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.