Iraqi Weapons Pose a Major Concern If War Erupts

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Feb. 6, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons. The very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have.


BRIT HUME, HOST: The newly unclassified material disclosed by Secretary of State Powell at the U.N. paints a picture of a large and well-concealed arsenal of the most hideous weapons widely dispersed and in some cases highly mobile across Iraq, a country the size of California.

Which poses a serious problem for U.S. and allied military commanders on any assault on Iraq. How to keep those weapons from being used either by the Iraqi forces against our troops, against the Iraqi people or used by terrorists.

For more on this, we turned to retired Air Force General Thomas McInerney, now a FOX News senior military analyst. General, welcome.


HUME: So, your forces are going in. They've got territory to cover. They've got places to attack. They've got forces that they're worried about being a raid against and they've got this to worry about. How do you deal with that?

MCINERNEY: Well, it's complex, but the most important thing you can do is move fast. And then with what we call our intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets, to be looking for these.

But let's back space one. What we really want to do on our opening attack is to attack all these weapons of mass destruction initially, along with his command and control, him and his leadership, as well as the integrated air defense system. So...

HUME: You're talking about air?

MCINERNEY: I'm talking about air simultaneously with ground. Now, the air is doing something to prepare the ground forces battlefield. And so that's crucial because it cuts a path through a lot of these enemy defenses.

HUME: Now we saw in Powell's presentation yesterday, that was based on newly unclassified material, and we were given to believe this was a portion of what we know.


HUME: Was that the tip of a large iceberg, in your view, or simply the tip of an ordinary iceberg? In other words, how much would be your estimation do we know about the whereabouts of these weapons?

MCINERNEY: I think that's the tip of a large iceberg.

HUME: We know a lot.

MCINERNEY: We know a lot, but not as much as we'd like to know. And so, part of the campaign that's going to be crucial, Brit, is in our information ops that we get the word out. As the president just said late this afternoon, we have information that Saddam has given the release authority to those units, those special Republican Guard Units that have these weapons, that they can release them.

And that's an important step, which means that we've got to do a number of things. Because what I'm really even more concerned in the scenario you initially laid out is if he goes with the philosophy, use or lose it, and pre-empts us and you heard that Tariq Aziz said that we're not the only one that can pre-empt. Implying the United States...

HUME: You mean he'd try to hit us somewhere?

MCINERNEY: He'd try to hit us before...

HUME: Where, in Kuwait?

MCINERNEY: In Kuwait, for instance. Kuwait is where we have a large force. We've probably got 50,000 troops in Kuwait now. We've got roughly 120,000 in theater now building up. And so, that would be an ideal location. Some in Qatar, some of these other locates. So...

HUME: Does he have the weapons that can reach Qatar or he'd do this through terrorism? How would he do this?

MCINERNEY: Well, if he could launch one of those drones and we don't see it and he sneaks through Iran or someplace like that, we've got to be very careful because Secretary Powell laid out they've got drones, they've got airplanes. You saw that French Mirage that had the spray paint. And so he's got a lot of assets. He's got the Scuds. We know he's got some long-range Scuds. We think he will primarily focus them on Israel. But he could very easily focus them on Qatar and some of the other places.

HUME: Kuwait.


HUME: Now, how do you guards against that?

 MCINERNEY: All right, what we've got to do right now is we've got to make sure that we've got all our assets, our satellite assets, our joint Stars, our AWAC's aircraft, our fighters up on 24-hour alert in the No-Fly Zone. In the No-Fly Zones, particularly in the south because that is the large buffer zone and he could slip something down into Basrah that could, in fact, reach Qatar. We needs to be using our opposition force, our Special Operations...

We really have to have our...

HUME: Your view is there's bound to be Special Operations forces in there now.

MCINERNEY: There should be. There should be.

HUME: In some number?

MCINERNEY: In some number as well as opposition forces. Here's why I'm a little concerned. We're not using the opposition forces well enough. And they're not really embedded in our structure yet. The Iraqi opposition is a tremendous tool for us. They're communicating. I suspect we got that information that went to the commanders, we got that through Iraqi opposition people.

HUME: And so if used properly, your view is this is competent to ward off such a pre-emptive...

MCINERNEY: Well, I think it is. But you've got to be lucky in this game. That means our people must have their chemical and biological gear around them at all times when they're in the base camps. And we must be prepared and think because that's the worst thing that could happen to us. And so, in our most vulnerable area is Kuwait, but Qatar and other locations out there are, if he's able to sneak some of those assets around, could do us some very serious damage.

HUME: Now, let's assume we get past that threat and we get to dictate the terms or the assault goes forward on our schedule, how likely is it that we'll be able to seize and secure or destroy this arsenal of weapons in the early going and avoid its use?

MCINERNEY: Well, I think the air power is going to get a significant portion of it. The other portion...

HUME: You mean to just blow it up?

MCINERNEY: Blow it up.

HUME: What happened to disperse it?

MCINERNEY: Well, some may, some may not. The fact is, is we cannot let that where he could put it on his weapons. He has some very elaborate weapons systems. Those 122-millimeter rockets can put out a lot of chemical weapons and bio.

And so, again the key thing is that our forces are moving fast. You've got simultaneous air power coming down, you've got these intelligence surveillance assets and the opposition Special Operation forces, all working together and sending the message -- do not use those weapons or you will be treated as a war criminal.

HUME: Tom McInerney, nice to have you sir. Thanks very much.

MCINERNEY: Thanks Brit.

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