This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, April 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want for Fallujah (search) is stability for the average citizen who can feel freedom from want and freedom from fear simultaneously.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The Marines fighting their way into the violent city of Fallujah and coalition soldiers are in an intense battle with supporters of an anti-American cleric. No matter what's happening on the ground, President Bush says power will be transferred on June 30. So is the timing of this uprising good or bad? The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is with us.
California Congressman Duncan Hunter (search) joins me from San Diego. Congressman, the big question, Congressman, did the coalition instigate this latest fight or get dragged into it?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R) CALIFORNIA: Well, I think clearly, John, if we had the hand-off that's imminent now that's going to take place on June 30, the governmental handoff, if you had that a year from now, I think you could expect that there would be violence presaging that handoff. I think that's something we can expect. And simply putting this off for some later date doesn't mean that we're not going to have another surge of violence, whatever time you set on the handoff. I think it's something that's expected. There's a lot of people that don't want to see this sovereignty for an interim government and ultimately a vote later in the year on the national assembly. And those people are working right now against American interests.
GIBSON: Right, but do you think the American commanders, and the American political leadership and Paul Bremer (search) all sat down and said, look, we're going to have to deal with Sadr at some time, better now than June 15.
HUNTER: Well, I think it's good to deal with him now when you have an extra division. Right now you have — you've got the 1st Cav relieving the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, in the center of the Sunni Triangle (search). And the 1st Cav is in place now, the 1st Armored, as you know, hasn't left. You have an extra heavy American division right there on the spot. That's good for us.
GIBSON: Can this kind of unrest — I mean, obviously, including the armed uprising, can that be put down militarily?
HUNTER: Well, certainly you can put it down in the sense that you can — you can overcome the folks that are out there with AK-47s and RPGs, when you put heavy armor on them. I think what you have to do is understand that they're going to be explosions in Iraq for the next 50 years. If putting money and resources into a country could stop explosions, we would have peace in Israel right now. So we're going to have a country where even when the Americans leave, you are going to have clerics bombing each other. What we have to do is put some burden now on this fledgling batch of Iraqi leaders, put a burden on them to take this country. Give them the handoff. Unless they start carrying part of that burden, they're never going to have the strength to endure for an extended period of time. I think the handoff is appropriate. We have heavy forces there right now. We have an extra division, heavy division, in the center of the Sunni Triangle. We need to hold firm. We need to stay steady and move forward.
GIBSON: What do you think about the percolating idea that the United States is going to have to add troops to Iraq?
HUNTER: Well, the folks that say that don't understand we already have added troops because we had the biggest force rotation since World War II going on. You had the 1st Infantry Division taking the place of the 4th. You had the 1st Marine Division taking the place of the 82nd to the west, and, of course, the 1st Cav coming up and replacing the 1st Armored. You have an extra heavy division there right now. And, of course, the thing that counts is firepower, people that have weapons in their hands, and also special operators. We could put more special operators in and more intelligence in, and that would give you a better harvest than simply putting a lot of boots on the ground, but actually, John, we have a lot of boots on the ground right now. Fighting boots.
GIBSON: But you did say it's a rotation, so assuming that there are outbound troops, just as a general commitment, do we need to up the level of troops as a general commitment to Iraq?
HUNTER: Well, I think that the generals who have — who are in charge of that AO in the center of the Sunni Triangle now that have the two divisions instead of one — the 1st Cav and the 1st Armored — are obviously not moving the 1st Armored out right now because we have the situation going on. I think that's wise, and that may — they may come up with a game plan that keeps the 1st Armored around for a while instead of moving it out on rotation. That's a heavy division. They have lots of firepower, lots of punch. That might be a wise thing to do. And I'm certainly going to ask the joint chiefs and the secretary to look at that.
GIBSON: All right. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter. Congressman, thank you very much.
HUNTER: Good to be with you.