U.S. Military Heavyweights Weigh in on Iraq

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This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 1, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight. One day after the president laid out his plan for victory in Iraq, conservative fire turned once again toward Democratic Congressman John Murtha. Yesterday, the congressman said that the United States Army is, quote, "worn out" and, quote, "living hand to mouth."

Republicans continue to point to the testimonial ofSenator Joe Lieberman, who returned from Iraq earlier this week and implored America to stay the course. Joining us now with reaction is the former commander of Centcom and author of the book, "American Soldier," General Tommy Franks, and our very own host of "War Stories," Colonel Oliver North, both looking very nice tonight.


COLMES: They join us from Arlington, Virginia, where they're celebrating...

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: That's impressive.

COLMES: ... the 15th anniversary of Colonel North's group, the Freedom Alliance.

You guys just got off a cake?

OLLIE NORTH, FOX NEWS HOST: We haven't finished it. Listen, they're still eating in there, and they're watching this, Alan. So watch yourself.

COLMES: That's very nice. Now, you've got the nice, red cummerbund there, Ollie?


COLMES: Now, General Franks is being honored tonight, is that right? Tell us about that.

NORTH: He is. In fact, he is the defender of freedom this year. We give that award every year to someone who has represented the values of our Constitution and defended America.

It all began with Edward J. Bronars, who was the co-founder of Freedom Alliance back 15 years ago. And the award is named for him. We've had another four-star, General Chuck Krulack, who has also been the recipient of this.


COLMES: Right.


NORTH: And, of course, a certain fellow by the name of Sean Hannity.

COLMES: I was just going to say. I mean, how credible is this award? Look who...

HANNITY: It was one of the greatest, honestly, Ollie, one of the greatest honors of my life.

COLMES: I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

FRANKS: And Alan maybe next year.

NORTH: Well, you think about this, Alan. It's a person who has defended the constitutional values of America.

COLMES: I understand. As opposed to what?

NORTH: As opposed to just carping about, you know, partisan politics.

COLMES: I see.

Well, speaking of partisan politics, now, I'm looking at the Freedom Alliance here, and I notice co-sponsors, Saxby Chambliss, William Frist, Elizabeth Dole, Rick Santorum. And I look at the all the congress people....

HANNITY: Sean Hannity.

COLMES: Sean Hannity, well, not Congress yet, Niger Innis, Wayne LaPierre, are they all conservatives? I mean, is the Freedom Alliance not open to those on my side of the political plate?

NORTH: If you want to make your contribution, we would welcome you next year. You can sit at that table. How's that?

COLMES: All right, but I just — it's all conservatives. I would think this is bipartisan and not just open to conservatives, right?

NORTH: It is nonpartisan. It is not a partisan organization. In fact, it is here to support the concepts that made this country great, and to recognize the contributions of great Americans like General Franks, and to give out scholarships to young American, 100 of which that were brought this year.

COLMES: All right, General Franks, congratulations.

NORTH: About $1 million dollars in scholarships have already been awarded.

FRANKS: Thanks a lot, Alan.

COLMES: And thank you very much for coming back on the show. And let's talk a little bit about what's going on here. A FOX News Opinion Dynamics poll came out today. Let me put up some of the results on the screen right now. For example, one of the questions, whether or not the president gave the best intel on WMDs and gave the best information available, 46 percent; 44 percent say he intentionally misled the public; 10 percent say don't know.

General Franks, that's almost — that's a lot, basically a 50-50 split there to say that they believe the president misled us.

FRANKS: Absolutely. If you had that side of the argument being presented quite as much and quite as forcefully in some mainstream media in this country as I see it day by day, that doesn't surprise me a bit, Alan.

COLMES: You're going to blame — is it the media's fault?

FRANKS: The fact of the matter is — well, the fact that we're looking at the sort of poll number that you just described, yes, I attribute that to the media, sure, yes.

HANNITY: Hey, General, first of all Ollie, good to see you, my friend. General, good to see you. Good to see you.

Congratulations. It's very well-deserved. You are a great American, my friend.

I want to go to John Murtha's comments, if I can, from today. Most troops will leave within a year. Our army is broken, worn out, living hand to mouth. He advocated just in the last two weeks what I believe is a cut- and-run policy. What do you think of those statements?

FRANKS: Oh, Sean, I have high respect for Mr. Murtha, because I've known him a long time. And he does what I think we want in our Congress. We want people who represent their constituents by saying what they think.

And Congressman Murtha is a good man. That doesn't mean that I agree with him about everything he says. I do not believe that the United States military is broken. But, then again, I don't sit in one of those august chairs that's responsible for our military now. But I suspect that Don Rumsfeld and others would be more than willing to comment on whether our military is broken.

On the issue...

HANNITY: But you know it's not, General, though. You know it's not broken. You know it's not worn out. You know it's not living hand to mouth. How destructive is that to troop morale?

FRANKS: From what I see of it — what I will — I think our troops — Sean, you know, you get a lot of questions that say, well, the big debate that we're having in this country right now about in Iraq, for how long to do what, is that really hurting morale?

And the fact is that I doubt it, at this point, that it is really hurting morale, because I think these young men and women who are serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as a matter of fact, have some understanding of why they're there. And I think they believe in what they're doing.

And so does it make me happy to see the sort of representations that we see in a lot of mainstream media? No, it doesn't. But do I believe that it's directly harmful to the morale of our kids? No, I don't think it is at this point.

HANNITY: Not even...

NORTH: If I could just support — let me just make an observation, Sean. The reenlistment rate among the combat units that are committed, Army and Marine Corps, particularly, the reenlistment rates exceed the maximum authorized. Now, that's been persisting ever since the very beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, and it continues to this day.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask this. Is it undermining of the troops, is it — does it hurt morale, General, when you hear leading Democrats repeatedly say our president lied to put them in a position that they're in harm's way, that he hyped, that he misled purposefully, when leaders of our country, leaders of the opposition party say that, you're saying that doesn't have an effect on the troops?

FRANKS: Well, I don't know. I don't know, Sean, how much effect it has. I think these young men and women really understand the political process in this country.

Look, you know, there's one thing that I learned — well, I probably learned a lot of things, but one thing sort of sticks with me — and I talk about it frequently — and that is I challenge people — I would challenge Alan to cite for me a war that, in the perception of many in this country, was fought on time.

The wars that we fight — and this goes back a couple of hundred years. We either get to them too early or we get into them too late. Finding a popular war is a very, very difficult thing to do, once one is two, three, four years in it. You've been there, I've been there.

The fact is that these young people who wear the uniforms of service in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and so forth, they are very bright kids. And they understand that we're going to have political wrangling in this country.

COLMES: I accept the challenge, by the way. Bosnia, we were in and we didn't stay there to the length of time we did here. It wasn't the same kind of thing.

But we've got to take a break. And we will come back and continue to discuss this. And we will have lots to come tonight for you on "Hannity & Colmes."

You know, we've been following the case of Tookie Williams, who's facing execution. Apparently, so has the NAACP. They're coming to his defense. And we'll have the latest.

Plus, you'll meet a radio host who looks some of the world's most dangerous terrorists right in the face. We'll play you the shocking tape.

And then it's called the biggest eminent domain case ever. Thousands of people could get kicked out of their homes. We'll give you the shocking details.

And is Christmas being banned in one Georgia school? Well, some teachers reportedly feel that way. We'll give you the details. All that is still to come, lots still ahead on "Hannity & Colmes."


HANNITY: As we continue on "Hannity & Colmes," I'm Sean Hannity.

We continue with former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks, and the host of "War Stories," Colonel Oliver North is with us.

And, congratulations, again, General, on your big award. Now, I know that the media's new favorite veteran is John Murtha. But I notice they don't say Colonel North got all the awards and decorations that he has, including all the purple hearts that he has.

I want to ask you: Joe Lieberman is virtually ignored because he talks about the success of all that has gone on in Iraq, how things have changed over the course of the four trips that he has made there, General, and he just got back from last week.

Do you feel things are going well, things are on the right track in Iraq?

FRANKS: Fair and balanced, Sean, you know, I saw that. Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. I think what we're seeing in Iraq should really not surprise — shouldn't surprise any of us.

You're looking at a country that, for three decades, I mean, totally abused and without any sort of sense of cooperation within the governance and all that. And so it's a massive change.

I think what's instructive is the elections that we have seen there. So let's just take a look to see what happens about the middle of December, with this next election.

Look, you got 26.5, 27 million people who are deadly serious about having freedom and protecting it. And you got some number that want to put a wrench in that work.

I think Joe Lieberman did a heck of a job, in a very balanced way, of describing what's going on. You know, the senator didn't say everything is just great and, golly gee, I mean, I'm just — no, that's not what he said. It was fair and balanced.

HANNITY: Yes, it really was.

FRANKS: And I think we could use a little bit more of that, without all the hyperbole that, you know, we seem to see on TV.

HANNITY: Let me...

NORTH: You know, Sean, this...

HANNITY: Colonel, let me ask this question. I want to ask about WMDs. And both of you can answer this. General, we'll let you go first. You outrank the colonel.

NORTH: That's for sure.

HANNITY: Oh, I'm teasing. I want to ask, though, specifically, General, we know that Saddam had WMDs because we have images of children laying in the street because he used them. He used them in the Iran-Iraq war.

President Clinton made the case, Kerry made the case, Edwards, Gore, Senator Clinton, Ted Kennedy even made the case on WMDs. What should the American people think about the fact that we didn't find them after we went in?

FRANKS: Well, I think — you know, I've told you before that no one was more surprised than I that we didn't find them, because I thought we would. And I suspect that the president of the United States probably had the same reaction that I did, surprise that we did not find them.

I don't believe that there was any misleading at all, because I, for one, was convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction. And I'm sure that the president looked at a great deal of the same intelligence information that I looked at, Sean, which coincidentally is the same information that many on the Hill were seeing.

COLMES: Hey, General...

NORTH: Let me just (INAUDIBLE) very quickly, Alan, because the intelligence in the preparation for war has consistently not been as good as the intelligence everybody developed after the war was over. And you can look at any war that we've ever fought and find that to be the case.

It's interesting that we're now going to critique that in the middle of the war. At least, in World War II, that that book is all about...

COLMES: Ollie, as I understand it...

NORTH: ... they waited until after the war was over for the investigation.

COLMES: ... senators don't get the presidential daily briefing. Pat Roberts told Chris Wallace on "FOX News Sunday" he does not get the same intelligence the president gets. They are based on very different intelligence.

And the David Kay report pointed out that Bill Clinton and his pinpoint bombing of Iraq's facilities in 1998 destroyed many of those weapons that President Bush and Dick Cheney claimed were there.

FRANKS: Yes, but I think David Kay also pointed out, Alan, that there was very little doubt in his mind or in the mind of anyone else, David Kay I'm referring to, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. I think we all know that he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people.

COLMES: But they'd been destroyed by Bill Clinton.

FRANKS: Alan, look at this. Look at this. How about we place ourselves in the position of the president of the United States? I don't care who it is. And our country has been attacked. And we've lost 3,000 men, women and children to terrorists.

And he has reason to believe, because the intelligence community has given him, the president, reason to believe that there are weapons of mass destruction owned and on the soil of a rogue state, which has had occasion to be shooting at American airmen for some 10 years.

And, in the aftermath of 9/11, wonder what sort of decision the rational person would have made. It is based on that sort of judgment that I say, "I don't think George W. Bush tried to mislead the American people." That's my personal opinion.

And I've said that I was shocked that we did not find WMD inside Iraq. I'm still shocked that we didn't find it.

NORTH: The date is E-minus-15, E being Election Day. I'll be there for you to show you how good it's going, thanks to this General right here.

HANNITY: No, I agree with that, too. And, Colonel, we're going to see you all next week. You're going back Saturday. Stay safe, my friend. And thanks for being with us.

And, General, congratulations on your great honor. It's very well deserved. You're a great American, and we're lucky to have had you in the service of the country as long as we have, sir. Thank you.

FRANKS: Thanks, Sean.

HANNITY: Thank you guys.

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