FNC's Oliver North sat down with FOX Fan Central to preview this weekend's show:
FOX FAN: You’ve been to Iraq seven times since the start of the war. How did all the secret missions and smaller operations performed by our troops help us to close in on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?
OLIVER NORTH: Well, what we saw happen at 6:15 a.m. (Iraq time) on Thursday, June 9 was literally the culmination of hundreds of raids and operations aimed at breaking into and breaking down the Al Qaeda in Iraq operation that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi started. What you see is the effectiveness of how well this has all connected together. I’ve been on raids with these guys in Ramadi throughout the rest of the Al Anbar province, as far north as Mosul and Bayji. These were operations that were all aimed at trying to break into this network, collect intelligence and then be able to literally break down the network from there. So, they’ve succeeded in that. Clearly, the raids that took place in the aftermath of what happened Thursday morning, 17 of them later that day and then another 29 today, show that we’re responding very quickly to this opportune intelligence as they collect it. It’s very good news for the coalition, very good news for the Iraqi government, and ultimately good news for the Americans, to the extent that we continue to break this down, the closer we get to coming home.
FOX FAN: What does this say about U.S. intelligence in Iraq?
OLIVER NORTH: It’s gotten better, and it’s getting better largely because of the cooperation of Iraqi civilians. The fact is the Iraqi civilians are sick and tired of the violence. Most of them want to simply raise their kids in peace, educate their kids, and give them something to live for, instead of something to die for. And what you see is the effectiveness of everyday Iraqis, on a routine basis, providing tips — IEDs are being made over there, that guy is a terrorist, this fellow over here is a foreigner — things that Americans wouldn’t necessarily notice no matter how long they’ve spent in country. I’ve been over there seven times in the course of the last four years, and I don’t notice the difference between a Jordanian and an Iraqi, but they do.
It also shows the effectiveness of rewards. There have been a lot of critiques of the so-called detainee programs, but nonetheless, from what we know of this operation it all started with a detainee who decided he’d rather work with the U.S. government, collect a reward, and then move on. So, I think it says a lot about the ability to put together human intelligence, technical intelligence and, of course in this operation, hands-on eyeballs on the target — so they could designate it and respond immediately thereafter by having personnel go in right away to do the BDA (bomb damage assessment) and get the information that verified that this was Zarqawi.
FOX FAN: How do you think the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will affect the war on terror?
OLIVER NORTH: It’s not going to have an immediate effect. What this guy has been is a controller of terror inside Iraq, also to an extent in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, relatively little outside that immediate geographic area. He was not a threat here in the United States, for example. But, we know from the arrests in Canada this past week, of the 17 arrested there and now being detained on terrorism charges, three of them have acknowledged that they were inspired to join the Al Qaeda organization because of Zarqawi. He’s been an effective recruiter and he’s no longer on the streets and no longer available to do that. So, the longer term effect of this, even though there may be an immediate wave of “Gosh, let’s all do something in support of the martyr, as they call him,” the reality of it is that he’s no longer there to inspire, to lead, and direct the kind of terror that was aimed right at the heart of this new democratic government. He was trying to split the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq from one another, creating a sectarian divide — that is going to slowly peter out. Even the effectiveness of even the Madi militia, which is a Shia militia and responds to Muqtada al-Sadr, he now no longer as Al Qaeda in Iraq to point to as the reason why someone ought to join his Shia militia.
FOX FAN: What will viewers see in this weekend's special edition of War Stories?
OLIVER NORTH: What they’ll see are the remarkable young Iraqis and Americans who have been working on this issue ever since the capture of Saddam Hussein in December of 2003. They’ve been focused on trying to break into and break down this terrorist cell. What the viewer is going to see are these young Americans who have been doing this all along with very little credit. There’s a lot of visibility for things like Haditha, everybody knows what that means, but the fact is there is very little recognition of the extraordinary sacrifices being made by so many young Americans, the soldiers, sailors, guardsmen, and Marines, who’ve been working on this problem, literally for years, and we’ve now succeeded.
FOX FAN: Besides showing the American people the good work that U.S. service members have been doing, what’s one thing you learned about the troops in your time with them that you would want the American people to know?
OLIVER NORTH: The remarkable quality of the young soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, and Marines that I was blessed to be able to be out there with. We’ve never had, no nation has ever had, a military this smart — this well-educated, well-equipped, well-trained, and well-led — as the armed forces of the United States does today. They are remarkable in their dedication to this cause. And even thought it’s become more difficult to recruit new service members in this country, the fact is, these guys re-enlist at a phenomenal rate, primarily because they know how important their job is, they know they are succeeding. They’ll tell you, you’ll hear them say it, it’s better to fight this war over here, in Iraq, then in the streets of America. And, they are the ones making sure we don’t have to fight it right here.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the Host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel.