OTR Interviews

Pushed to the Limit?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, January 13, 2004.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A new report published by the Army War College calls the war in Iraq unrealistic. It also says the Army is near the breaking point because the present Strategy promises more than it can deliver.

Joining us from Philadelphia is former Army Major General Bob Scales, and here in Washington is former Army Major General Don Edwards.

Welcome, both of you.

General Edwards, first, let's talk about this. This report is not really of the Army War College, is it?


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Who wrote this report?

EDWARDS: This chap is an analyst, a Strategic Studies person at an institute at Carlisle, and comes under the umbrella of the commandant, but he's not part of the actual War College itself.

And there are lots of studies that come out of the Strategic institute there, and this one happens to be more controversial at the moment than many. But it is not a person off the faculty. It is not a person who's a student there. It's a professional analyst.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is his opinion then and not the opinion necessarily of the War College.

EDWARDS: It is not the opinion of the War College.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

General Scales, one of the things that Jeffrey Record, who has written this report, says is that the war on terrorism is unfocused. Agree or disagree?

RETIRED U.S. ARMY MAJ. GEN. BOB SCALES: That's not what he says, Greta. I know Jeff Record. I used to be commandant at the Army War College three years ago. What Jeff is saying is very simply that the war on terror has to be bounded.

In other words, he cites great powers of the past like Great Britain and the Roman Empire that, in an attempt to secure their borders, overextended themselves and spent too much money, too much time, and they drained the resources of their military trying to seek absolute security.

And what Jeffrey talks about is trying to scale back and to measure our response to terrorism so we don't overextend, overspend, and exhaust our Army. That's his argument.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying then, General Scales, the media sort of picked up this article a little bit of his and sort of run with it a little bit?

I mean at least what is being written is he says it's a strategic error, the invasion of Iraq, that we're really running thin on resources. I mean that's what's being floated in the media about this report.

SCALES: Right. That's right. And remember now the Strategic Studies Institute, part of the Army War College, is empowered to seek opinions. This is all part of academic freedom, and while I don't agree with what Jeffrey says, I certainly support his right to publish and to express his opinions.

But, yes, I mean what Jeffrey's saying is nowhere near as harsh or as shrill as the media makes it out to be. SSI is as the name suggests, the Strategic Studies Institute. It is chartered to offer scholars an opportunity to express their opinions, and that's exactly what they did in this case.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let's switch gears, General Edwards, and talk about what's going on in Iraq. Tuesday, another helicopter went down. Two crew safely were rescued. Third helicopter in two weeks. Why?

EDWARDS: It's a creature, I think, Greta, of predictability. Our troops are based in certain areas. If the helicopter is going to go work for them, pick troops up, it's pretty predictable where they're going to go to land, where they're based, where they're going to go to support troops.

And if you're willing to expose yourself as the insurgents clearly are -- these are people with courage, and one has to respect that -- if you want to stand out there where you're pretty certain a helicopter's going to fly by, you've got a good opportunity sooner or later to fire a missile at them, and, sooner or later, you're going to hit one.

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- it seems to me -- three in two weeks seems high. I mean, we didn't have three in two weeks.

EDWARDS: Well, you're right, and hopefully, it's an accident of a time frame, and, hopefully, we're doing things to make it better, but it's a difficult situation.

If you're going to fly into an area where troops are based, there's only one or two ways you can get in there, and that particular area is clearly a hot spot, and, if they really want to go after helicopters and they're willing to risk their life, it's very, very difficult to get through and not take casualties.

VAN SUSTEREN: General Scales, your assessment of where we are sort of, you know, today in the war? And I might add that there are protests in Fallujah today, people saying -- walking around with signs, "Bush, you coward," because a woman was taken into custody. Things getting more hostile there towards our troops?

SCALES: OK. It's important to realize that, if you look at the facts, the number of incidents are down about 22 percent.

It appears to me from just looking at the atmospherics there and from talking to people in the theater that we've reached a sort of tipover point, a sort of culminating point in the campaign that seemed to coincide with the capture of Saddam Hussein about mid-December.

And, since the end of mid-December, absent a couple of unfortunate instances with the helicopters, the rate of attack, the frequency of attacks, and the severity of the attack, particularly against ground soldiers, has actually gone down, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And with that, you get the last word because we're at that horrible hard break that I always hate most of all. We've got to go.

Generals, thank you both very much.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Greta.

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