Transcript: Gen. Richard Myers on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Dec. 21, 2003.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: The imprisoned Saddam Hussein is described as mentally drained but still defiant. During interviews to be broadcast tonight on CBS, officials who have seen him say Saddam is not being cooperative. His cell reportedly contains pictures of dead or captured members of his inner circle, including his sons, and a photo of President Bush.

And U.S. forces in Iraq have reportedly uncovered a plot to kidnap members of the country's governing council. A captured member of Saddam's inner circle told authorities the plan was to exchange the kidnapped leaders for the former dictator.

As we said, it's been a big week on the national-security front, with stunning news from Libya, the fallout from the capture of Saddam Hussein, and new threats from Al Qaida.

To discuss these issues and more, we welcome the top military man at the Pentagon, General Richard Myers, who has just returned from a trip to Iraq and other countries in the region and has made his way to the Fox News studios here in Washington.

And, General, good morning. Good to have you with us.


WALLACE: There's some late news out of Iraq that I'd like to ask you about. First of all, a major sweep, arresting dozens, perhaps more than 100, Saddam supporters across the country. What can you tell us?

MYERS: Well, some of the information we gleaned when we picked up Saddam Hussein led to a better understanding of the structure of the resistance from the former regime elements. And we've — actually, we've picked up more than several hundred, at this point.

WALLACE: More than several hundred?


WALLACE: How many are we talking about?

MYERS: Well, I can't — I don't have an accurate count right now, because it goes on and it goes on. But a couple hundred detainees so far.

WALLACE: And how senior in the insurgency?

MYERS: Well, we think they're some of the leadership of this insurgency, absolutely, some of the cell leaders.

WALLACE: So what would you say this has done, sir, to the resistance?

MYERS: Oh, I think the capture of Saddam Hussein and the intelligence we gleaned from him is a big step in the inevitable process of Iraq's march to a democracy. And it's a huge step, but it's not the only step required. There's a lot of hard work yet to go.

WALLACE: Now, what about this plot that we're hearing about to kidnap members of the Iraqi Governing Council to exchange them for Saddam Hussein?

MYERS: Well, I don't think this is considered unusual. I mean, any country that has emerged from dictatorship, from the kind of rule of fear that we saw in the Iraqi regime, we know that it's going to take courage on the part of the Iraqi people. And we see that every day. And I'm sure the leadership there, the governing council and so forth, they've shown great courage up til now. This should not be a surprise. What we've got to do is protect them.

WALLACE: How serious was this plot, though, to try to kidnap some members of the governing council?

MYERS: Well, I don't know how to answer that, in terms of seriousness. Anytime you have a plot — but we've seen this. We've seen them go after the infrastructure; they've gone after chiefs of police; they've gone after mayors. There have been well over 100 Iraqis who — and part of the security forces — have given their lives to secure that country. So we know this is a big threat.

We know that Ambassador Paul Bremer is under threat, as well. I mean, he, day in and day out, shows as much courage as our troops on the ground, because they would love to stop the progress that we're making in Iraq.

WALLACE: Let's talk about how long U.S. troops will be in Iraq. When you were over there this last week, this is what you had to say: "About as far as we're looking is through the next couple of years."

Is it fair to say that's the minimum, at least a couple of more years?

MYERS: What I was referring to is, that's as far as we're looking for planning purposes right now, but we don't know. It's going to have to be event-driven. You know, we have a lot of events happening between now and the 1st of July, when a transitional government will stand up and assume more sovereignty there in Iraq. And we're just going to have to see what kind of arrangements we're going to have with them, what kind of security needs are going to be there on 1 July, what we're going to need in the future. And so, we're going to have to go through all of that planning. We haven't done that yet.

But internally, of course, we've got to look out. We've got a pretty significant part of our ground force committed to Iraq right now, also to Afghanistan. And so, it's prudent planning to look out a couple years and say, if it goes on, you know, how are we going to put the pieces together? And that's what we're doing.

WALLACE: Is it true that current plans are to keep at least 100,000 troops there through calendar year 2004?

MYERS: Well, again, it's going to be up — we're going to have to have some sort of arrangement with this new Iraqi government that's going to stand up on 1 July. But the plans right now are for about that number, right.

WALLACE: At least 100,000 troops...

MYERS: Right.

WALLACE: ... through the end of the next year?

MYERS: That's a fair comment, yes.

WALLACE: OK. David Kay, head of the U.S. effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is now talking about leaving. And apparently some considerable part of his staff has been shifted from looking for weapons to looking for members of the opposition.


Why shouldn't we think that all of this adds up to a sign that you are stalled in your search for weapons?

MYERS: Well, first of all, on the David Kay thing, I know he's back here in the United States. I know he's had discussions with Mr. Tenet. But I've heard no comment, one way or another, whether he's going to stay or leave or any of that.

In the meantime, in Iraq, we have over 1,200 folks, part of this Iraqi survey group, which were working with David Kay to find weapons of mass destruction, but they also had other tasks as well. One of them was to find Speicher, the downed Navy pilot. Another was to help with the counterterrorism fight.

And it's how you balance those priorities. But we have 1,200 folks that are dedicated to that. The leadership of that team is still in place in Baghdad. That's General Keith Dayton. And they have a lot of folks that are working very hard at this piece.

WALLACE: But, General, if I may press the question, in fact, are you stalled, at this point, in the search for weapons of mass destruction?

MYERS: No, I don't think so at all. I just met with these individuals at their location there in Iraq, and I don't think they think they're stalled. It goes on, it goes on, it goes on.

It's going to be like finding Saddam Hussein. It took the right series of events, the right individuals to keep tracking him, to find the right person that could eventually say, "Here's where we think he is." The same thing's going to be true in WMD. The things we've found have been because Iraqis have stepped forward and helped us find those things. So the same thing applies.

And if you think about anthrax, you could have enough anthrax to wipe out several large cities in a hole the size that Saddam Hussein was found in. There are obviously holes like that and places you can hide stuff all over the country.

WALLACE: Do you still believe you're going to find them?

MYERS: I do, personally, yes.

WALLACE: Tell us about the interrogation of Saddam Hussein. First of all, are you getting any substance from him? And give us the mood music — how's he behaving, what's going on?

MYERS: The only thing I can say about that is, it's being done by someone outside the DOD. We put our best interrogators on him. The only word I have is that he's not being cooperative. But other than that, I don't know. I haven't had a report in the last 24 hours.

WALLACE: General, it's been alleged that, even after the capture of Saddam Hussein, that it did not make Americans any safer and, in fact, that this country is not any safer than it was on 9/11. What do you think of that?

MYERS: Well, I disagree with that. I think, certainly, for those Americans, for those Iraqis, as a matter of fact, inside Iraq, it makes them a lot safer.

We have seen an increase in the number of Iraqis coming forward to provide intelligence. Just like when his two sons were killed, we saw a large increase in the number of Iraqis willing to come forward, probably because they were not afraid anymore, to come forward and report on former regime elements that were trying to do either Iraqis or the coalition harm.

We're seeing that same surge again, and I think it's a realization that this Baath Party and all its remnants are never coming back to power in Iraq. There's going to be a new Iraq. It's going to be based on democratic principles. And so, I discount that.

I also think...

WALLACE: Let me just ask you, because you discount it, as I'm sure you know, it's Governor Howard Dean who's been making those comments while you were out of the country, but I assume you got reports of that.

MYERS: Well, I wasn't — no, I'm not referring to — I'm not aware of what candidate Dean...

WALLACE: But you still think that's wrong?

MYERS: Oh, yes, I still think it's wrong. I think it's — and as we get more and more intelligence, it's going to lead us to other things that are important.

For instance, Ansar al-Islam, terrorist group that had operated in Iraq prior to our major combat with Iraq, that is associated with Al Qaida — all this intelligence is going to give us a better understanding of their leadership, how they operate. And they're a threat to the world, too. We know they already threatened Europe. I mean some of the Ansar al-Islam folks were wrapped up in London trying to — with a plot to put ricin in the underground there.

WALLACE: Let's switch to Libya, if we can. There are reports that one of the reasons that Colonel Gadhafi may have made his agreement to give up weapons of mass destruction is because, in fact, U.S. and British forces had found some of them, had intercepted some of them in something that had been unknown until now, this proliferation security initiative.

In fact, what had you found?

MYERS: I'm not aware of that report at all, so I can't confirm it.

WALLACE: This is something that was reported out of the White House, this proliferation security initiative. Was the U.S. military not a part of this?

MYERS: No, you're catching me cold. I'm not aware that we had a part in that.

WALLACE: OK. All right.

MYERS: But it is a good thing. I mean, when you take a...


... country like Libya, that we know has the delivery means in terms of long-range missiles, that has weapons of mass destruction, it's a very good thing that they want to become a more normal nation. So this is a very positive thing.

WALLACE: I don't know how much you've heard about what the inspectors found in Libya, but apparently, U.S. officials are admitting that the country was further along in its development of nuclear weapons than we had suspected.

MYERS: I'm aware of that, yes.

WALLACE: How close were they to a nuclear bomb?

MYERS: I don't know. You'd have to ask — again, this is being handled primarily outside the Department of Defense.



WALLACE: And so, in terms of the details...

MYERS: Well, even if I knew the details, I don't think I'd be at liberty to share them on this show.

WALLACE: OK. Al Qaida, there's a new tape from Al Qaida's number two, threatening attacks in the U.S. And there's also apparently been a recent increase in threats that have been intercepted, specifically about attacks in U.S. cities.

Is this the normal spike and chatter that we hear from time to time, or is it something more serious than that?

MYERS: Well, we're trying to determine that right now, as a matter of fact.

But there should be no doubt, and I've said this time and time again, there is no doubt, from all the intelligence we pick up from Al Qaida, that they want to do away with our way of life.

And if they could cause another catastrophic event, a tragedy like 9/11, if they could do that again, if they could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and make it 10,000, not 3,000, they would do that, and not just in the United States but in any of the free world or any peoples that treasure their freedom.

So we take all these intelligence tips very, very seriously and work to mitigate that here at home and, as you see in Iraq and Afghanistan and the horn of Africa where we have terrific troops doing great work, to take the fight to the enemy.

WALLACE: Is there anything that you've seen serious enough in this latest intelligence that would indicate, perhaps, the threat level in this country should be raised?

MYERS: Oh, that'll be a decision for Secretary Ridge to make, and we'll be in discussions with him here in the next 24, 48 hours.

WALLACE: So this is something under active consideration?

MYERS: You bet.

WALLACE: Do you have...

MYERS: It's just — well, it's Secretary Ridge's business, but the Department of Defense does play a role in supporting federal agencies in this regard, and so we're discussing this right now.

WALLACE: Finally, Time magazine has announced its person of the year, and it is the American soldier.

MYERS: Terrific. Terrific.

WALLACE: And I know that one of the big things you did when you were over there was just talk, eye to eye, to American men and women who were...

MYERS: We met with, I think, about 25,000 troops in Afghanistan, Iraqi, Kuwait, Bahrain and Djibouti.

The one thing I'd like to tell the American people, what is amazing when you meet these people — and I don't know how many hands I shook or how many pictures I took or how many eyes I looked into — but these folks look like they're ready for inspection.

It's hard to tell, when you're with the 101st Airborne up in Mosul in Iraq, that they've been there for nine months and had to fight their way through Baghdad to get there. These folks look terrific. They understand the mission. They're confident in the mission. They take care of one another. They look wonderful.

And to have them as person of the year, or whatever, is just exactly right. The military — in many cases, it's the military that stands between the terrorists and their goal. And they're doing a terrific job, and we're going to have to probably use them for some time to come. But America ought to be proud of their military.

WALLACE: General, thank you. Thank you very much for joining us today. And happy holidays, sir.

MYERS: Thank you, Chris. Happy holidays.