MSNBC host Chris Matthews and General (Ret.) H. Norman Schwarzkopf falsely claimed no insurgent attacks occurred at polling places on election day in Iraq. In fact, attacks on Iraqi polling places were widely reported during the January 30 elections. Matthews also claimed that Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to the election by “calling for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces” from Iraq; in fact, Reid has explicitly opposed a timetable for withdrawal.
During Matthews' interview with Schwarzkopf on the January 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, both men wrongly claimed that the Iraqi voting process had been free of violence:
SCHWARZKOPF: It's just interesting that these [Iraqi] people, in the face of death, in the face of being told that they would be killed if they participated, in the face of being told that they were going to be blown away and -- at the voting places and that sort of thing, and none of that happened. I mean, it just didn't occur.
MATTHEWS: Do you know General -- do you know [Major] General Richard Kramlich?
SCHWARZKOPF: The name is familiar. But that's about it.
MATTHEWS: He's a Marine -- he was a Marine general over in Iraq. And I was so impressed last week. He said to us on the program -- I said, “Are you worried about people being able to not be bombed when they go to vote?” And just like an iron man, he said on the show, “No one will be blown up as they go to vote. There will be no bombing of any of our voting lines.” He just said that. And it turned out to be the case. So I guess something went right, in terms of the perimeters there, able to set up apparently multiple perimeters around these voting stations, General.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, absolutely.
The Washington Post reported on February 1: “Insurgents made good on their repeated threats to attack Iraq's polling stations on election day, unleashing car and suicide bombs, mortars, rockets, small-arms fire and grenades in 109 separate attacks, according to U.S. officials.” That followed similar accounts on January 31 by Knight Ridder and the Associated Press, among others. A list of election-day attacks on CNN.com that resulted in deaths or injuries includes descriptions of attacks at polling places, including one in which “suicide bomber detonated explosives while standing in line at the Maysaloun polling station,” killing three and wounding nine.
Two U.S. Marines were among the 45 people killed in Iraq on election day, including a Marine killed while guarding an Iraqi polling station, as The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on January 31 (and in more detail on February 1). The Los Angeles Times noted on January 31: “Seven U.S. soldiers were injured when an insurgent lobbed a hand grenade over the wall of a polling site in northwest Mosul, just after the gates had closed for the day.”
Later in his interview with Schwarzkopf, Matthews misstated Reid's position on the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, as a military man, in all seriousness, as you watch this partisan debate that has already begun, with Harry Reid out there, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, others, calling for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces, how do you read that as a military person, not as a politician?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I think it is dumb. That's the only -- to come up and say that based upon what happened.
But, as the New York Times reported on February 1, Reid expressed opposition to setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal in a January 31 press conference: “As far as setting a timeline [for withdrawal], as we learned in the Balkans, that's not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don't want us there, and it doesn't work well to do that.” While Reid stated that “we need an exit strategy so that we know what victory is and how we can get there,” he also emphasized that President Bush “needs to spell out a real and understandable plan for the unfinished work ahead to defeat the growing insurgency, rebuild Iraq, increase political participation by all parties, especially Iraq's moderates, and increase international involvement.”