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

The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, May 2, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Well, one year and one day after President Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq, we are joined now by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.

And, General, welcome. Good to have you back with us.

GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you.

WALLACE: Let's begin with the good news today, the escape of that U.S. contractor, Thomas Hamill. What can you tell us?

MYERS: Right. Terrific news. I think people pretty much have the story, that he saw an opportunity to escape, he saw some U.S. forces, and he made his dash for his freedom. And we couldn't be more delighted about that.

I'll only say that, with Matt Maupin and some other folks still hostages, that we have people that are dedicated to finding their whereabouts and rescuing them.

WALLACE: Have U.S. forces caught the kidnappers of Thomas Hamill?

MYERS: To my knowledge, they have not. But this story is still developing. I think we'll have to let it play out.

WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about something a lot less happy, and those are those terrible pictures that we all saw this week of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. We have some of the pictures on the screen.

The U.S. military brought charges in March against six soldiers, but there are press accounts today of an internal Army report that alleges that it went a lot higher than just six Army Reservists, that military intelligence officers and CIA agents urged the troops of the prison, quote, "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses."

General, that Army report was completed back in February. Is it true?

MYERS: It's working its way to me. I have not seen it yet. Setting physical and mental conditions for interrogation, by itself, obviously that's something you do. But one thing we don't do is we don't torture.

It's interesting that the folks that turned the people in that we saw, the perpetrators of those acts that we see in the pictures, were soldiers, actually.

And so, this is an appalling act. The folks that perpetrated it will have to face justice by our system, and they will. And we'll have to see how the rest of it plays out.

It was right after that, by the way, after our soldiers told us what they thought had been going on, is we looked at theater-wide issues regarding detainees. And we sent people over from the States, the United States Army sent some high-ranking folks with a team to look theater-wide to make sure we're doing the right thing.

And, in addition, we've got our intelligence folks — Army intelligence folks doing the same thing, to see if there's pressure from the intelligence side that has been alleged. We'll have to see how it plays out.

The one thing you can be assured of, though, if there is any maltreatment of soldiers or detainees in any way, we'll deal with it.

WALLACE: Why have only six low-level Reservists been charged, and what are you doing to see if anyone higher up in the chain of command should be held responsible?

MYERS: There's a whole series of investigations that go on, we call them Article 32 investigations, of those individuals, and at that time, we know there's a chain of command. And that will be looked at as well, I'm sure. I'm not part of that. But that'll be done with the officials in Iraq, actually, General Sanchez and his folks. And people that are responsible will be held responsible.

WALLACE: Well, I want to ask you about that last point. If you find that anyone higher up in the chain of command in the Army reservists who are in control of that prison, or any of these military intelligence officers or CIA agents were involved in encouraging specifically these kinds of abuses, will they also face criminal charges?

MYERS: This is unacceptable behavior, and we don't — I mean, the American people get it. We get it. You look at the pictures, you know this is not something that anybody would condone, no matter what your interrogation objectives were.

And clearly, we have very high standards in the Department of Defense, perhaps the highest of any organization in the world, and we police ourselves very well, I think. This is unacceptable behavior.

If there are more folks involved in this kind of behavior, they will be dealt with appropriately. You can bet on that.

WALLACE: When you say "dealt with appropriately," face criminal charges?

MYERS: Well, they may, if it's criminal activity, certainly.

WALLACE: Now, the internal Army report, which was revealed by The New Yorker magazine, found evidence of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses going on for months. It talks about beating detainees with chairs. It talks about another detainee who was apparently sodomized by a chemical light and possibly a broomstick.

Again, this report came out in February. What does your investigation say? Did this really happen?

MYERS: Well, it's like I say, it's working its way up the chain to me. I have not seen the report. Although, I take a very direct — I'm very directly involved in making sure that there is not a systemic issue here. That is something that we try to push. And Secretary Wolfowitz, Secretary Rumsfeld, we've all pushed this to make sure we don't have a systemic problem.

And so, I'll have to see the reports, see if these are isolated cases. If they are, we have to deal with it.

WALLACE: As you well now, there is outrage in the Arab world about this. And some people are saying, we, the U.S., is as bad as the forces of Saddam Hussein.

MYERS: Yes. I think there is a distinction. And as bad as this is, as bad as this is, soldiers turned in these folks, and we are taking action against them. We're doing criminal investigations against these folks. One has been referred to court martial already.

On the other side, the adversaries, they're the ones that celebrate the killing of innocent men, women and children, the way they celebrated 9/11, the way they celebrated Riyadh, the way they celebrated Madrid.

So, there's a real difference here in how we handle something. And that's what the Iraqi people understand, that we will not tolerate this.

WALLACE: I want to talk to you about one more thing, General — and I appreciate your coming in today — and that's Fallujah. Why has the U.S. handed over some, any of the security operation in Fallujah to what, in effect, is a Sunni-Muslim militia under an Iraqi general, a former general of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard?

MYERS: Let me — I'm going to try to set the record straight. The reporting to date has been, let me just say, very, very inaccurate. Here are the facts.

The goals and objectives in Fallujah have been what they've been all along. We've got to deal with the extremists, the foreign fighters; got to get rid of the heavy weapons out of Fallujah; and we've got to find the folks who perpetrated the Blackwater atrocities against the Blackwater personnel. Those are the objectives.

How we get there is what General Conway on the ground, the three- star Marine commander, General Sanchez in Baghdad, General Abizaid and the rest of us are trying to orchestrate, primarily them, not us here in Washington.

It would be preferable if the Iraqis would deal with this situation. And we've gotten a lot of help from tribal sheiks and from other folks that have put together what we think is a viable way for Iraqis to do that.

The reports of that one general, General Saleh, that you just mentioned, and there's another general as well, Latif (ph), are being vetted as we speak by the minister of defense, the Iraqi minister of defense in Baghdad, by the Coalition Provisional Authority. They have not been vetted. They have not been placed in command. They are not in charge.

There are 600 Iraqis being provided uniforms of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the uniforms we provide them, weapons, transportation. We think we are very close to having Iraqis help achieve our objectives that I just outlined in Fallujah.

WALLACE: But do you really expect — and, you know, it's a skepticism a lot of people share — do you really expect that a group of Sunni Muslims are going to come in to Fallujah and rout out the insurgents who have attacked and killed Americans?

I don't have to tell you that when they went into town yesterday, there was talk about, "We've won," as if they've been rewarded, the insurgents in Fallujah, for the fact that they offered stiff resistance.

MYERS: Yes. You know, we want Iraqis to do this work, and that's — this is a microcosm of what we want to happen all over Iraq.

The reports that the Marines have pulled back, not true. The Marines are still where they've been. The Marines are prepared to follow through on this action if they have to. It is preferable if we have Iraqis doing it, and it's preferable that we work with Iraqis.

This force, by the way, does not seem to be staying in Fallujah. They're going to do their job, and then we're going to turn it over to the Iraqi police, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that's in that area.

Now, we think this is far preferable than the U.S. going in there in a very major combat operation to achieve those objectives. If we can do it with Iraqis, that is preferable.

I just talked to Jim Conway, the Marine commander, this morning. He thinks there is a chance this will work.

 

MYERS: And again, we're going to have to vet the commanders. The reports that it's going to be this General Saleh, who was a former Republican Guard commander and so forth, he has not been vetted yet, and probably won't be the one in command.

WALLACE: Well, I was just going to ask you, do you in fact know? Because there have been reports in fact he was involved in putting down the Kurd rebellion.

MYERS: I know that he is not in command of the Fallujah forces. I know that.

WALLACE: He's not in command?

MYERS: He's not in command.

WALLACE: And do you have any indication that in fact he may have a history that you wouldn't want him in command?

MYERS: I don't — yes, we know a little bit about his history, and we'll have to see. This is still being worked, still being vetted. That process is still going on.

But we do have 600 Iraqis that have shown up that want to be helpful. If they can be helpful, fine.

But the end result is going to be the same. The foreign fighters that are in there, we think a couple of hundred of extremists, the former Baathists that have been fighting our Marines day in and day out are going to have to go. Their heavy weapons are going to have to go. And we're going to have to have freedom of movement in that city. That's the end objective.

And then we have to start bringing reconstruction projects in there, to give these people of Fallujah — this is a town that is on the historic trade routes for smugglers. It's been that way forever. Saddam had trouble with this town.

If we can make this work, then it's going to be a good example for the rest of Iraq. And so, is it worth a try? You bet. Are we sure it's going to work? No, we're not sure it's going to work, but it looks like the best chance we've had.

Meanwhile, the Marines, while tugging on their leash, understand that, down to the corporal and private. They understand that we ought to give this a chance.

WALLACE: All right. General, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for coming in, and we're going to have you back to talk about the good news in the effort to reconstruct Fallujah and other parts of Iraq.

Thank you so much. We appreciate it, sir, as always.

MYERS: Thank you.