More U.S. Troops in Iraq?

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 25, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, D-Del.: We need somewhere between 40 and 60,000 additional forces; everyone agrees. We have not gotten them yet because we refuse to go to the avenue…through the avenues we have to go to get that.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Senator Biden says everyone agrees, but plainly everyone does not. General Abizaid, the CENTCOM (search) commander, for one, does not agree.

So, who's right in all of this? For answers, we turn to the man who predicted most accurately the outcome of the campaign to topple Saddam, retired Air Force General and FOX News military analyst Thomas McInerney.

General, Welcome back.


HUME: What's your view of this issue on the troops?

MCINERNEY: Well, I think there is a political issue and then there is the issue that you're really asking about, is do we need more troops, more U.S. troops? I don't believe we need more U.S. troops. But most of all, General John Abizaid doesn't. And the joint chiefs don't.

HUME: Well, I don't mean…it would appear to the Americans watching the news; we have got all these things happening over there, American soldiers continue to be killed. We had this hideous an atrocity at the U.N. headquarters last week. Security continues to be an issue; everybody agrees that security is an issue. The natural response, I think, of people is, well, let's get more soldiers in there to guard the place. Why is that not a good idea?

MCINERNEY: Well, if you…first of all, when you say you want more soldiers, for every trigger puller, war fighter, it takes nine people to support them. So, if you put in 50,000 more people, you only got maybe 10,000 at the most or 5,000, really, at the most, that are going to be the trigger pullers, the people that do it. The rest are in support role. Unfortunately, that's the way our Army is organized.

So what we really need to do is, we need more people for security. I don't deny that. Why don't we use the Iraqis? Why don't we get the Iraqis more militia out there, get the army program, new Iraqi army training program, move that a lot faster, change the criteria? I think our criteria now is a little bit too strict. We're taking only majors and below.

HUME: From the old army?

MCINERNEY: The old army. And I think we need to go in and get some of that old army and bring them back in. And so we can bring the Iraqis more responsibility. People call it the Iraqi face, the Iraqiization of their security. Those are the kind of things we do. If we want to bring in more U.S. troops, it takes time.

And by the way, there is no question that we have extended the U.S. Army. There's no denying that. We've extended the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. So, we need to use the right people over there to doing it.

HUME: Well, you are saying in part the reason why we shouldn't put more troops in there is because we're too thin as it is? That doesn't…that sounds like a...

MCINERNEY: No. No. No. That's not…I'm saying if we make an American face on this, that's not going to help our problem. We're trying to do some nation building now and we do have a point defense. There is a good article in The Washington Post today about a Bradley…excuse me, an M1-A1 tank guarding the Agricultural Ministry. That's point defense. We don't need our people that are trained in very mobile defense to guard.

HUME: To be sitting ducks.

MCINERNEY: And to be sitting ducks; point defense. We don't need that. Let's get Iraqis to do that. First of all, you have got a 60 percent unemployment rate, Brit. We need to get them creating jobs.

HUME: All right. Well, let's talk a little bit about why the situation with security isn't better than it seems to be. Is this an illusion? Are things doing…are we doing better over there than it appears or what?

MCINERNEY: Oh, that's the key fact. What has happened is our success in both Afghanistan (search) and now in Iraq (search) is changing the whole complexion of the Middle East (search). And so the combination of the isla…fundamentalists, the Saddam Fedayeen, the Special Republican Guards, those...

HUME: Baathists.

MCINERNEY: ... remnants, Baathists are coming together. So, the foreigners are coming in and the remnants that are losing are coming in. Now, we're not talking large numbers, Brit. We're talking maybe 5,000 people at the most. So, they are now trying to make this the battleground.

I personally believe, with no evidence, that in Israel the attack last week on the bus by Hamas (search) and Hezbollah (search) was because they see that this is a very critical juncture in the Middle East. Because if we're successful in Iraq, if we're successful, and I mean the moderate Muslims in Islam, if they're successful there and you create this new liberty, this new freedom, this new governance, the rest of the world…of their region is in great trouble.

HUME: Great trouble in what sense?

MCINERNEY: Because it means the fundamentalists that want to go back to the ninth or tenth century, that they have lost because the liberation, the creation of wealth, the creation of democracies over there will change the whole complexion of that region. Iran, of course, is deathly afraid of this. Iran, in fact, is influencing a lot more than we see right now down in the Shiia regions. We should be very careful.

HUME: Basra and in the south.

MCINERNEY: Basra and down in that area. We have got to be very careful because that is going to come. So, this is the major battlefield for the Middle East and it's going to go on for over a year now. We've got to expect that. There is a war on terror going on right now.

HUME: And Iraq has become a major theater in it.

MCINERNEY: It has become the major theater.

HUME: Does this say anything about the link that may have existed all along between the nation…the country of Iraq, the Saddam regime and terrorism?

MCINERNEY: Yes, it is a common denominator. They do not want freedom. They want to have their …they call it Islamic Republic. They do not want secular regimes. They want theocratic that are ruled by the religious mullahs and that's the battle that is going on right now. And so it's taking place. People are getting confused with the first battle for Iraq, which we defeated Saddam. And now we're…the remnants and these other elements are coming together. And this is going to go on for over a year, two years.

HUME: General McInerney, nice to have you.

MCINERNEY: Thanks Brit.

HUME: Thanks for coming. See you soon.

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