The True Story About the Fight in Fallujah

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Nov. 15, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In "Impact" segment tonight. By all accounts, the fierce fighting in Fallujah was brutal. A few hours ago, we got video in that's very disturbing. If there are children in your room right now, you might want to change the channel.

Here's the deal: A Marine patrol came upon some wounded Iraqis. And according to a report there, one of those wounded men was shot to death.

Now we cannot independently confirm what happened. We can tell you one Marine was killed, five were hurt when a booby trap went of on a dead Iraqi's body very close to that situation. So things obviously very intense.

Joining us now from Washington is Andrew Apostolou, the director of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (search), there you go.

You know, I hate to see stuff like that. And again, we don't know exactly what happened. We do know that a lot of incidents are occurring where these so-called insurgents are waving white flags and then shooting, booby trapped bodies, people feigning death. And when the Marines come up, they turn around and they shoot. So we are not making any judgments here about what happened, but the video is there. And we decided to just play it. What do you think about it?

ANDREW APOSTOLOU: Well, I think the point is this. First of all, it is of course illegal to kill wounded people, to execute them, so-called double capping. But you know, it's also illegal to feign death. It's illegal to feign surrendering. It's illegal to use white flags. It's quite immoral to use mosques as places of combat instead of places of worship. And it's quite wrong to booby trap bodies so that other people are killed when they're trying to bury the enemy dead.

O'REILLY: Right. And we have to — I just want to...

APOSTOLOU: We're quite entitled to respond.

O'REILLY: I want to basically also tell the audience right now that if you're a Marine, and somebody is faking death and makes a sudden move, just like if you're a police officer, that sudden move could be deadly.

APOSTOLOU: Absolutely,.

O'REILLY: So you know, we have to be very careful here by — this isn't Abu Ghraib. This is a combat situation.

Now the bigger picture on Fallujah is, you know, I'm reading, as I mentioned, a left-wing print press, which you never get the straight story from, that this is just a total waste of time.

APOSTOLOU:: I'd stop reading it then...


APOSTOLOU:: I'd stop reading it then if I were you.

O'REILLY: Well, I have to read it to know what's in play. I read everything. But do you believe this Fallujah exercise, number one, is going to help the USA? And number two, you know, so many people got out of there. As Pat Buchanan said, they're all over the place now.

APOSTOLOU: Well, let's take the second part first. You had to let people get out because you have to let civilians get out. And if you didn't let the civilians get away, people would be complaining that you'd killed too many civilians.

We knew that some of the terrorists would get away. We knew that was inevitable. The fact is Fallujah had one export, suicide bombers to Baghdad. You could not allow the terrorists to keep this territorial base and then hold elections. It was impossible. It was a big mistake to let them take over in April. We've now corrected that mistake.

Iraq is a better place for that. It's a first step but it's a very, very important first step. And the Marines generally have done a fantastic job as they always do.

O'REILLY: Now "The New York Times" is saying that the estimate of deaths, 1,200 to 1,600, they didn't see any bodies. Are you hearing anything about that?

APOSTOLOU: Well, you can never really estimate how many people have been killed when you've got buildings collapsing, thanks to aerial bombs. The fact is we're not doing body counts. That's over with. What we know is we've deprived them of a territorial base. They can't have their bomb factories. They can't have their execution chambers. We've discovered some of those as well. And pretty gruesome material that is.


APOSTOLOU: That's important.

O'REILLY: So you basically say that this exercise in Fallujah is going to strengthen the Iraqi government and the USA's hand in Iraq? You firmly believe that?

APOSTOLOU: It can't — but how on earth could things be worse when the terrorists have lost the mini Afghanistan that they've set up in the middle of Iraq? How can it be worse? I mean, I just find it incredible that anybody can think that.

It's a first step, though. We've now got to have a proper counter insurgency campaign. Political inclusion and security stabilization. Bring the Sunnis in, get the terrorists out, isolate the terrorists, have the elections. It's very important.

O'REILLY: But what if the Sunnis, the 20 percent of the population of Sunnis say no, we don't want to come in? What do you do?

APOSTOLOU: Well, we do have Sunnis who are willing to come in. The problem is when you're being intimidated by people who post beheadings on the Internet, when you have people who flog people in public running your cities, it's pretty hard to cast a vote. We're now creating a more secure environment when the security people will come forward. They will participate.

O'REILLY: Yes that's what I mean — absolutely. You have to have the security.

Now disturbing reports in Mosul. The police, you know, deserting, giving up, running away. I'm not convinced — and I've said this to you before, the Iraqi people are going to fight for their freedom. I am not convinced of that.

APOSTOLOU: It's very patchy. We did actually bring a battalion in Mosul from the Iraqi national guard, which has cleared things up. The police did not perform well. The police have been a disaster from the beginning. We took the Saddam era force. We didn't reform it. And we just stuffed it with new recruits.

The national guard, however, started from scratch, have been a success. They've done very well in Fallujah. They've done well in Mosul.

But it's wrong to say that people left Fallujah and went to Mosul. They were there already. Remember, Mosul was the backbone of the Iraqi army, the backbone of the Iraqi officer corps. These people were always going to be trouble. And as I said before on your program, we did not conquer the Sunni Triangle in April, 2003. We weren't able to bring troops in through Turkey. And that's part of the problem. So we're correcting previous mistakes.

O'REILLY: All right. In the next 60 days, do you believe that they're going to be able to get elections off the ground there?

APOSTOLOU: We will have elections in the vast majority of Iraq. There will be problems in the Triangle. I have absolutely no doubt about that.

But I think you will see a very high turnout in the Shi'ia areas of Iraq and in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. And I think people will be pleasantly surprised as they were in Afghanistan that we can actually hold elections in these countries.

O'REILLY: All right, is that a turnaround? Do you think that's going to turn around?

APOSTOLOU: That's the first step of the turnaround. It'll take a few years, but it's the first step and a very important first step. We will have elections. And you'll be covering them.

O'REILLY: I will. Mr. Apostolou, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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