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Chris Matthews channels his inner Bill Kristol

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One unfortunate outcome of the controversy over the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the US army sergeant held by the Taliban for nearly five years, is the exposure of Chris Matthews’s neoconservative streak. On Hardball for the last two nights, Matthews has championed the war in Afghanistan as an ongoing US war against an intolerant Taliban, praised Guantanamo’s merits as a holding cell for bad actors who are never charged, and suggested that Bergdahl helped American enemies and that Obama’s deal to free him and five Taliban adherents has helped American enemies.

In this segment two nights ago (above) Matthews was all but abusive toward Kim Dozier of the Daily Beast and MSNBC’s Goldie Taylor, a Marine veteran, for stating that the deal might be a harbinger of the end of war in Afghanistan. Last night he was equally contemptuous toward Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Gitmo, when Davis said that the US had failed to establish criminal conduct by the five Afghans to be freed in the Bergdahl deal. Matthews said he was being legalistic.

“That’s why we have Gitmo,” Matthews said, for bad guys we can’t try or free. And he approvingly aired criticisms of Bergdahl’s military conduct from Bill Kristol– who avoided serving in the Vietnam War (as Stephen Colbert established). Matthews seemed to suggest that the U.S. should be at war with the Taliban forever.

Women have to now be covered up? Their faces have to be covered up? No more movies over there? They blow up Buddhas again?… Are we going back to crazy Taliban behavior?… What if the Taliban gets power again.

Matthews bridled when his guests suggested he was wrong. When Dozier said the deal portended reconciliation talks and the Taliban is a political force in Afghanistan, Matthews scoffed that the Taliban would not accept losing an election. “They’re democratic forces? They accept democracy? This is definitely hopeful thinking.” I happen to share Matthews’s skepticism; but that can’t be a reason to put down a guest, or for the U.S. to be occupying Afghanistan for 13 years. He seems to think it is:

“We went to war in Afghanistan because the Taliban was in power,” Matthews said. “Basically we continue to fight.. the Taliban…. From the top, the US Government is at war with the Taliban… We went into that country to overturn the Taliban.”

Matthews struck me as mean-spirited, especially when Chris Hayes came on next and offered support to the Bergdahl deal.

Matthews often attacks neoconservatives, but his own neoconservative streak was well-documented by Media Matters. He opposed the Iraq war, but was also a cheerleader for the war for a couple of years, praising George Bush as a hero and even accusing Hillary Clinton of cutting and running as he hailed the strength of John McCain and Joe Lieberman. And he was openly critical of Phil Donahue, who lost his MSNBC slot over his opposition to the war, as Digby wrote last year:

[T]he thing that surprises me the most is the idea that Chris Matthews was some kind of stalwart opponent of the war who stood up bravely against the establishment. While it’s true that he wrote a column (maybe two) in which he expressed opposition, what he portrayed on TV was something entirely different. Indeed, I thought it was well known that he was extremely nervous about being perceived as anti-war, so much so that he endorsed the firing of Phil Donohue. … I think what people misunderstand about that is not that he was personally for the war, but rather that he was a careerist who didn’t want to endanger his very lucrative gig.

P.S. Of course a lot of the Taliban argument carries over to Hamas in Palestine: it too is a political force that must be reckoned with. There is nothing the neocons would like more than that we be engaged in a “clash of civilizations” forever in the Middle East, one in which Israel looks like a white knight.



Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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22 Responses

  1. just on June 4, 2014, 12:43 pm

    I have to take a deep breath and take my pulse…

    For starters, the Taliban is courtesy of our “ally” Pakistan and spawn of the ISI .

    Our “involvement and manipulation” in Afghanistan prior to launching a terrible war on them is really not debatable– it is quite shameful. But then again, we were buddies with Saddam before we launched that horrible war, too… I could go on, but I will save it and my ire.

    As for Chris Matthews– I guess he left the Peace Corps long ago. Then again, Swaziland is kinda far (in miles and more) from Afghanistan…

    • Citizen on June 5, 2014, 6:52 am

      @ just
      Yeah, the US government liked the Taliban when they were fighting Russian troops. And we liked Saddam when he was fighting Iran. Now we like the “moderate rebels” who are fighting the Syria regime. So it goes.

  2. Krauss on June 4, 2014, 12:54 pm

    It was a shitty deal. We just have to come to terms with that.

    Furthermore, it wasn’t just about the POW, which is the Obama administration’s propaganda to the press. It was also used as a “trust-building measure” as the reporter said in that clip.

    And Matthews is right to be cynical and skeptical. Do they really think the Taliban will accept democracy and stop oppressing women? You’d have to be delusional to believe that.

    The problem for Matthews is that Afghanistan isn’t our problem. We shouldn’t have gone in there from the getgo. But the lust for blood after 9/11 was overwhelming. Americans have to abandon this notion of enforcing democracies from 10,000 ft. And we have to accept the fact that some socities are primitive – yes that’s the word – and that they are fine with that.

    Just like Western elites have tried to pretend that Erdogan is a great Islamist moderate, yet he’s turning into a muslim Putin by the hour. Now he’s planning to hold on to 2020s, sitting in power for over two generations. And his support is deep among the Turkish people, which is why he is crushing his opponents.

    While you attack neocons, lets not forget that the left have their fair share of interventionists, too, who cannot accept the fact that not every society either wants or is ready for Jeffersonian democracy.

    • bilal a on June 4, 2014, 9:30 pm

      Hijabs.Nikabs drive rich liberal men crazy. upsets the whole applecart

      “Today I heard that I am not free…”

      • just on June 4, 2014, 10:59 pm

        Excellent! Thanks bilal.

      • ritzl on June 4, 2014, 11:02 pm

        Yep. Perfect. An affirmation, not a derogation.

  3. just on June 4, 2014, 2:13 pm

    ” And we have to accept the fact that some socities are primitive – yes that’s the word – and that they are fine with that. ”

    Afghanistan is not/was not “primitive”. I don’t really think that you “know” Afghanistan nor the Afghan people. Your generalizations are quite sweeping, and sadly not at all unusual for the average consumer of the MSM. I don’t know how folks can blame the Afghans for 35 years of unrelenting war and privation…for which we bear a LOT of responsibility and blame.

  4. doug on June 4, 2014, 2:17 pm

    >> While you attack neocons, lets not forget that the left have their fair share of interventionists, too, who cannot accept the fact that not every society either wants or is ready for Jeffersonian democracy.

    Lord Acton’s Dictum in full flower. The human impulse to use power to achieve a view of what’s best for others knows no politics, only the direction varies with politics. As empires decline the divergence between believed power and actual power determines the degree and scope of the stupid decisions taken.

  5. Kay24 on June 4, 2014, 2:39 pm

    After all those junket trips to Israel, this journalist now shrills for that parasitic nation in the Middle East. What would they have done to make him now sing a different tune? Brainwash? Blackmail? Offer a better job in the zionist media?
    was it the same offer that Congress gets, to get undying support and allegiance to Israel over their own nations? Mathews is simply trying to undermine President Obama’s decision to get Bowe Bergdhal’s release, after all Israel now looks like a warmonger, and trouble maker, ever since the world ignored it, during the Iranian peace talks, and now that the world, and the Obama administration, have agreed to work with the Unity Government of Palestine, Israel is once again looking like the mean monster of the ME. So let’s be prepared to hear their minions here (plenty of those too) try to make the O administration look bad. Shame on Mathews.

  6. LuLu on June 4, 2014, 3:22 pm

    The Media outlets have gone loony on this soldier and his family…SHAME on them.
    He owns no one an explanation why (if he did) wonder off his base. Even if that is against military rules, people make mistakes. Chris calling Taliban “Terrorists” we should have never released them… Well you had 13 years to put them on trial or set them free. You invaded their country, not the other way around. That is terrorism… Now I am not saying the Taliban is not a terrorist group, I can careless as long as they do not come into the U.S.
    I believe it is ONLY natural when someone invades another country that they will fight them. Terrorists is defined as putting terror in one, committing violent acts on person(s) or property, to put fear in one. Let’s see, dropping drones indiscriminately, invading others country thousands of miles away, that absolutely had nothing to do with 9/11, demolishing their homes, hospitals, schools etc. We all saw the Wikileaks military video shooting at kids and their fathers when they absolutely were no threat. This soldier came to his conscious that all this was wrong and decided he will not be any part of it because he will eventually answer to God. He was lied to like the rest of the soldiers and world that the invasion was absolutely criminal and WRONG! Chris asks “they accept Democracy”? ummmm if my Government calls itself democracy, they need to get off the kool aid..

    I am just mind boggled that these Government officials like many congress members and even the news media, do not re-watch themselves on what they are actually saying… The Government are arming and supporting Terrorists who pull their victims hearts out of their chest and eat it in Syria. Am I the only one who sees this as crazy?

    • Kay24 on June 4, 2014, 5:56 pm

      I see the craziness too, but unfortunately like the crazy pro Iraq war crowd, who called anti war folk “unpatriotic”, people in our nation is totally disconnected,
      disinterested, or delusional in thinking we are the good guys, and that we are indeed doing Afghans and Iraqi’s a big favor, by bombarding their countries, and bringing “democracy” for all. We have always interfered in other nations, and just like Bush/Cheney kept telling us, we are fighting the enemies (most of them resistance groups, naturally) over there, so that we do not have to fight them over here.
      We are playing God with other nations, deciding who is not good enough to lead over there (in other words against our policies) who has to be toppled down (working with groups we might call terrorists) and what policies THEY should be following. I do not like what we have become, and it is sad we have lost our credibility, and are now considered a war mongering nation.

  7. Hostage on June 4, 2014, 4:24 pm

    “That’s why we have Gitmo,” Matthews said, for bad guys we can’t try or free.

    We “have Gitmo”, because the US military continues to illegally occupy a portion of the territory of Cuba against the wishes of the inhabitants and we’ve illegally abducted, deported, and imprisoned hundreds of protected persons from Afghanistan there in violation of Article 49(6) of the 4th Geneva Convention. See UK Supreme Court Rejects Jack Goldsmith’s Interpretation of GC IV and US OCCUPATION OF GUANTANAMO BAY IS ILLEGAL, SAYS TOP LAWYER

    The latter explains the type of state the Israelis and the US are willing to grant the Palestinians (minus the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, & etc.:

    1) The treaty was imposed by force
    The 1903 Treaty that brought about the base at Guantanamo was invalid from the beginning, as it was imposed by force. After four years of military rule the United States decided against a complete annexation of Cuba, instead they wanted a system that would allow political and economic control, the answer was to grant Cuban independence under US terms.

    • just on June 4, 2014, 4:50 pm

      Thanks, Hostage.

      Guantanamo, black sites, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, places we don’t even know about……torture, murder, rape, war crimes.

      Our continued and everlasting shame.

      • just on June 5, 2014, 7:43 am

        An interesting article, imo:

        “So President Obama, like many presidents before him and no doubt many to follow, has employed a routine end-of-hostilities POW swap. For five Guantánamo prisoners, he has managed to bring Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl home. Bravo. But while Republicans do their level best to Benghazi-fy this rather uncontroversial news, the real story on Gitmo is elsewhere.

        Lost in the kerfuffle over the Bergdahl-Taliban swap is one simple and very positive development: we now know that, when push comes to shove, the Defense Department and the White House can work together to close Guantánamo Bay. No, shutting down the prison isn’t a matter of flipping a switch. But break the matter down into individual cases and achievable diplomatic solutions tend to present themselves.

        Never mind the so-called “Taliban Five” – Obama’s real chance on Gitmo today is for the Cleared 78. With another stroke of Obama’s pen, many of those prisoners could be on a plane back to their families tomorrow. The president is plainly concerned with how this prison will affect his legacy; in releasing the cleared, he has a genuine opportunity to solve much of the remaining problem before the end of his term.

        For years we at Reprieve have represented many of these people: a slew of warehoused individuals, cleared for years – meaning that they were determined by every security agency you and I have ever heard of to be no threat to anyone. (At the beginning of President Obama’s term, he asked all the security agencies to look again at the Gitmo files, and the cleared prisoners passed this test unanimously. Many of them were held safe to release earlier, under the Bush administration, and have been waiting for their number to come up ever since.)

        Once you treat these men as individuals, and not the orange-jumpsuited scarecrows whom Republicans tend to deploy for political gain, solutions to the Gitmo conundrum quickly appear.”

  8. DICKERSON3870 on June 4, 2014, 7:50 pm

    RE: “Women have to now be covered up? Their faces have to be covered up? No more movies over there? They blow up Buddhas again?… Are we going back to crazy Taliban behavior?… What if the Taliban gets power again.” ~ Chris Matthews

    MY COMMENT: As to the plight of the Afghan women, their lot was rapidly improving (as judged by Western standards) in the 1950’s, 60s and 70s due to the influence/efforts of the Soviets. Had the U.S. not butted in by supporting the Mujahedin in the 1980s, there probably wouldn’t be a Taliban, and Afghan women would be comparable to the women in Eastern Europe.

    • RoHa on June 4, 2014, 10:31 pm

      “As to the plight of the Afghan women, their lot was rapidly improving (as judged by Western standards) in the 1950′s, 60s and 70s due to the influence/efforts of ”

      King Zahir Shah, mostly. Liberating women and improving their education was one his major policies for modernising Afghanistan. He was deposed in 1973, but the republic continued his policy of accepting aid from both the USA and the USSR. Soviet influence became the major factor after the 1978 coup by Afghan communists, and the Soviet invasion of 1979.

    • just on June 4, 2014, 10:46 pm

      Actually it was under King Zahir Shah and his cabinet that big strides were made for women and others. Daoud, his cousin, did introduce some positive reforms. But then he overthrew the King and the rest is, as they say, history– a sad one. 2 superpowers attacked that country and people with ruthless ferocity.

      The Soviets (and their moles in the Afghan government spelled disaster). We picked up where they left off.

      Dickerson– you give the Soviets credit where none is due. Sorry. They wanted a pipeline…we wanted superiority over them… the Afghan people paid the price– with massive losses of life and security and freedom.

      They are still ‘paying’.

    • MRW on June 5, 2014, 6:28 am

      Dickerson is 100% right if anyone bothered to check the facts.

  9. Taxi on June 4, 2014, 11:50 pm

    Mathews has been on the zio drip for quite some time… like forever!

    The only thing missing is a spittoon grafted permanently to his mouth – wet talker that he is.

  10. just on June 5, 2014, 7:22 am

    On the subject of the release of this soldier…….

    I find it surreal that there is such vitriolic anger among Congress and citizens that this POW was released in a trade… what a strange, warmongering, unapologetic, incurious country we are. Anyone remember SSgt Bales? Not nearly the same level of furor when he walked off base and massacred 16 Afghans.

  11. Linda J on June 5, 2014, 11:00 pm

    “One unfortunate outcome of the controversy over the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the US army sergeant held by the Taliban for nearly five years, is the exposure of Chris Matthews’s neoconservative streak.”

    Isn’t it better to have it exposed and know what to expect from this corrupt democratic liberal blatherer?

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