Transcript: Sens. Warner, Levin on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 26, 2006 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the June 25, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And joining us now to discuss the day's breaking news are the two leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin.

Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: Good to be with you, Chris.

WALLACE: As we said, the new Iraqi prime minister offered a general amnesty plan today that excludes any acts of terror but leaves unclear what happens to those who have attacked American troops.

Senator Warner, should the president — should the Congress make it clear to the Iraqis that there can be no amnesty for anyone who has killed Americans?

SEN. JOHN WARNER, R-VA.: First, Chris, this is a very positive step forward by the Maliki government. And mind you, he has drafted a plan — it's to be disseminated to all 24 provinces — to get the grassroots response in an effort to have a healing effect and put behind us the differences in Iraq and bring to the forefront a consensus, and hopefully the council, which is their congress, will work on it.

Now, to your question, I want to say up front last week we had a vigorous debate in the Senate. My good friend right here — and we've been together 28 years on this committee — we differed strongly. He wanted to lay down — although a sense of the Senate — something in the nature of what we felt was a timetable. We were defeating that.

Now, far better that we turned that back and allowed the Iraqis this morning to show their exercise of sovereignty and to bring up this question than to have them react to what the Congress may have said last week.

WALLACE: But, Senator Warner, I want to press my specific question, which is on the question of amnesty for anyone who has attacked U.S. troops, should the U.S. — should the president and the Congress say that's a non-starter?

WARNER: There's an interesting thing here that both the United States and the Iraqi government have said we're going to do steps in consultation with one another.

We will, our government, be in consultation — not dictating, but in consultation — on the points, all 24 points, as well as the one questioning how you treat those who fought in various ways against the forces that we had when they came in and today fighting the insurgency.

So I think at this point, it wasn't clearly defined, and it will be, and we will have, I'm sure, in consultation, a voice in how that's defined.

WALLACE: Should we just have a voice, Senator Levin, or should we make it clear amnesty for people who killed Americans is a non-starter?

LEVIN: Absolutely, we should. We had a vote in the Senate and most Democrats and, I think, a few Republicans joined in trying to task the Senate a recommendation to the president.

For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator. We've paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable.

Now, apparently, the White House decided they didn't want us to do that, and so most of the Republicans squelched our effort, and we lost it. But it was worth the effort because there should not be amnesty for people who kill the liberating forces.

WALLACE: I have to say, Senator Warner, I'm a little surprised at your reluctance to go along with Senator Levin on that.

WARNER: My reluctance is to recognize their sovereignty and it is a consultative process. I'm personally strongly against any amnesty, but I do not wish the Congress last week to speak specifically to it nor I speak specifically this morning, other than to say personally that's my view.

I want the Iraqi people to take this decision unto themselves and make it correctly. And I hope it comes out, as you say, no amnesty for anyone who committed an act of violence, of war crimes.

WALLACE: All right.

LEVIN: That's all our effort did, Chris, was a recommendation to the president. It was an expression of our opinion, there should not be amnesty. Of course, they're sovereign. They're going to make their own minds up.

But we have a right to express our opinion, and that's what we tried to do last week, and that's what was squelched by the White House.

WALLACE: All right. Senator Levin, there's also a report today that General Casey, the top U.S. commander of all foreign forces in Iraq, has laid out a plan to the Pentagon under which 7,000 U.S. troops would be pulled out by September and an additional at least 30,000 by the end of 2007.

Now, you've been asking for a timetable. You put out a resolution this week that called for getting some troops out by the beginning of the year and a timetable for further withdrawals. Are you willing to take yes for an answer?

LEVIN: Of course. Frankly, it's one of the worst-kept secrets in this town that there is going to be reductions in our forces, redeployments in our forces, before the election. I mean, it's obvious what's going on here.

When we offered a resolution not with a fixed timetable for the final departure of American troops, most Democrats voted against that. That was the Kerry resolution.

We didn't think there should be a fixed timetable for the ending, but we did, almost all the Democrats, including all of the Democratic senators who are considering running for president, then coalesced around the so-called Levin-Reed resolution which simply urged the president — urged the president — to begin the phased redeployment of American forces from Iraq by the end of this year.

The White House didn't want to do that, and so it was rubber-stamped by the Republican-dominated Senate. They just went along because the White House said no. But let me tell you something, it will be the greatest shock in this town — it would be like a tornado hitting this town, frankly — if there's not a reduction in our forces prior to the election.

It will be time for that by the administration, and I don't have the slightest bit of doubt that that's what's going to happen.

WALLACE: Now, this is twice now you have linked this to the election, so let me ask you, do you think the decision to pull troops out is a military decision or a political decision?

LEVIN: It should be a military decision. General Casey at the Pentagon a few days ago said he believes there will be fairly substantial troop reductions this year. Of course, when we say military decisions, ultimately, it should be a civilian decision.

But it shouldn't be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration. It's as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there's going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory.

WALLACE: Senator Warner, is the Pentagon — is the White House playing politics with troop withdrawals?

WARNER: No, I don't think at all. And a matter of fact, if you'll see what Secretary Rumsfeld said, and the fact that the White House will not confirm this leak — it is a leak. It's not an official pronouncement. It's a leak to the press.

WALLACE: You're the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

WARNER: That's correct.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a question. Is it true?

WARNER: I met with General Casey, and Rumsfeld, and Pete Pace, and two or three other senators. Carl was in the room. We were trying to manage a bill, so we were in and out of the room.

But I specifically asked a question about the troop withdrawal schedule. He said we're going to adhere to — the ground conditions will dictate it; together with the military professional opinion, we'll make a recommendation to the president.

Did he draw up a plan? Well, of course the department's drawn up plans at all times, but I think it would be wrong now to say that this is the plan that we're going to operate under, because I come back again, Chris — there's only one point I want to make.

We have struggled and made tremendous sacrifice to give this nation its sovereignty. They are now beginning to exercise this sovereignty with a young government. Give them a chance to move out. We will consult with them. I'm confident our government will not let them make mistakes that would reflect adversely on troop withdrawals or amnesty or otherwise.

But give them the chance to move out in this release by Maliki. Specifically, we will look at levels of troop withdrawals. They want to get their own assessment of how fast their forces can come up before we have any timetable as to firm, fixed troop withdrawals.

WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, I want to move on to another issue involving Iraq. The military this week charged 12 servicemen with the murder of Iraqis in two separate incidents, and it was also revealed today that they've charged two other soldiers in another incident.

And as we all know, they're still investigating Haditha and the death of 24 Iraqi civilians there. Here's what Democratic Congressman John Murtha, one of the leading critics of the war, had to say about Haditha. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA, D-PA.: Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. We can't operate — we can't sustain this operation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Levin, first of all, is Murtha right about Haditha or is he involved in a rush to judgment about an investigation that hasn't even been completed yet? And secondly, are these isolated incidents, or is Murtha right when he says that they say something about the overall mission going wrong?

LEVIN: Well, the evidence is really very compelling that we've seen that there was at Haditha killing of innocent people. I mean, it's overwhelming evidence. Should we reach a final judgment on that? We should not.

These people should be given their rights in court, will be given their rights in court. But the evidence, I've got to say, is kind of overwhelming as to what happened when you look at the reports that came out of Haditha.

WALLACE: And what about the idea that this says something about the overall mission?

LEVIN: I think that we've, frankly, been there so long that we're going to see quite a few of these incidents. They're intolerable. We train our people not to kill innocent folks. But will there be a few of these? I'm afraid there will be. There are in other wars. There will be in this war and are, I'm afraid, in this war.

But is it a pattern? No. I think 99 percent of our troops are fighting professionally. They've been trained well. I hope it's not a pattern, but there will be a few.

WALLACE: Senator Warner?

WARNER: You know, we must always remember that now we've passed the 2,500 mark dead, 18,000 to 20,000 wounded. These men and women have gone — you know, basically, a million men and women of the armed forces, together with associated civilians, have gone over, performed their duties professionally and come back home.

Now, these are incidents that, to the credit of the military, are being fully investigated, Haditha being investigated by an Army general. He will be issuing a report. I think he has sent it to the top levels now. It will eventually come to the Congress for examination.

Our committee, Senator Levin and I, will be very prompt in providing oversight as to how the Army went about the procedures and the findings. But when you say the evidence is overwhelming — we must wait until all the evidence is in before we describe it as overwhelming or otherwise conclusive.

LEVIN: There's also evidence of a cover-up here, too, by the way. It's not just evidence of wrongdoing at the events on the ground, but it was a very long period of time before the Army acknowledged that...

WALLACE: Well, I must say, the L.A. Times, which supposedly got access to the Bargewell report, says that there was no knowing cover- up, that there were people who failed to ask questions.

WARNER: We should not comment until that's before the Congress.

WALLACE: All right. We've got a little over a minute left, and I'd like to get one last issue, and that is North Korea and reports that they are preparing to test a long-range missile.

Senator Warner, what's the latest information you have on whether they are going to launch that missile? And have U.S. missile defenses been put on alert to strike it if it approaches U.S. territory?

WARNER: I talked with the Security Council last night and again this morning and the White House. And frankly, we don't know exactly what the status is, whether it's been fully refueled or what the problem is. The weather is closing in now, which would not make it an optimal time to try and test it.

But it's the wrong thing for them to do, and that message has been sent by our administration. Russia has joined us, China, other countries in that area, Japan.

WALLACE: Have U.S. missile defenses been put on alert?

WARNER: You can anticipate that such missile defenses that we have now in place — and it's been a struggle through the Congress to get the money to put these defenses in — they will be utilized to the extent they can.

There's some limited operational capability to our research and otherwise development program on missile defenses, and you can assume that if it is necessary that it will be utilized.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Senator Warner, Senator Levin, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today.

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