Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman on Hardball with Chris Matthews
Topic: Media Involvement
'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for March 2
Transcript of that portion of the MSNBC show that included Stacy's participation.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As American troops continue to be shipped off to Iraq and to Afghanistan, the wives of soldiers are left behind to take care of business at home.
Karen Houppert is a freelance journalist who spent two years profiling military wives and is the author of the new book “Home Fires Burning:
Married to the Military for Better or Worse.” Also with us is Stacy Bannerman, whose husband, Lorin, is a reservist serving now in Iraq.
Thank you, ladies, both for joining us.
I want to start with Karen.
What surprised you about the military wife experience in these wars?
KAREN HOUPPERT, AUTHOR, “HOME FIRES BURNING”: I think the most surprising thing I learned in the course of reporting for this book was how many wives actually were opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, the U.S. invasion there. That actually came as quite a surprise to me.
But, also, I was surprised to discover that, while the military on paper has a lot of support programs out there for wives, when it comes to the actual execution, they don‘t do so well. And...
Let me go right now to Stacy Bannerman, because I think we‘ve got exhibit A here.
Stacy, where do you stand on whether the United States should have gone into Iraq?
STACY BANNERMAN, WIFE OF U.S. SOLDIER SERVING IN IRAQ: Well, I believe that we shouldn‘t have. Clearly, we shouldn‘t have, because we didn‘t have the facts right and the rationale presented to go to war was based on lies.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of the elections over there a couple weeks back?
BANNERMAN: Well, they conducted them and now they‘re over. That was the third reason given for the troop presence being in Iraq. But yet we haven‘t brought an exit strategy together to bring them home.
MATTHEWS: Among the other wives in your situation whose husbands or friends who are males whose wives are serving over there, to keep it equal here, is there a lot of dissidence—dissent on this policy of going into Iraq, even though you have spouses over there?
BANNERMAN: Well, I think that there‘s an increasing number of military wives, whether they be married to men in the regular Army enlisted or in the Army National Guard and Reserves, such as I am, that have really begun to question why it is the troops are over there and certainly why they‘re there after all of this time.
MATTHEWS: Are you anti-war?
BANNERMAN: I believe that we‘ve got other options available to us, and we certainly did in Iraq. We didn‘t need to launch an attack on this country.
BANNERMAN: There were other things that could have been pursued, and that wasn‘t done. I think that was a real mistake.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a common argument, but are you anti-war? Are you a pacifist?
BANNERMAN: Oh, yes, I am.
MATTHEWS: Well, why did you marry a guy in uniform?
BANNERMAN: My husband is in the Army National Guard. The Army National Guard is not intended as being primarily overseas combat troops. That‘s not what they were about.
MATTHEWS: But they do wear uniforms and they carry weapons. And the purpose for their existence is fighting wars when the democratic government that we all have to live under chooses to fight those wars. Didn‘t you see all that coming?
BANNERMAN: Chris, the primary purpose of the National Guard is actually as a state-based force to provide assistance to their state and local communities. That‘s what they‘re recruiting the National Guard for and that is what those ads still say, even though those troops are now being sent overseas and are 42 percent of the boots on the ground.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Karen.
HOUPPERT: Oh, sorry. I was just going to...
MATTHEWS: Karen Houppert, your thoughts on this. Is this a common view, that spouses of people who serve in the guard don‘t think of themselves as G.I. wives or spouses; they think of themselves as having a husband who is involved with the home guard, more or less?
HOUPPERT: Yes, I think that‘s true. And I also think it‘s interesting to note that about 40 percent of the soldiers that are stationed over—or that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan also think it‘s a mistake for the U.S. to be over there. And about 42 percent of them think that we are at greater risk of terrorist attack now than we were before this. That‘s...
MATTHEWS: How can they express that view? Is there any way they can legitimately express that view while their husbands or wife is in uniform?
HOUPPERT: It‘s very difficult, I think. There‘s a lot of overt and covert pressure to not speak out against the administration‘s views.
And, for soldiers, that‘s particularly difficult. For wives, it shouldn‘t be so difficult, but it is. And many of them fear that it jeopardizes their husband‘s job if they speak out.
MATTHEWS: You know, we‘ve been to Pendleton and we‘ve met the young Marines and their wives, in some cases, who were totally supportive of the effort they have to pursue as military active members.
They are a different category than National Guardsmen. They want to fight the war because they are trained to fight it, and they believe this cause is justified, in most cases. But in either case, whether you‘re a Guardsman or Reservist or a regular Army or Marine, you come home with a couple of legs or limbs missing, a couple of arms missing, you come home with brain damage, losing your sight, all kinds of damage, but you survive.
What did you learn about that experience for the spouse, Karen?
HOUPPERT: I think it‘s a very, very difficult recovery process when the soldiers come home wounded, obviously. But also even if there aren‘t physical wounds, there‘s post-traumatic stress syndrome that a lot of them struggle with.
And it‘s very hard for families. Also, another issue that comes up quite often is that the wife has been independent on her own, making decisions on her own for a year. And it‘s sometimes difficult for the husband to squeeze back into family life that has gone on without him. And those are the issues that the Army is really not so good at helping families address.
MATTHEWS: Karen, what are your views about the general—or, Stacy, your views about the general situation of the military and how it treats spouses and family life?
BANNERMAN: Well, I believe that, again, especially with the Army National Guard spouses, we have not been provided really with any kind of preparation for deployment. We do not have access to the same level of support and resources that regular military wives do.
For example, the gentleman who was sent to kind of work with a—the group of military wives, National Guard wives, was ex-Marine. Now, that‘s not really conducive to developing good, strong bonds, that emotional support that these women need when their husbands are called to serve and sometimes given less than 30 days notice, pulling them out of homes and out of jobs and out of families that they weren‘t prepared for.
I think the military has really fallen short in meeting the needs of the wives. And that‘s one of the reasons, honestly, that we‘re seeing the diminished return rate, reenlistment rate of National Guard and Reserves.
MATTHEWS: Are you angry, Stacy, about this whole situation, this war?
BANNERMAN: I am—I am greatly concerned about it. I do have some anger about it, because I think a gross violation of the national trust has happened with this.
MATTHEWS: So, you believe it‘s been misused by the president?
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s great having you on.
BANNERMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t hear many voices like yours. And I‘m glad you came on.
BANNERMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Stacy Bannerman, whose husband is serving in the Guard in Iraq right now.
And, of course, Karen Houppert, who has written this new book “Home
Fires Burning,” which contains a lot of stories like this, “Married to the
Military For Better or Worse.‘
Thank you, ladies, for coming on.
HOUPPERT: Thank you for having us.
BANNERMAN: Thank you.