Transcript: Will the World Step Up to Help Out in Iraq?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Hi, everybody. This is THE BIG STORY. I'm John Gibson. The leaders of the G8 Summit (search) go their separate ways as that summit comes to a close. President Bush says he got what he expected. As far as Iraq is concerned, that means not much. Right now, President Bush on his way back to Washington...

President Bush says he doesn't expect NATO nations to send any more troops to Iraq, but he is hoping that NATO will play a bigger role in training Iraqi troops. Republican Senator Bill Frist (search) of Tennessee is the Senate majority leader. He was in Iraq just a few days ago. Mr. Frist, today's big question is, will the international community actually step up and help out in Iraq?

BILL FRIST (R-TN) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, just a few hours ago I met with the new president of Iraq, who just arrived from a G8 conference for the funeral services tomorrow, and had the opportunity to talk with him about the security and the elections. And then last weekend, I was in Iraq and had the opportunity to meet with the prime minister of that country. Both of them stressed two things. First of all, appreciation for the United States for accomplishing this first step in terms of freedom and democracy. And, secondly, the importance of security. It is going to be an Iraqi initiative just as the president said.

But they were very clear to say that they do need help. It's going to take some time to build up the Iraqi security force from 4,000 strong up to 80,000 or 90,000, that they're going to need help training that police force of about 80,000 individuals. Again, expressing their appreciation, the necessity of the United States and the 32 other countries who are participating in the coalition to be there, be at their side as sovereignty is exchanged and over the coming months.

GIBSON: Do you have an explanation — I mean, here we are after this G8, and the countries that were participating in the G8 with the United States, which included Canada, Germany, France, Russia — the countries that have been it hollering at the United States for going on a year now about the United States giving sovereignty, letting the Iraqis be the Iraqis. Here it is. It's happening. No promise of any troops to help. No promise of any financial aid to help. What is wrong with the G8 members that they were able to come up with nothing?

FRIST: Well, you know, I can't answer that, and I don't know whether to express disappointment or discouragement. I can tell you ...

GIBSON: Or disbelief?

FRIST: Or disbelief. I can tell you from the Iraqi standpoint, that's the voice that is most important today, and I had the real privilege of interacting with both of those leaders who will be receiving that sovereignty. They are very optimistic. Both of them mentioned the fact that they'll need all 32 of the countries, but recognized that regardless of who participates, it's going to be the United States who provides the bulk of those forces. It's on the United States on who they're going to depend with that Iraqi face, with that Iraqi leadership ultimately being in charge.

GIBSON: What is it the United States has to do at this point to get any international help? Does president Bush have to say, OK, American troops are under French command? I mean, has it gotten to be that silly that they will not help until the United States capitulates.

FRIST: Right now, I don't think it needs to be the United States. Again, I left Iraq four days ago, five days ago very optimistic. These new leaders, the president, the new deputy president, the prime minister, and the 33 cabinet members, and those 33 cabinet members already are operating the country. And, therefore, I'm much less worried about what's going to happen on June 30th. They've made it very clear that they're going to be making the appropriate appeal. It is their responsibility and they are going to depend on the United States, but ultimately it's going to be the Iraqi people who are going to be the soldiers who are going to be the police.

GIBSON: At this point, from what you saw in Iraq... and evidently you took him to see President Reagan's casket in the rotunda of the Capitol. Do Iraqis think they are on the verge of getting their country back and that the security situation is going to be better and they're on the verge of success? Do they believe that?

FRIST: They do. They not only believe it, they are absolutely convinced. It's freedom. It's democracy. It's the rule of law. That's what we've missed all along is that Iraqi face — the Iraqis coming forward, taking control, taking charge. Both of these leaders that I had the privilege of meeting are direct, are competent, know they're going to appeal directing to the Iraqi people, have the support of the Iraqi people. As they told me directly, terrorism is not aimed at the United States. The terrorism is not aimed at the coalition. The terrorism is aimed at democracy and freedom, and these leaders said they're going to make sure they see it through by capturing the Iraqi people.

They said to me that nobody in Iraq today, no Iraqi believes that somebody who creates a terrorist activity is a patriot. And the other interesting thing that Prime Minister Allawi, a doctor, by the way, has said is that the terrorists are acting on the Iraqi people and destroying their jobs, and he is going to make sure that that voice is out there and it will be the Iraqi people who destroy the terrorists.

GIBSON: Senator Bill Frist, in deep on this Iraqi problem. Appreciate you coming on, Senator, and trying to understand it.

FRIST: Great to be with you, and I'm very optimistic.

GIBSON: Good, thank you.

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