Transcript: Gen. Richard Myers on 'FNS'

The following is a transcribed excerpt of 'FOX News Sunday,' May 29, 2005.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Well, on this Memorial Day weekend, we think it's a good time to talk about Iraq, the War on Terror and the future of the American military with the top man in uniform, General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. And General, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE: There have been conflicting reports all week about terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, whether he's alive or he's dead. The Iraqi interior minister says that he's been injured. There's a new report today that says that he's suffered serious chest wounds, and is in Iran. What can you tell us?

MYERS: What we've seen is postings on their web site that, in fact, he's been injured. Because we follow these web sites, we tend to believe that that's probably true. We don't know more than that right now. I think what people need to know is as the leader -- as the Al Qaeda leader and the foreign fighter leader, the jihad leader, in Iraq, that he's an important target but even getting him, the movement will continue.

Al Qaida has a way of continuing to put people in those leadership positions. Having said that, we're putting 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week pressure on Zarqawi, his organization, and more successful over time. We've been more successful every week we do this.

WALLACE: I am curious, though, because I know there have been these reports on the web sites and some people say it might be disinformation, it might be signs of a power struggle. You're saying that you tend to believe that he has been seriously injured?

MYERS: Well, I don't know if seriously. We tend to believe what is said on the web site, and that is that he's been injured. And we'll just have to wait and see. It's not -- it hasn't changed our operation at all. Our operation is go after Zarqawi, his lieutenants. We've been very, very successful. We've rounded up about 600 of the folks, some of his foot soldiers, some of his closest lieutenants.

WALLACE: As we said, 40,000 Iraqi security forces are now branching out around Baghdad in Operation Lightning to root out terrorists in the capital of Baghdad. How important is that action? How important is the success of that action in determining how soon Iraq will be able to bear more of the burden of defending their own country?

MYERS: That's a great question, and I think the most important thing to take from that is the fact that the ministry of interior and the ministry of defense are coordinating in that operation. And we're going to have to learn more as it goes forward, as they marshal their forces to do what they've said they want to do.

But clearly what we want to have happen in Iraq is to have Iraqi security forces take charge of their own security. And every day, they're more and more able to do that. We've got about 100 Iraqi force battalions that are equipped and trained.

About 25 percent of them can do independent operations or operations with little help from coalition forces, but every week that number changes and goes up. So that's what we're looking for. We've had lots of combined operations where Iraqis lead and we assist. That number is getting larger.

WALLACE: But do you see Operation Lightning as a real signpost as to how much of a burden the Iraqis can actually take on?

MYERS: It's important. It's an important signpost on this journey, and we'll have to wait and see to see how well they do. But the fact that they're talking, interior, defense, and integrating their operations is very, very significant.

WALLACE: There has been, I don't have to tell you, a serious spike in the violence generated by the insurgency against both American soldiers and Iraqi citizens in recent weeks. The New York Times quoted U.S. commanders recently as saying that they believe the American military involvement could last many years in Iraq. Do you believe that?

MYERS: Here's what I think people need to know. The insurgents, be they the Zarqawi folks, the al Qaeda, or the former regime elements, the Sunni extremists, they first attack the coalition and, hoping to drive the coalition out of Iraq. They haven't done that (inaudible). Then they switched to the Iraqi security forces and they tried keep people from signing up and being part of the police and the army. That hasn't worked. Iraqi civilians are signing up for the army and the police in record numbers.

Then they went after Iraqi civilians. That didn't work. They voted, and the recent poll here in May says that 85 percent of them are going to vote for the new constitution. And now they're debating, OK, we've tried these various centers of gravity, nothing is working. And I think that means that our strategy is working.

WALLACE: I want to turn to another aspect of this. Amnesty International issued a report this week that was sharply critical of U.S. treatment of prisoners. And I want to show you some of the quotations.

The group's secretary general said of the U.S. facility in Cuba, "Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time," comparing it to the Soviet slave-labor camps, where millions of people died. The executive director of Amnesty International USA, talking about torture, said, "We've documented that the U.S. government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of this odious human rights violation." General, how do you respond to those comments?

MYERS: I think I'd ask them to go look up the definition of gulag as commonly understood. We've had 68,000 detainees since this conflict against violent extremism started. We've had 325 investigations into alleged abuse. We've had 100 cases of substantiated abuse and there are 100 individuals that have had some sort of action taken, either court-martial or administrative action.

The ICRC has been at Guantanamo since day one. It is essentially a model facility. The contracts for the food, to ensure that our detainees have the proper Muslim-approved food, is $2.5 million annually, just to make sure they're fed right. We passed out 1,300 Korans in 13 different languages.

WALLACE: I was going to ask you, how many countries pass out to their prisoners the holy books of their faith?

MYERS: I don't know that. But we take extreme care to do that. We know there are five cases where perhaps the Koran was handled in an inappropriate way, not flushing down a toilet, but just handled in an inappropriate way according to their faith. And the instructions for handling the Koran are very detailed.

WALLACE: So when you see Amnesty International talking about the U.S. as the Soviet gulag of our time, where you're the leading purveyor of torture, or a leading purveyor...

MYERS: I think it's irresponsible. I think it's absolutely irresponsible.

If you look back at the policy of this government, what we said we treat people -- the president said, and we've all said -- humanely and where military necessity permits, and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, we're doing that. And I just outlined a number of incidents. And it's very small compared to the population of detainees we've handled.

But here's the question that needs to be debated by everybody, and that is: how do you handle people who aren't part of a nation- state effort, that are picked up on the battlefield, that if you release them or let them go back to their home countries, they would turn right around and try to slit our throats, our children's throats? I mean, these are the people that took four airplanes and drove them into three buildings on September 11th. They're the same folks with the same mentality.

And we struggle, of course, because this is a different kind of struggle, a different kind of war. We struggle with how to handle them. But we've always handled them humanely and with the dignity that they should be accorded.

WALLACE: And yet, thousands of Muslims protested around the world late this week despite the Pentagon investigation, which you say points out only five cases in which the Koran was mishandled, only three of those intentional, and none involving flushing a copy down the toilet. What or who do you think is driving those demonstrations around the world?

MYERS: Well, demonstrations around the world, I think the ones that made most of the coverage were in Afghanistan. And some of those demonstrations, we know were planned before the Koran story came out in a magazine.

So they've already planned it. The story probably fueled that fire.

I think what I'd be outraged at is things like -- let's just go back to when Sergio de Mello was killed in Baghdad by a car bomb,...

WALLACE: That's the head of the U.N. mission there.

MYERS: ...the head of the mission; Margaret Hassan, a care worker who spent essentially her entire life caring for Iraqi children; the beheading I guess that is now posted on the web site of the Japanese individual that just was beheaded not too long ago; and the innocent men, women and children who lose their lives to the vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. That's what we ought to be outraged against.

I think what contributes to this somewhat is sometimes a relish on some people's part to play up these, what I consider a very minor piece of this whole effort, and I don't know why they do that. I don't know why they relish focusing on that.

WALLACE: We're running out of time and there are a couple of more issues I want to talk to you about.

Those pictures of Saddam Hussein that were published in papers around the world, including this one, of him in his skivvies a week ago. It's been more than a week. I guess nine days. What have you found out about how someone was able to take those pictures inside a maximum-security U.S. facility?

MYERS: I have not seen what we found out yet. I think we're still in the middle of that investigation. We need to find out because this is not appropriate to take pictures like that.

WALLACE: But you have no idea who took them?

MYERS: No, we do not.

WALLACE: Circumstances?

MYERS: I don't at this point, no.

WALLACE: OK. New subject. Several Democratic senators opposed to the nomination of John Bolton want to see electronic intercepts that Bolton asked for from the National Security Agency in which the names of Americans are mentioned. Is there any national security reason why Joe Biden and Chris Dodd should not be given access to those intercepts?

MYERS: Boy, that's way outside my area of expertise, and...

WALLACE: That comes under the Pentagon.

MYERS: Well, it does, but it's outside -- it's not an issue that I've even looked at or had any advice given to me on. So I can't render advice on that.

And it's obviously fraught with some political debate as well. So I better stay as far away from that as I can, Chris.

WALLACE: All right, sir. On September 30th, you will end 40 years of service in the military. You will end four years of service as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On this Memorial Day weekend, what are your thoughts about the military and the changing role that it now plays in fighting the war on terror?

MYERS: I guess my thoughts are that I am very thankful -- first of all, proud to wear the uniform and proud to have served with some really great Americans. And I'm very proud that we have Americans willing to raise their right hand and swear to defend and support our constitution and that are defending our freedom and our friends' and allies' freedom around the world in places like Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Djibouti, in the Philippines, wherever they serve, here at home.

And yesterday I was privileged to be the graduation speaker at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. And I looked into the eyes of, turns out 911 cadets that are about ready to become second lieutenants.

WALLACE: Who just signed on just before 9/11.

MYERS: They signed on before 9/11, 9/11 happened, the nation went to war, and now they have elected to serve. As you look in their eyes, as you shake their hands, as you talk to them, this country's in good hands. I'll leave my position knowing that there's a whole group of folks coming along that are dedicated to this country, to our freedoms and to ensuring those freedoms endure as long as they possibly can.

WALLACE: Finally, as you know, we profiled your wife as our power player on Mother's Day. And I have to tell you, Mrs. Myers has some clear plans for you in retirement. Let's watch.

MYERS: Uh-oh.


MARY JO MYERS: He's going to help me move to a different house.


WALLACE: Does he know that?

MARY JO MYERS: He's missed a lot of moves in the 40 years, so I think this is one he'll share in.


WALLACE: He knows it now.


Are you ready to take on a move with Mrs. Myers firmly in charge?

MYERS: Anybody that knows this knows that she's always been the one in charge, and the secret to any success that I've ever had, and I'll do whatever she wants me to do.

WALLACE: I was going to say, you can sweet-talk all you want, you're going to help on that move?

MYERS: Absolutely. I'll be there.

WALLACE: All right. Thank you for spending part of your Memorial Day weekend with us.

MYERS: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: And, General, I want to thank you and your wife for your 40 years of service to our nation.

MYERS: Thank you.

WALLACE: Thank you.

MYERS: Thank you very much, Chris. God bless you. Thank you.