'Special Report' Panel on Al Qaeda in Iraq
This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 15, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. RICHARD SIMCOCK, REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM AND COMMANDER: There are still attacks in Fallujah and surrounding areas. We had not killed or captured every single Al Qaeda member that is here. But their capabilities are greatly diminished. I would characterize them as a defeated force from my perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: His perspective, of course, is western Anbar province where Fallujah is located, but there are people who are making broader claims than that. And that was evident this morning in a story that was on the front page of the Washington Post, which I think we can show you here to give you an idea of what people are talking about.
Al Qaeda in Iraq reported crippled. And there is talk in the story of people are urging the administration or the Pentagon to declare victory over Al Qaeda.
Some thoughts on all this now from Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Well, Mort, what about this?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: General Petraeus is not declaring victory over Al Qaeda and, I think, the CENTCOM commander is not either, and there are two good reasons why. First, Al Qaeda might stage some sort of catastrophic spectacular and discredit any claims of victory.
And the second thing is that Congress might say OK, if we have defeated Al Qaeda, let's pull out. And we do not want to do that because there is still work to be done there, not least of which is the fact that the Iranians are still aiding Shiite militias that we still have to suppress.
But good things and great things are happening there, not least of which was that Washington Post story, for the two biggest critics of Iraq war policy, Tom Ritz and Karen De Young —
HUME: Reporters for the Post.
KONDRACKE: Reporters for the Washington Post — to come out even with a reported Al Qaeda crippled is a major development that should have political consequences.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I was in Iraq the last week of July, and General Odierno in the briefing that he and his staff gave us, a very long briefing of where things stood, said they were cautiously optimistic that they were on the verge of breaking the back of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
They did not want to say it publicly, and they did not want us to say that they were saying that publicly they didn't want to get ahead of themselves, but they thought they had — the flip in Anbar, obviously, with the tribal Sheikhs coming over to our side has been very important. They had them on the run in Diyala and elsewhere.
They really thought that they were on or two major operation way from breaking Al Qaeda. They have conducted those operations.
The real brilliance of the plan and strategy that Petraeus and Odierno carried out, which I was impressed to see on paper at the time, to see it actually carried out according to plan. They had done this very systematically, very thoughtfully, and they have really broken Al Qaeda, and now they need to take care of some additional problems with the Shia. But they're working on that too.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The idea of declaring victory is, I think, really a very bad one given our history with declarations of victory.
HUME: Or even seeming ones.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the president saying mission accomplished.
HUME: But he didn't say it. It was on a banner behind him. And, remember, it referred to the Navy and all that. But it seemed to be one.
KRAUTHAMMER: It referred to the initial stage of the war, which we assumed at the time was the end of the war, which was deposing Saddam. That was a mission accomplished. But the problem was a second mission arose afterwards, and it was this insurgency.
But is has several moving parts. Al Qaeda is one of them. The importance of this event, as Mort indicated, the real new news is not the defeat of Al Qaeda and the flipping of the Sunni insurgency, but the arrival of that news in Washington and the consciousness of the liberal media and in Congress and in these debates.
That is news. It is a change in the perception here, which is extremely important. And of course it is on a tape delay of about six months. Events happen in Iraq, and six months later people wake up and realize it has already happened.
But the importance in the context of the war on terror is, apart from its effect on the war in Iraq — which is it would help us in defeating insurgency on one side, and then we turn our attention to the Shiite side — in the war on terror itself, to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq after Al Qaeda had declared that it would be the central front against America, is a seminal event.
Apart from its influence inside Iraq, it means that Al Qaeda stake a lot on this war, and if they are defeated, it sends a message around the world that the Americans can actually defeat Al Qaeda on foreign territory, difficult to ground, in a sea of opposition, and succeed. And that is an amazing development.
KRISTOL: The other great story, which the administration has not fully exploited, it is that Sunni Arabs turned against Al Qaeda because there were brittle, because they were Taliban-like in their extremism.
And that ought to be broadcast around the world, that this even has happened, that Al-Qaeda was discredited where it thought it would succeed and prevail.
And there are all kinds of other good things happening in Iraq about casualty levels down, civilian casualties' down. The question — I saw the Democrats are still quoting General Sanchez, saying that this is an unending nightmare. He said that yesterday, which was badly timed, and the Democrats should not be repeating it.
HUME: OK. More about Iraq in a moment, but in a different context. Turkey is moving closer to military incursion in Iraq to put down that Kurdish rebellion. How much influence does the U.S. now have with Turkey, how much left? We will talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It should not be brought to the floor, and the Speaker ought to make sure it isn't brought to the floor.
REP. STENY HOYER, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I schedule the bills, and I'm telling you, it will come to the floor. It will come to the floor before November 16.
HUME: And where do you think the votes are right now?
HOYER: I think we will pass this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: What is this? This is a measure in which the United States Congress, or at least the House of Representatives declares that the Turkish slaughter of innumerable Armenians back during World War I was, in fact, an example of genocide.
The Turks admit they killed a lot of people. It was the Ottoman empire, and it was the middle of World War I, and the admit the slaughtered a lot of people. But they do not like the word "genocide." They're asking us not to do this.
So, what are the consequences in your view, Mort, if we do it, and what about the possibility of cross border warfare escalating into something very serious between the Turks and the Kurds on the other side, the Kurdish rebels, the PKK, as they are called?
KONDRACKE: Just as we have got a lot of good news in and around Baghdad, we're getting this threat to this threat to the stability of the north, which has been the most peaceful area of the whole country of Iraq.
A lot depends on how things happen. How big the incursion and, if there is one, of the Turks into Kurdistan is? Do they engage just the PKK, which is a Kurdish terrorist group that does commit acts of atrocities inside Turkey, and with the Turks wanting to repress it?
On this resolution, Rush Limbaugh has been saying on the air that the Democrats are sponsoring this resolution on Armenia for the purpose of causing our defeat in Iraq because if the Turks turn against us and they don't allow us to re-supply our troops, we will fail in Iraq, and this is all a Democratic plot.
It is not that. They are appealing to the Armenian political lobby, and they do not care about the consequences.
HUME: If the attempt to pass this measure saying this has been around for 25 years, and the Clinton administration talked the Republican Congress out of passing it back in 2000, or some time. So why this, why now? Can anyone fathom that?
KRAUTHAMMER: Why this, why now? Because this is an incredibly unserious House of Representative with an incredibly unserious leadership.
To pass a resolution that is essentially about terminology, about a massacre that occurred 90 years ago of which there is not a living human under the age of 106 who might have been responsible, in the middle of a war where Turkey, our ally, is going to be offended, and where it is in the middle of back in the fourth with Kurdish guerrillas is unbelievably irresponsible.
Now, it is not as if the Turks are going to launch a war because of this resolution. It is a pretext, it is dancing around. But it makes it harder for us.
To push them on an issue which they care a lot, i.e., dealing with the Kurdish rebels, at a moment when our influence required in having them back down, this only hurts us, and it is remarkably irresponsible.
HUME: What I want to know is, though, if it says something that is a historical fact, and it was, I think, fair to say "genocide," and it is about the Ottoman empire, which is long gone in favor of a much more modern, Democratic government, why are the Turks so sensitive about it?
KRISTOL: They should not be, but they are. They are internally — people get put in jail for talking about the slaughter of the Armenians, even though it was before this state existed. It was by the young Turks, who, I guess, were the predecessors and the founders of the current state of Turkey. The Congress is being totally irresponsible and partisan. This is mostly, always this has been a resolution of particular interest to Democrats.
This was brought up in 2000. President Clinton called the Republican Speaker Hastert, and said this will hurt our ability to maintain the no-fly zone in Iraq. We need Turkish cooperation on a bunch of issues, please do not bring this to the floor.
And it passed the Foreign Affairs Committee by a much larger vote in 2000. Speaker Hastert never brought it to the floor. He thought it would damage the national security interest of the United States.
We were not at war then. We were just maintaining a no-fly zone over Iraq.
It is really irresponsible for Speaker Pelosi to bring this to the floor, even though the Turkish government is being silly as well.
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