Race Against the Clock in Fallujah?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", April 29, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Critics say the U.S. is bogged down in Fallujah (search), unable to attack the city outright and unable to walk away and give the enemy a sanctuary. Every day that goes by, it has argued, gives the die-hard in the city a chance to regroup and prepare for further attacks on the U.S. Marines. But is that the case? Is time really on the side of the pro- Saddam die-hard?

For answers we turn to military analyst and retired general of the Army Robert Scales.

Welcome, Bob.


HUME: Thank you. Nice to have you. Tell us about your take on Fallujah and this time issue. We keep hearing that we got get this done. Obviously there's a deadline of June the 30, but short of that, what?

SCALES: Back to military doctrine. If you are the investing power and you have an airtight seal or a nearly airtight seal, as the Marines do, then time is on your side?

HUME: Now, you are confident ... that cordon or cordon, I guess...

SCALES: Hard to say. It appears to me -- first of all, the Marines have bumped up their stint to about 7,000. They built a burm ... they put wire up. They've blocked all the roads. It may not be airtight, but it's close. So you have...

HUME: Which means that supplies on a large scale are not penetrating the city.

SCALES: Not only -- more important than supplies is communication back and forth, movement of these insurgents back and forth, reinforcement. Look, if the insurgents are locked down, if they can't get in or out, and the civilians can get out, eventually if you are patient, you'll reach the stage where the only people left in the city are going to be the bad guys. And they're going to be out of food, water, and moral.

HUME: Well, what do we do about the fact, that they appear as they move about to be taking with them as hostages and shields, women and children who probably can't leave as long as they don't want them to leave?

SCALES: As long as the Iraqi people know that, as long as the citizens of Fallujah are aware of that, if Al Jazeera lets the word out that that's going on, ultimately that's going to work against these guys. Look, in close combat, you can try to use human shields. They've tried it in the past, and they've generally failed.

HUME: Why doesn't it work?

SCALES: Well, generally speaking, they'll -- American soldiers don't return fire, and eventually the civilians melt away. They tried this in Karbala. They tried it in An Nasiriyah a year ago during the active phase of the first campaign. And it didn't work. Eventually the Marines were able to take them down. I think that's going to happen again this time.

HUME: Is it your sense now -- I know you were concerned before about the level -- the force level around that city. Is it -- do you feel more comfortable?

SCALES: More comfortable now. Greater numbers, they've got a good estimate of the bad guys inside the city. I think the figure I last saw was about 12 to 1,500. That's a force ratio of about 5 to 1, which is in the ballpark of where you need to be.

Look, if you're the besieger, time is on your side. And the more time the American forces take to wear the enemy down, hit him with firepower, concentrated fire. Not small arms exchanges, but Air Force precision bombs, TOE missiles, Hell Fire missiles, eventually the enemy's morale will begin to crack. No hurry.

HUME: Now, the -- to what do you attribute -- we didn't have this aerial bombardment the way we've had in recent days until this week.

SCALES: Right.

HUME: To what do you attribute that? I mean this is supposed to be negotiations. Obviously it looks like it's the old talk-talk, fight-fight, with a lot TV the fight- fight at night. What's that all about?

SCALES: Two things, good intelligence. You don't use a bomb against a building unless you are reasonably convinced there are just bad guys in the building. And the fact that more bombs are being used, tells you that the quality of attack technical intelligence is better.

Secondly, these are not big bombs. These are 500-pound bombs. By Air Force standards, fairly discreet, small bursting radios. You put a 500-pound bomb in a building, you destroy the building; the collateral damage and destruction is fairly small.

HUME: So to what do you attribute this intelligence? Is it possible that the people within the city to whom we're caulking and negotiating are...

SCALES: Absolutely. Two things. Two things. Remember, they have this city encircle, and they have snipers, they have night vision scopes, they have all sorts of observation devices that they're using to pick up intel from the outside.

And the citizens coming out are getting a little, frankly, angry at being besieged within their city by their own people, and the intelligence is beginning to drift out. Over time, the Marines will again ... to gather that base of intelligence that they need to start applying for more firepower than they do now.

The object is not to fight street-by- street. The object is to find those discreet bits of enemy concentration and to take them out with surgically great precision and great patience.

HUME: So, you can then go -- there comes a time when you know well enough where they are in pockets of the city, where you can go in with your ground forces and attack them without grave danger to your own forces?

SCALES: And without grave danger to the citizens of the city. That's equally important. That's right.

And I think what you'll begin to see after a few days of this is, is forays, raids, if you will, down to the city streets. Attack a single target and then withdraw. They're already some forces in the city that have infiltrated in the city that are doing that right now. Snipers are being very effective, particularly at night in taking out the Fedayeen as they attempt to re-supply their outposts on the edge of the city.

HUME: So these are sniper teams, right? What are called sniper teams?

SCALES: You bet. Four-men sniper teams, they fire you a Bolt Action rifle accurate out to about 1,000 yards, and they have night vision devices and star light scopes to help them.

HUME: Can't be seen.

SCALES: Can't be seen. And by the way, these -- some of these insurgents aren't very bright. They still think they can walk out of the city and just walk around as if it were daylight, and they find themselves dying in large numbers.

HUME: Bob Scales, always glad to have you. Thank you.

SCALES: Thank you, Brit.

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