MoveOn.org Defends Anti-Iraq War Ads
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We are delighted that we now can go to Tom Matzzie. He is the leader of the coalition running the ads against the war in Iraq. He’s Washington director of MoveOn.org.
Tom Matzzie, thank you for being with us. And, again, our apologizes to you for the holdup and to the audience.
We had just been talking with Brad Blakeman of Freedom’s Watch. We asked him to look at one of the ads being run by the groups in your coalition arguing that the war should stop. He called this ad a scare tactic. He said you say things in there that are not true, such as pointing out — claiming that there’s going to be a draft. How do you answer him?
TOM MATZZIE, MoveOn.org Washington Director: Those were the words of President Bush’s own war czar, General Lute. Those were not our words. We merely took the audio of General Lute and put it on the ad.
One thing I’ll say very specifically right now, Brad Blakeman, you know, should be held to account for not coming in public and debating the war. And I’ll challenge him to a debate right now. I’m a taxpaying citizen. The 3.4 million members of MoveOn.org are taxpayers and citizens of this country. And there should be an open, public debate about the war in Iraq.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me also just come back to the point about what you say in your ad about the draft. There’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan group called FactCheck.org. They also concluded, in their words, that it was “misleading,” that you were twisting the words of a general when you talk about a draft in your ad. How do you comment? What do you say to that?
TOM MATZZIE: Well, the general’s words stand on their own. I don’t think we need to, you know, interpret them for anybody.
I’ll say, regarding scare tactics, this new group of Mr. Blakeman’s has a picture an airplane flying into the 9/11 — on 9/11 into the Twin Towers. And to talk about that in the context of the Iraq debate is outrageous. Iraq did not attack us on 9/11. There were no Iraqis who were hijacking those airplanes on 9/11. And, you know, we’ve gone through this debate before in this country, and those sorts of scare tactics should not be on the table.
Responding to a pro-Iraq war ad
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom Matzzie, let me ask you now to look at one of those ads, and I think it includes the one you're referring to. This is one of the ads being run, starting this week by the group Freedom's Watch. Let's take a look.
VICKI STRONG, Mother of Killed Servicemember: Jesse died the week before the Iraqi election, and he sacrificed for our freedom and for their freedom. For Congress to switch votes for political reasons while we're making progress in Iraq to me is unthinkable.
If we surrender now, it's giving the message to terrorists that they can do what they want and get away with it. We're starting to see results. The price is being paid. Don't give up. We've already had one 9/11; we don't need another.
JUDY WOODRUFF: These ads and ads similar to those using Iraq veterans, some of whom have lost limbs in Iraq, are being run in many parts of the country. What do you have to say to the message in those ads?
TOM MATZZIE: I think it's a very compelling story that the woman is telling, and I sympathize with her greatly, and my heart goes out to her for her loss. I think, though, you could find any one family that tells one story.
But already we see in the new CBS-New York Times poll, for example, that two-thirds of veterans and military families think that the surge is not going well in Iraq. And that's an indicator of what really is the truth about what's going on, on the ground.
So the story about progress needs to be not just told by the Pentagon and White House spin operation, but by the facts. The bloodiest summer yet in Iraq, 17 of 38 parliament -- excuse me, of cabinet numbers in the Iraqi cabinet are boycotting the government, and the parliament's on vacation right now. This is not progress.
"A desperate, desperate move"
JUDY WOODRUFF: Your ads, which have been running for a number of months -- and when I say "your ads," the ads that have been paid for by a coalition, including MoveOn.org -- have been running for some time around the country. You've spent millions of dollars. You've been targeting whom, Republican members of Congress? Have you changed any votes?
TOM MATZZIE: Well, September is going to be a telling time for that question. But, ultimately, it's not just how people change their votes. It's things like John Warner yesterday, you know, telling the president that he needs to start withdrawing troops. It's Peter Pace, the president's chairman of the Joint Chiefs, saying that next year we need to draw down as many as half of our troops in Iraq.
Right now, the White House is in absolute meltdown over Iraq. The generals are telling them they need to bring troops home. You have Republican senators saying they need to do the same thing. This is a desperate, desperate move by the White House with an ad campaign attacking, swift-boating Republicans who are saying, "Enough is enough."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we've heard two sides of this now. Tom Matzzie with MoveOn.org, we thank you, and again apologies for that difficulty we had earlier. Thank you very much.
TOM MATZZIE: Thank you, Judy.