Hot Stories for the Week of April 14-18

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, April 19, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Mort, the hot story is, so far, so good in postwar Iraq, though you would never know it from much of the media coverage, which is dominated by the naysayers, as it was during the war.

Now, you had these demonstrations in Baghdad with Sunni and Shia Muslims saying, U.S. out, we want an Islamic state. They represent a small fragment -- segment of the population. Iraq is a secular country, and they're going to wind up with a secular democracy that is more like Turkey than it is like Iran, which isn't a democracy in the first place.

So don't get all hysterical about these protests, they don't...


BARNES: ...they didn't mean any more than the antiwar protests in the United States.

Now, good things are happening, political parties are starting to get together and step forward. The looting and mayhem has died down a good bit. The Iraqi police -- Iraqi police -- helping the American troops.  They pointed them, turned over this Saddam's foreign minister to American authorities.

Look, setting up a democracy is a messy, messy business. But it's actually going pretty well, though there's more to do.

Listen to Bush. I think you'll agree with President Bush on this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our work is not done.  The difficulties have not passed. But the regime of Saddam Hussein has passed into history.

Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country.


KONDRACKE: Now, before you accuse me of being a naysaying pressie, right...

BARNES: All right?

KONDRACKE: ... I stipulate that nothing would please me more than to have...


KONDRACKE: ... a reasonably smooth transition to democracy and to have it last...


KONDRACKE: ... in Iraq. I mean, it would change -- transform the region from, from one of poverty and rage to one of prosperity and stability. That said, however, Bush himself acknowledges that, that there are difficulties.

This is a -- this -- Iraq is a country with no prior history of representative government. There are deep ethnic and religious hatreds there that sort of remind you of, of Yugoslavia. The good news is, as you say, that the police are beginning to work and that we're getting food and medicine there, and, and, and the lights will soon be back on.

But, but there are other difficulties...

BARNES: I, I knew, I knew there was...

KONDRACKE: ...there are...

BARNES: ... a but.

KONDRACKE: It's reality, it's reality...

BARNES: All right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... and there are, there are difficulties as the president, you know, wants the U.N. sanctions lifted...


KONDRACKE: ... but the French, our friends the perfidious French, and the Russians are back, you know...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... now trying to, to keep the sanctions on, punishing the Iraqi people, in order to get themselves into the action, into, into the postwar action.

And on top of that, we have the other axis of evil countries, Iran and, and North Korea, looking at what happened in, in, in Iraq, and the swiftness with which we won. They are going to move as fast as they can to become nuclear weapons countries...


KONDRACKE: ... in order to deter us...


KONDRACKE: ... from doing to them...


KONDRACKE: ... what we did, what we did to Iraq.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: And the danger is that down the line...


KONDRACKE: ... they're going to hand, they're going to hand off weapons of mass destruction to, to bad guys.

So, you know, there are, as Bush says, difficulties...

BARNES: Well, I was...

KONDRACKE: ... sorry, it's true.

BARNES: ... adding them up. I think you had four or five negative statements, one positive. You're, you're, you're trending in a naysayer direction...

KONDRACKE: ...I'm a realist, that's all.

BARNES: ... Mort. All right, all right.

The other hot story tonight, seven American POWs finally on their way back to their families. Their C-17 transport plane expected to land at Fort Bliss, Texas, later tonight.

FOX News correspondent Alicia Acuna is standing by live at Fort Bliss with more -- Alicia.


Well, the initial planning for this first welcoming home of these seven former POWs has been somewhat fluid. As one of the soldiers here put it to me, the plan is definitively tentative.

Here's what I'm talking about. They are having a -- somewhat of a discussion here over exactly what they're going to do with the soldiers when they land. Right now, the plan is, right now, is to have the plan, the C-17 land behind me in that area over there with the plane facing the mountains. Then the back of the plane will open up, and the soldiers will disembark.

Now, at that point -- and this is where there's a point of contention between planners here -- they're trying to decide whether or not they're going to put the soldiers on golf carts and have them sort of parade around in an S-shape, is what they're talking about. All the media folks here have placed their microphones out there in hopes that some of the soldiers or their family members will be willing to come out and make a brief statement.

The soldiers have been told that Americans would like to hear from them. Of course, there is no pressure.

Now, among the changes here, we've been told, is the time that they are expected to arrive. We were originally told that the C-17 was going to land here at 8:00 Eastern time. That has now changed, and the plane is now expected to land here at Fort Bliss -- at Fort Bliss, rather, at 10:00 Eastern time.

Now, in Germany this morning, U.S. Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson was boarded onto the plane by a stretcher. She was in good spirits and made the V-for-victory sign with her hands. Military doctors have said she should recover just fine from the two gunshot wounds that she sustained to both her ankles during the time of her capture.

The other six former prisoners of war walked onto the plane. All seven spent the last few days at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, receiving medical attention.

Now, two other of the soldiers were also wounded when the 507th Maintenance Support Company was ambushed near Nasiriyah on March 23.  Specialist Edgar Hernandez and Specialist Joseph Hudson both are recovering from gunshot wounds.

Now, the other two who are coming home are the Apache helicopter pilots who, before getting settled for the long flight home, raised the U.S. flag up through the hatch of the C-17. Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young, Jr., were in central Iraq when their helicopter was brought down by a can.

And now we have been told, Morton and Fred, that once they arrive here, they will receive another medical exam. This will be an immediate medical exam, is what we've been told.

We've also been told, in terms of when they get to go home-home, when they get to home and spend with their families, that won't happen until Monday. They will be granted leave on Monday, and at that point they will be given 30 days just to go wherever they want.

Back to you guys.

KONDRACKE: OK, thanks, Alicia.

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