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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that they're voting in itself is successful. Again, this is a long process. It is a process that will begin to write a constitution and then elect a permanent assembly.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The historic day just around the corner now, Sunday. Polling stations (search) are in place and security's gearing up, but just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come. It's now up to the Iraqis to make their democracy work by showing up to vote.

Joining me now, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and co-author of "No True Glory," Bing West. Mr. West, today's big question: so quantitatively, how many Iraqis need to vote for the election to be declared a success?



WEST: By that I mean even here in the United States, we don't do particularly well a lot of times, in our elections, and always, the losing party says, "Son of a gun. If I had just gotten more people out to vote."

GIBSON: Right. But we don't care...

WEST: If we look right now...

GIBSON: But Mr. West, we don't care who actually wins, we just want to see lots of Iraqis coming out and voting and that democracy is working. And if 60 percent of the Shi'a are supposed to come vote because they, of course, will win, and 20 percent of the Kurds are supposed to come vote because they want to participate, shouldn't we see an 80 percent turnout?

WEST: Well, that would depend on the local conditions. From 8,000 miles away, it might be hard for us to predict that. But at the end of that day, we are going to have a national assembly of Iraqis voted in by Iraqis. And I think that's just a win-win for the United States and for the state of Iraq, for the nation of Iraq.

Because, if you will, to put it in corny terms, nobody washes a rental car. But as of Sunday, they'll have their own National Assembly; they'll be responsible, basically, for saying, "It's our country. Now, we have to get out there and confront that enemy." And that's our plan for getting out of this, is to get them...

GIBSON: All right.

So take a look at this: we're looking at all of these polling workers getting ready to take people's votes, and as we well know, the insurgency has declared war on voters.

But then there are these commercials that are now running on Iraqi TV, and there's a lot of Iraqi TV. People are watching television constantly there, and they're seeing these commercials, run by the government, no doubt, with American help, which are just about elections and about, "Can't we all just get along," as these little kids are running out there, Shi'a, Kurd and Sunni, running out to hug each other.

Do you think this makes much of a difference, that there's this kind of campaign going on in the Iraqi media?

WEST: Oh, I think it makes a vast difference, because it shows you have thousands of candidates, and literally hundreds of parties, some secular and some religious, and it shows that the vast majority of the people have decided what their future is going to be. And the future is basically going to be some sort of pluralistic, democratic-based society.

It's also shown everybody the view of the enemy and what their future is. And their future is, 'We have no future." They've offered no plan; all they want to do is kill people. And if you look back in history, for instance, 1793 with the terror in France: that gradually ran its course over two years and finally Robespierre himself, was put to the guillotine, because the entire society just got fed up with the nihilisms of just going out and killing people.

So, this shows that the vast majority of Iraqis want to move forward. But it's also shown that the enemy has no political agenda.

GIBSON: OK. But on the other hand, you and I have great expectations because this is obviously an improvement to the Iraqi people. And they say that.

But if they do get frightened away from the polls, if the turnout is below 80 percent, if it's 60 percent or it's 50 percent or it's 40 percent, when we know that the entire 60 percent of Iraq that are Shi'a want to come out and vote, and the entire 20 percent that are Kurds want to come out and vote, but they're frightened away, does that mean then that democracy is a failure in Iraq?

WEST: Well, how? It's simply setting up some sort of quantitative bar in advance, I don't think really makes sense, because regardless of where we put the bar, someone can always criticize it.

What is going to happen on Sunday is at the end of that day they're going to have their own National Assembly. And that is a huge step forward. And out of that comes a feeling, "Well, this is our country. And we're not always going to be intimidated."

GIBSON: I know that stuff. But you know just the same as the Iraqi invasion, as right as it was, it didn't have international legitimacy. It didn't have international credibility. In a way it has foundered, because we've had no help from the people who should have been helping.

Same thing here. If it doesn't have international legitimacy and credibility, everybody's going to say it's a failure. Don't we have to prove it works on Sunday?

WEST: We don't have to prove it. The United Nations set up the rules for this, and it's going to go forward. And the fact that it is the Iraqis themselves that are going to go forward, I think is going to be the proof.

I don't think that we should establish a certain bar and say, "That's what establishes a democracy in a country when so many people vote" because we couldn't pass that bar ourselves.

GIBSON: Bing West, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, author of the book, "No True Glory." Mr. West, thanks a lot, appreciate you coming on.

WEST: Thank you.

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