evening, congresswoman.
00:07:54Good to see you.
00:07:55>> A pleasure to be with you.
00:07:56>> As I watched the testimony today, listening to members of congress, they seemed to come down largely in two camps.
00:08:03THOSE LIKE senator McCain who think we aren't doing enough and those who are worried about mission creep.
00:08:08What do you think?
00:08:09>> Well, I think it's ironic that frankly I am a person committed to the war powers resolution that calls on congress to involve itself in any declaration of war.
00:08:21I think that's important.
00:08:22But it's interesting to hear members who without any basis zealously supported president bush going into iraq and now want to criticize what I believe what the necessary humanitarian action is.
00:08:38I don't want to see this having to include boots on the ground.
00:08:43I am not interested in a prolonged war.
00:08:45And if that was to be the case the president would have to come.
00:08:48I would ask for the president and many members would realize constitutionally we would want our president to come to the congress for an actual declaration of war.
00:08:57But I don't believe we're at that point.
00:08:59And how can you zealously support iraq, the eight-year war that still is not concluded and not respond to the humanitarian crisis of the killing of innocent civilians?
00:09:09That's what the president did.
00:09:11He indicated it would be a days long war.
00:09:14In fact, it had been days long in terms of the united states in the lead.
00:09:19The nato is now in the lead the question is where do we go from here?
00:09:22>> That is a good question.
00:09:23>> And other critics today in and out of congress have been unhappy frankly because the president and other administration officials have made it very clear that they believe gadhafi has to be gone and the allies aren't going to do that.
00:09:38No boots on the ground, no direct involvement.
00:09:41Is that the way to go?
00:09:43Does gadhafi have to go and if so how?
00:09:46>> You ask a very good question.
00:09:47This is based upon the drilling that -- and the terrible loss of life that americans have experienced with iraq and afghanistan.
00:09:55Members of congress have watched these wars go on and on.
00:09:58Boots on the ground and the idea of regime change that we would make a commitment to would be a bogged down situation but there is a plan.
00:10:07Frankly we had good news today in that two of his major confidantes have now left the country.
00:10:15There is rumor that he has now reached out to those in london to look for some sort of way out himself.
00:10:23Keep the pressure on.
00:10:24I think the direction that we go is the same way that we're going.
00:10:27It is to continue to help the rebels, to understand who they are.
00:10:31We have to understand who they are.
00:10:34>> But when you say continue to help the rebels does that mean should they be armed?
00:10:37Should they be trained?
00:10:38If so, what role does the u.s.
00:10:40Play in that?
00:10:41>> I absolutely believe they should be armed and trained and learn command.
00:10:45And you know what?
00:10:45I believe we could work -- >> by the united states?
00:10:47>> No.
00:10:48I believe with our allies.
00:10:49We can work with our allies for them to do that.
00:10:52If we are called upon to make that determination I think the administration and congress can make that.
00:10:58We have given the kind of military assistance to all kinds of native nations that are in trouble but I think the future -- I want to focus on what the future is.
00:11:10The future has to be a collaborative effort with the african union, arab league, and nato in terms of what I call smart power.
00:11:17It is not the exact terrible you would use but to train the rebels to be involved in governance, to be able to lead a country.
00:11:24That's what the next step is.
00:11:26We're not far from it.
00:11:27We have had if you will retrogression because of weather and rebels have been pushed back but I think they are beginning to be empowered and if nato continues as they did in kosovo and bosnia, those were air wars, nato wars, they started slowly but actually became victorious.
00:11:47We can do it again and I think we should stay strong, be against the humanitarian, any kind of devastation and emphasize to the rebels they have to be prepared to govern libya as gadhafi prepares to dismantle and leave the country.
00:12:07>> Sheila jackson lee, congresswoman, thanks so much.
00:12:11>> Thank you for having me.
00:12:12>> She talked about more defections from gadhafi's inner circle.
00:12:15Will they sell out their former leader and hand the coalition valuable intelligence?
00:12:19Nato wants to know.
00:12:20We have much more ahead as "rage and revolution" continues only on msnbc.
00:12:28>> Announcer:THIS PAST YEAR Alone there's been a 67% spike in companies embracing the cloud-- big clouds, small ones, public, private, even hybrid.
00:12:39Your data and apps must move easily and securely to reach many clouds, not just one.
00:12:45That's why the network that connects, protects, and lets your data move fearlessly through the clouds as a manager, my tm counts on me to stay focused.
00:12:58SO I TAKEOne A Day Men's 50+ Advantage.
00:13:00It's the onlycomplete multivitamin with ginkgo to supportmemory and concentration.
00:13:04Plus vitamin d to help maintain healthy blood pressure.
00:13:08[ bat cracks ] That's a hit.
00:13:09One A Day Men's.
00:14:34>>> What a difference a week makes.
00:14:36Rebels lost the momentum as quickly as they had it.
00:14:38Now on their heels and feeling a bit desperate.
00:14:40When I come back we'll talk to a popular four star general and ask him the question a lot of people have been asking.
00:14:46Why can't we just drop a bomb on gadhafi and be done with it?
00:16:16>>> I'm richard engel live in benghazi.
00:16:18Whether or not this war is a good idea for the united states may depend on perspective.
00:16:24From where I am standing right now it seems like it was essential.
00:16:27It will be difficult for me or anyone here in the city to go down in the streets and tell the people of benghazi that they were not worth saving.
00:16:35But this doesn't mean it's necessarily in the united states' interest.
00:16:39And to discuss this is retired four star general barry McCAFFERY WHO ALWAYS TELLS IT Like it is.
00:16:45A good friend.
00:16:47Thank you for staying up, general McCaffery.
00:16:49Will you address this question?
00:16:52Was this a good idea?
00:16:53I know there's a lot of debate about the weeds here.
00:16:56 role, be involved militarily in libya?
00:17:01That is really the question i want your perspective on, sir.
00:17:04>> Well, I think, richard, it's entirely appropriate to use u.s.
00:17:09Military power for humanitarian purposes whether earthquakes or protecting people from benghazi.
00:17:18My only concern would be if you have fuzzy political thinking and objectives and rhetoric then you end up with a military campaign that won't get you where you said you wanted to go.
00:17:27We've got to be truthful to ourselves.
00:17:29We've got to bring down gadhafi.
00:17:31That implies a continuing, probably united nations presence in libya for the next 15 years, five years, with peacekeeping forces, building a a new institution.
00:17:43None of that's happening.
00:17:44So it's, you know, with a 10-1 preponderance of combat power in the hands of gadhafi, why would