This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 3, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, as you may know, Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha, a decorated Marine combat veteran, has emerged as one of the country's leading critics when it comes to the Iraq war.
The congressman appeared on ABC News' "Nightline" last night and said he would not serve in the U.S. military today and neither should other people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you join today?
REP. JACK MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're saying that the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying, "I don't want to serve"?
MURTHA: Exactly right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: All right. Congressman Murtha will not talk with me, but joining us from Washington, P.J. Crowley, retired Air Force colonel and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and FOX News military analyst, Colonel Oliver North, author of the book "War Stories III: The Heroes Who Defeated Hitler."Colonel North, we begin with you. Disrespectful?
COL. OLIVER NORTH, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what it does is denigrates the courage, skill, perseverance, the education of the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped, and quite frankly, most combat experienced military in the world. It denies the reality of what's happening out there.
And it's unfortunate that John Murtha, who was once seen as being one of the hawks in the Democrat Party and the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democrat Party, now has joined Cindy Sheehan and Robert Strange McNamara in a part of the Democrat Party that happens to believe we can't win.
O'REILLY: All right. But what if he believes, what if Murtha believes that the war is a failed policy, the policy is boneheaded, OK? I think that's where he's coming from. I don't think he's coming from a position where he thinks the U.S. military is doing anything bad.
O'REILLY: And then he says by extension, why would I, John Murtha, or any American, want to serve in a military that's being ordered into a failed mission? I think that's where he's coming from.
NORTH: But the reality, Bill, is it's not a failed mission.
O'REILLY: OK, but he believes it is.
NORTH: I don't know what your barometer of success is, but look, we've gotten rid of a brutal dictator. We've had three elections.
O'REILLY: I know that.
NORTH: We have a Constitution drafted by those people who are killing right now on their own with our help and sometimes unilaterally, terrorists who would otherwise be killing us.
O'REILLY: Colonel, you're doing the exact same thing that I do with David Letterman tonight on "The Letterman Show." You should watch it. But no matter what I say, I'm not going to convince David Letterman. And whatever — no matter what you say, you're not going to convince John Murtha.
NORTH: And it probably doesn't matter, because the troops are not paying attention to John Murtha.
NORTH: They're paying attention to the guy down the gun sight.
O'REILLY: But here's my question. Here's my question. If Murtha is coming at this from a sincere point of view, as I believe Letterman was — and when you see Letterman tonight, you can decide for yourself. If Murtha is coming at it from a sincere point of view, isn't he right to recommend that Americans don't serve in the military?
NORTH: No, no. He can have any sincerity he wants, Bill. It does not make him right.
And the fact is we are winning this war. As a Marine, he knows we don't leave our wounded on the battlefield. We've now had 2,700 Americans killed in action in the war on terrorism. Fewer, I point out, than died in three hours on 9/11. But the fact is, you don't leave them on the battlefield without this being resolved, and they know that. That's why they reenlist at these phenomenal rates.
O'REILLY: OK. All right. Colonel Crowley, how do you see this?
COL. P.J. CROWLEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I don't see it as much different than Dick Cheney saying that he had higher priorities in the '60s, and so he didn't serve in Vietnam. Maybe Ollie is offended by that. I mean, what's interesting here is that the strongest...
NORTH: This has nothing to do with Vietnam.
O'REILLY: Wait. Let Colonel Crowley get it out, then I'll come back.
Now Ollie can agree or disagree, but I think this is a sincere statement by — by John Murtha that under the circumstances, facing an all- volunteer military, so everyone — the strength of our military is everyone who's on active duty right now, wants to be there, he'd say, "I cannot in good conscience enlist to go fight in a war that I think is unwinnable."
O'REILLY: OK, but here's my problem with Murtha, and if he were here, I'd say this right to his face.
By telling people this that they shouldn't go into the military in the war on terror situation, he then leaves the advocacy position of this disagreement with Iraq and begins to undermine the war there by discouraging people from going there.
And there's a difference between giving your opinion that you don't agree, you don't think it's a good strategy, whatever, and then undermining the strategy, Colonel Crowley. And that's where I think Murtha is making a huge mistake.
CROWLEY: But, you know, long before John Murtha mentioned what he did in November or last night, the fact is the American people, being very skeptical about how we're fighting this war in Iraq, are reflecting that in terms of our...
O'REILLY: But should he be undermining the efforts, sir?
CROWLEY: I don't think he is. I think absolutely...
O'REILLY: By telling people not to serve in the military? Of course he is.
CROWLEY: Well, I think he's communicating to the troops that "Hey, I understand what you're facing. I see it."
O'REILLY: Not what he said. Not what he said. If he had said that, if he had said that, I'd be OK. But I think he crossed the line into dissent, into undermining. Am I wrong, Colonel North? All right, go ahead.
CROWLEY: I think one thing he's done is he's actually elevated the debate. You know, in November, he sent a lightning rod across the bow of the White House.
CROWLEY: And to the White House's credit, the president responded with four very effective speeches that helped — that have elevated debate, helped people understand what's at stake here. I think Jack Murtha has done a great service to the country.
O'REILLY: OK. Undermining versus dissent, Colonel North?
NORTH: Well, certainly, dissent is something we all — those who died fighting for their country died to protect that right of dissent, among other things, the Constitution of the United States which they've sworn to support and defend.
Second, P.J., I take personal affront to the fact that all those who have combat experience are opposed to what's going on over there. I've got a little myself. I just finished my seventh trip to Iraq, two to Afghanistan.
And the troops that I talk to, and that's my job at FOX News, is to talk to troops and let them tell their story. They re-enlist at a phenomenal rate. Those who are serving in combat, 106 percent of authorized is what they're re-enlisting at.
The challenge today — and John Murtha knows this — is to find enough new recruits to fill the ranks. And John Murtha's comment denigrates this country — the service to this country with the uniform.
O'REILLY: All right. Let Colonel Crowley reply. Go ahead, Colonel.
CROWLEY: Ollie, you and I both served under Caspar Weinberger. And it was Caspar Weinberger first, followed by Colin Powell who said, among other things, that you cannot sustain military operations without the support of the American people.
One of the things that the administration has done here is very poorly managed this war in terms of maintaining the American people's support so we find ourselves in the situation that we do. Jack Murtha is just reflecting the skepticism that many Americans reflect about the war in Iraq today.
O'REILLY: I think he did it the — I'm going to give you guys 20 seconds each to wrap it up, but I'm going to say this. I think he did it the wrong way.
NORTH: And Jack Murtha is saying that America is no longer worth fighting for is...
O'REILLY: I don't think he's saying that, Colonel.
NORTH: ... fighting and dying for. And we need good young men to go...
O'REILLY: I don't think he's saying that. I have to disagree with you.
NORTH: Well, he's discouraging people from serving.
O'REILLY: But I think that Murtha and a lot of the critics, OK, don't understand the nobility of the effort in Iraq. Yes, it's screwed up.
O'REILLY: Yes, they made mistakes. They make mistakes in all war. But the — and I told this to David Letterman today, eye to eye. It's a noble effort. And that should not be undermined. Critiqued, yes, OK?
O'REILLY: Not undermined.
Gentlemen, I've got to run. And we appreciate you guys taking the time to talk to us.
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