July 23: Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales Discusses the Raid in Mosul

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 23, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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LT. GEN. RICK SANCHEZ, COALITION GROUND FORCES CMDR: We used the bullhorn and we did not get a response. And 10 minutes later, at 10:10 hours, we began to enter the building. Immediately upon entering the building, shots were fired.


BRIT HUME, HOST:  For more on that now-famous raid on the hideout of the Hussein brothers, we're joined by retired Army General Robert Scales, who wrote the official history of the First Gulf War and has been commissioned by Harvard University (search) to write a history of the Iraq War (search).

Welcome back, nice to have you.


HUME: Is it your sense that these forces knew, pretty well knew who they had in there when this operation started?

SCALES: Oh, I think so. And the phrase the military uses is what they call "high-value targets," which is a euphemism for the ruling elite. They knew that going in.

HUME: They knew which ones?

SCALES: Not necessarily which ones, but they knew that it had to be in the top five going in.

HUME: So, when they approach this, are they trying to get them alive from what you can tell?

SCALES: Sure. Oh, absolutely. Not because for humanitarian reasons so much but because they need information. And the way this thing went down, the idea of escalating violence starting with small arms and going to Mark 19s and then moving up to 50 cal.

HUME: What's a Mark 19?

SCALES: It's an automatic grenade launcher. In other words, as they moved up the date, first of all, they took their time, took four hours. And as they moved up sort of the escalatory scale, they went up very cautiously, very carefully, so to make sure they limited collateral damage and they gave these guys every opportunity to leave.

HUME: Now, how they surround, what they do, they surrounded the place, is that...

SCALES: Yes, it's a neat phrase. They call it "cordon a knock," where they establish a cordon early in the morning using police and 101. And then they literally went in with bullhorns and knocked on the door. Now, you don't knock on a door if you intend to go in there kill these people outright.

The other evidence that they used the proper procedure is that remember, when the soldiers went in that first floor, three or perhaps four soldiers were wounded in the initial fusillade by people up on the second floor. Remember, this house was a fortress. The second floor was in essence an urban bunker. And the fact that they had to fire 10 TOWs into that second floor in order to knock it down...

HUME: Describe a TOW missile.

SCALES: A TOW missile is a tube launched wire guided missile, it's an anti-tank missile. It has got about 10 pound of explosives, you guide it with a wire...

HUME: It's kind of small as missiles go?

SCALES: Yes. It's 10 pounds. The larger missile, the so-called "Hell Fire," has about 18 pounds of explosives. So it gives you a sense of where they were in the scale of escalation.

HUME: Now, there was phase in this conflict when, of course, that they thought they had those guys and then they dropped the most, the biggest bomb they had on them.

SCALES: Well, sure. Sure. Remember they tried to do that against their dad twice not too long ago.

To me it shows a deliberate, cautious attempt to take these guys down alive if they could and to limit collateral damage and also to save the lives of the soldiers who were conducting this operation. So, it was done right. It was done by the numbers. It was done patiently and it was done with exactly the right application of force at the time.

HUME: Now, in a situation like that those American forces reach that first floor, they take fire. Then what?

SCALES: Right. Well, they pull back, sure. Well, they looked up those stairs and they saw the bunker up there. There's now way. And they're armed with the M-4s; you know the 5.56 rifles. They can't get into that second floor with rifles. So they pulled back. Waited a while. Tried to talk them out. Didn't work. And they started that process of escalating the weaponry until they finally managed to blow in that bunker.

HUME: Now, it is said these bodies are recognizable. Given the kind of weaponry that we use, is that surprising to you that the bodies are recognizable?

SCALES: No, not really. They said they fired 10 TOW missiles into that second floor; but remember it takes a while even with the TOW missile to punch your way through that thickness of masonry. So it's not surprising.

HUME: Does it seem like this building was built to have an upstairs fortress?

SCALES: Oh, sure. And you can see just by looking at this thing, I mean this thing was enormous. And you can see the walls are three to four foot…feet thick. It is reinforced concrete. You can see the rebars there on the surface if you look carefully. And the second floor was a bunker within a bunker. So, now this, and that's not unlike homes of many of the elite in Iraq. I mean they have tunnels to get out and they have bunkers or safe houses built into the houses.

HUME: Was there a concern in your judgment that there might have been tunnels that could have let these guys out?

SCALES: Well, that's why they had a double ring cordon. They had the police on the outer ring and then they had 101 Company of the 101 on the inner ring just to prevent someone from breaking out from the tunnel.

HUME: You mean in case a manhole cover opened and a couple of guys climb out somewhere?

SCALES: There you go, sure. The street opens up, out pops two guys, there's somebody sitting there looking at it to make sure that they don't make an escape; because that's happened before.

HUME: So hit them with these TOW missiles. This is really for the purpose of breaking down walls, then?

SCALES: Right. Breaking down walls or breaking down a glass partitions, whatever they might have had up there, perhaps sandbags. You've got to punch your way into it.

HUME: So, the…so what took the time here was the fortress-like nature of the place.

SCALES: Absolutely.

HUME: Not the fact that these guys were doing such a great job of mounting fire from inside?

SCALES: No. No, no, no. I mean the whole idea was to be deliberate. And the thing I'm most impressed that…and his people did is they went through this process of careful escalation. Remember now, there was no collateral damage by Iraqis when this thing went. And they fired, what, hyper velocity rockets, TOW missiles. I mean that shows that these soldiers are tightly disciplined and they know how to control their fire. Which is something you cannot say for the opposition.

HUME: Well, in this case it didn't turn out that they could control the fire very well because what damage there was came from inside the house.

SCALES: That's right.

HUME: Bob Scales, great to have you, thanks very much.

SCALES: Thanks a lot, Brit.

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