July 29: After Visit to Iraq Wall Street Journal Editor Paul Gigot Paints a Clear and Vivid Picture

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 29, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Saddam Hussein (search) is apparently still at large and as we've seen able to communicate through the Arab media. Every day seems to bring reports of new American deaths from sneak attacks. The news media seems filled with the complaints of Iraqis about their U.S. occupiers; even the deaths of notorious Uday (search) and Qusay (search) appeared to generate a mixed reaction with many Iraqis seeming not to believe it.

An American news consumer would be hard pressed to conclude that things are going well in Iraq. But Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search), just back from there, says they are.

For another view, we turn to a journalist who was with Wolfowitz, Paul Gigot, editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Paul, welcome.

PAUL GIGOT, EDITOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I thank you. Good to be here.

HUME: Tell me, what do you…what did you see. I mean what did he see and you see if it was different from…if your take was different from his, if at all, on this trip?

GIGOT: Well, we saw an awful lot. We went to eight cities in five days. We met with the governing councils in three cities and had dinner with the Governing Council of Iraq (search). What I saw was dangerous security situation, particularly in Baghdad, there's no question.

But overall, an awful lot of political and economic progress. They're up to about million barrels of oil a day in production. Electricity is restored to more of the country than there was a couple of months ago and the political progress I think is substantial. We met with three of the city councils and they're slowly beginning to take responsibility. For the first time in 35, 40 years for their own self-government.

HUME: Where were they?

GIGOT: They were in Mosul (search), in Najaf, and in Kirkuk. And it was a polyglot mix; Kurds, Sunni's, Shiias, Turkamen's and they seem to be getting along. And certainly…and this is the main point, they're really glad we're there and they're glad we liberated them from Saddam.

HUME: Now, what about the situation in Baghdad? That's where most journalists are. We get an impression there that it is a very dangerous place to go out, that the opinion in the street is divided at best over the American occupation, that services remain a terrible problem there. What about it?

GIGOT: Well, first of all, it's not Sarajevo (search), Brit. I mean this isn't as if you walk out of your hotel room and you risk getting shot at. American journalist there work out of hotels, they operate freely.

If you're an American serviceman over there, there are real dangers. I don't want to soft sell those, and particularly in Baghdad. You're always vulnerable to these hit-and-run attacks.

But more normal economic life is beginning to return. It is going on over there. Services could be better. I don't…there's no question about that. But the electrical stoppages are fewer than they've been. And there's real progress.

HUME: Now, what is the life on the streets like there? I mean, you know, we don't get much of a sense of whether Baghdad is a bustling place with people going to their jobs and so on, same for the other cities. What does life look like there?

GIGOT: That's what it looks like. I mean, I spent a lot of time in third-world developing countries and it looks like a lot of those places that I visited. Bustling marketplaces with…it was melon season when we're over there and you could go no more than 20, 30 yards without seeing a big cart of melons that was brought into the market.

The normal give and take of life goes on. People are commuting to work in the morning. You know, there are a lot of unemployed. This is not a booming economy by any stretch. So, there are a lot of people, particularly men, wandering around on the streets in the middle of the day and particularly when it gets cooler at night. But there is some kind of normal economic life returning.

HUME: You said that we're welcomed there. Outside of Baghdad and other parts of the country, what is…how did you find the life there and how did you find the view of the U.S. and its presence?

GIGOT: Well, I don't want to suggest that everybody is happy we're there. There are certainly a lot of people who were associated with Saddam Hussein's regime who don't want us there. And those are a lot of the people who are talking to journalists; those are a lot of people committing the attacks on Americans.

But particularly in the Shiia south, remember that was supposed to be the source of the great Iranian…pro-Iranian uprising. We were welcomed with shouts of Bush, Bush, thank you and hand waves. We went down the middle of the marketplace where somebody, if they really wanted to do us some harm, could. And instead they were happy to see us.

So, I think, you know, most of the people, and when I talk to…they're happy to see us. And when I talked to American soldier, I would always ask them the question...what is your reception here? And to a soldier, they said the vast majority of the public are really glad we're here.

HUME: What would you now say as you look around the country are the main, immediate challenges?

GIGOT: I think the one immediate challenge is electricity because it is...

HUME: Everywhere or just in Baghdad or where?

GIGOT: No, even in Basra, in most…and a lot of cities. Not in Mosul, but in Baghdad for sure.

HUME: Is it worse since the war?

GIGOT: I don't think it's worse since the war…well, yes, it is, in the sense that the war did some damage. But it wasn't great to begin with. And they have a shortage…they had a shortage of electricity before the war. But I'd say that's the biggest economic problem.

And then the security problem is real in the sense that a lot of these Baathist and Jihadis are attacking the infrastructure and the electricity production. So, for example, I think one thing we could look to is, we need some portable generators that could provide electricity in an emergency.

HUME: Got you. Paul, great to have you. Thanks for coming.

GIGOT: Good to be here

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