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Special Report

Back from Iraq: View from the Military Front

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Dec. 13, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The Iraqis are not against democracy. They’re against our occupation. And they, 80 percent of them, 60 to 80 percent, depending on what poll you look at, think we’re occupiers and think we ought to get out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: That was the Democratic Party’s point man these days on Iraq, Congressman Murtha. Murtha says U.S. forces are now the target there and that there is nothing more they can accomplish there.

From the view of one who has just been to Iraq, we turn to retired Air Force general and FOX News contributor Thomas McInerney, who just got back two days ago.

Welcome back.

THOMAS MCINERNEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Brit. Good to be back.

HUME: So how long were you there?

MCINERNEY: Four days.

HUME: And where did you go?

MCINERNEY: We went to Baghdad, to Camp Victory, to Fallujah and out to the military academy just north of Baghdad.

HUME: So what did you see?

MCINERNEY: Well, I had two questions when I went out there that I wanted to ask, answer myself. No. 1, are we winning? No. 2, is it worth it? I came back with personal evidence that I think that I see that it’s a resounding yes in both cases.

Now, why do I say that? Why are we winning? Well, General Casey, despite what people say that he doesn’t have a plan, has got a brilliant campaign plan that, in effect, has gone extremely well, particularly if you consider the three — coming up on three elections in less than a year, and he’s been able to execute that now.

Is there tough fighting? Sure there’s tough fighting there, but we are winning. We’re going through that political process, and this election that’s coming up, as everybody knows, is crucial.

The one key city that I found out there is Ramadi. If Ramadi votes, it means the Sunnis have taken the political path. If the Sunnis don’t take the political path, then I think they’re heading into oblivion, because the Shia and the Kurds will solve it the way they have historically. They’ll eliminate them.

I believe they’re going to take a political path, and it’s crucial that they do.

HUME: You say we’re winning on the military side. However, the attacks continue.

MCINERNEY: Yes.

HUME: Americans continue to be killed. Iraqis in great numbers continue to be killed. The appearance that this provides to an American news consumer is that the insurgents can attack at will and that they continue to. So in what sense are we winning?

MCINERNEY: Well, we’re winning in the fact is that the big objective is to transfer to the Iraqi security forces, the ISF. We have transferred 35 percent of the battle space, as they call it over there, to the Iraqi security forces.

We find when they move in, the Iraqi people are proud that there are Iraqi security forces there, and so they increase the intelligence, although we’ve been getting a lot. They start increasing the intelligence. And then you have, like on the Baghdad International Airport road to the city, called Main Supply Route Irish, all of a sudden you control that. That’s ours as far as being peaceful, and it’s the Iraqis that are doing it.

Now we are kind of over their shoulder mentoring them and training them, because you know, when you go from a totalitarian army to a democratic army you’ve got to use different procedures, different techniques. And they are — they are developing this democratic army quite well.

Now, is there fighting? Yes. But who are they killing? They’re killing some Americans, but it’s primarily innocents. So what we have seen right now is the Sunnis are splitting with Al Qaeda. I believe Al Qaeda is going to be finished over there, and the Sunnis are going to do it. They are on the death knell.

Will they still create problems during the election? Will they have car bombs? Well, they won’t have many car bombs, unless they’ve laid them in, because no vehicles can move. But they will create some chaos.

The fact is they have lost. They’re still creating chaos but they have lost, because the Iraqi people are changing.

HUME: In Vietnam the generals often said we were winning, doing better.

MCINERNEY: Yes.

HUME: The grunts, though, either didn’t agree or didn’t want to be there, which was in the end, I think, part of what undid that effort.

MCINERNEY: Right.

HUME: What about the attitude of the rank and file servicemen over there, many of who are on second and third tours, surely would like to come home? How do they feel about this continuing mission?

MCINERNEY: Well, let me tell you, I had four tours in Vietnam. And the people used to leave on the Freedom Bird. The people in Iraq do not call the airplanes out of Kuwait the Freedom Bird. They know they’re going back. They know why they’re there, to create the stability.

Now I talked to the lowest soldier you can do and the highest-ranking soldier as well as the ambassador. They know why they’re there. They know it’s to create stability in the region. Otherwise, if the extremists take over...

HUME: What do they say about it?

MCINERNEY: Well, look, they’re volunteers. Some are on their way back with the 3rd Infantry Division. They’re going home, and the 4th Infantry Division is replacing them. They’re scheduled to come back in 10 months from now. They asked me if they’re going to have to come back.

I said I don’t know, but I said, "I don’t think so." I said the way the Iraqi forces are taking over and having spent a half-day at the military academy and seen these young Iraqi officers, they have fire in their belly.

Bob Scales, I think, got the same impression when he was over there looking.

HUME: Said, sitting where you are.

MCINERNEY: And the fact is, as they take it over, and that’s why this election — everybody knows this election is a four-year election. They have made their decision, and I think you’re going to see a fairly consistent drawdown.

Look, George Casey, General Casey knows exactly his timetable. He’s going to do it on events. And he knows exactly what divisions are taking over Iraqi divisions from our divisions and then the mentoring, and then we’ll bring them out.

So I’ve come back very assured that they know why they’re there, and they know why they’re fighting and they are, in fact, winning.

HUME: General, thanks. Good to have you here, as always.

MCINERNEY:: Thanks, Brit.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EDT.

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