What Did Fallujah Accomplish?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Dec. 7, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

BRIT HUME, HOST: The president also suggested that enemy attacks would likely intensify before the election which raises the question of just what the Fallujah (search) offensive accomplished and whether it was enough?

For answers to that question we turn to FOX News contributor retired Army General and military historian Robert Scales.

Welcome back, Bob. Nice to see you.


HUME: It’s hard — it would be hard — I know that the commanders are saying that that was a success. And I guess, on the evidence it was a success in terms of the fact that they ran those people out of Fallujah. But based on the numbers of attacks and number of people killed, what? Eighty over the weekend, you would hardly know it. So what’s going on?

SCALES: A couple of things. First of all, it was a success in the sense that what Fallujah did is it robbed the Sunni insurgents (search) of political legitimacy, of geographical legitimacy. In other words, they no longer have a place to plan a flag and some sort of quasi capital. The second thing is it obviously took away their factories. It killed a lot of them.

But I think more importantly than anything else, what it’s done is it’s created a sense of distrust among the Iraqis themselves. I mean you do have the torture chamber.

HUME: Distrust of?

SCALES: Distrust of the Sunni insurgencies. They’ve exposed these torture chambers. They’ve heard horror stories about what was going on in the city. And in a subtle way perhaps it changed this insurgency from sort of being an Iraqi war into being a Sunni only type of insurrection. And that’s a significant, subtle but significant difference.

HUME: Well, isn’t that something though we have been worried about? That we would have basically Sunni versus rest of Iraqis, versus Shiia, versus Kurds and a breakdown in any civil order that might have existed?

SCALES: Yes, except for two points. Number 1, remember the Sunnis are a true minority. They’re only like about, I think, less than 20 percent of Iraqi population is Sunni. If you’re going to have a true civil war, you have got to have a greater proportion within the society.

And the second point is that the horrors that they’ve sort of inflicted on Iraqis have really created a sort of tentative bond between the Kurds and the Shiias. So it’s not a civil war that’s fomenting. It is really sort of a Sunni-only insurgency. And it’s a big difference.

HUME: Now, the president spoke today about Sunnis and foreign fighters, and foreign fighters posing as Sunnis. Does anybody really know what proportion of these people are actually Sunni insurgents, and what proportion are foreign fighters?

SCALES: Here’s what we know. We know Fallujah taught them a lesson. That they can no longer stand up in large formation with a bunch of amateurs fighting against the Marines and the Army. So they’ve broken down into ever-smaller groups, dispersed into surrounding Sunni areas, they’re on the move. They’ve professionalized themselves.

They are working in — they’re beginning to form ever-smaller cells, hoping when the occasion arises to be able to sort of mass on demand. Attack vulnerable enclaves, like Iraqi police stations, get some publicity, intimidate Iraqis and then disperse. That’s a big difference between the condition of the Sunni insurgency three months ago.

HUME: Well, and yet the attacks continue. And the question arises, can you in fact hold an election in an atmosphere where there’s this level of violence? What’s your answer?

SCALES: I think you can. More than that, I think you have to. Remember now, the legitimacy of this government is going to depend on the elections. If Sunni choose not to participate, then their slice of that legitimacy is diminished.

My sources tell me that in many ways there are an enormous number of Sunnis that are in favor elections. They just can’t get through the barrier imposed on them by the insurgencies. You have got to reduce the level of violence. You’ve got to reduce impact that these Sunni insurgents are having on the local population to have the election. But the election must go forth.

HUME: The impact being what, intimidation or what?

SCALES: Intimidation and this whole idea of sort of capturing the psychological high ground in many ways. You know they lost their legitimacy. They’ve lost their claim to a capital. They are wondering all over the Sunni enclaves trying to reform. The purpose of the coalition from now on is keep them dispersed, keep them on the move and keep these guys from forming an attacking in large numbers again.

HUME: Is the force, in your judgment that we have augmented by what, additional 12,000 new forces bringing it to about 150,000? Is it strikes enough?

SCALES: Boy, it’s close. I tell you the feedback I get back from the theater is a lot of the soldiers are tired. They formed strike groups, they’re running around the countryside trying to impede, if not preempt these Sunni attacks. These soldiers have really been pushed — soldiers and Marines have really been pushed to the edge. And it’s going to be a really, really tough six, seven weeks between now and the election.

HUME: If the Pentagon decided, just for the sake of discussion here, that it wanted more forces. Do we have ready to go the kind of forces that can go in there and expand the force in a necessary way?

SCALES: No, that’s the problem, Brit. I mean we just dispatched the last element of our strategic reserve last week, a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division. There are just not many more troops to send. I mean virtually the entire Army and Marine Corps or coming back, are over there now, or preparing to go. That’s how bad it’s gotten. It is a very, verily tightly wrapped and narrow advantage that the U.S. forces have. But we don’t have enough ground forces in that theater.

HUME: You have spoken admiringly of General Petreaus.


HUME: The man who has the job of "training up," as they say, Iraqi forces. In your estimation from what you’re hearing, how is he doing?

SCALES: He’s doing superbly well. He’s done more in the last three or four months than the first 18 months of our presence in Iraq. And he’s done it because the Iraqis trust Dave Petreaus (search). He has the personality, the background, the education, the presence, the sort of the bona fides to make him effective. And he’s doing, I think, extraordinarily well given the circumstance.

HUME: And yet, you believe that we’re perhaps barely have enough forces, including them, to get the job done?

SCALES: Now. But remember, the Iraqi forces are building up rapidly. They are not all performing like Patton’s Third Army (search), but they are getting better. They are learning to fight by fighting. It’s the worst way to prepare an army for war. They have no choice. But they are slowly and steadily getting better. After the election by the spring, the Iraqi army and National Guard will be in that country in substantial numbers.

HUME: Substantial enough so that the U.S. forces will begin to be able to be reduced in your assessment?

SCALES: Reduced. Maybe not reduced but to shift roles. I mean the real value of Americans over there is to help the Iraqis build their own forces. And so we’re going to see a shift in the roles from being sort of this fire brigade, into a backstop to help the Iraqis do a better job.

HUME: And some of that is in effect — it doesn’t appear that in all of these latest round of attacks that very many Americans are being killed. I mean they are. But they’re nothing like the numbers it used to be.

SCALES: Well, that’s right. Because what are the Iraqi insurgents trying to do? They are trying to intimidate Iraqis, not the Americans. And they’re trying to stop the elections. You know, by the way, the Americans are no longer a vulnerable target. The most vulnerable targets are these poor Iraqi National Guard installations, and police stations.

HUME: And yet, they still sign up, don’t they?

SCALES: Isn’t that remarkable. It is a remarkable testimony to the desire of the Iraqi people, most of them, for freedom.

Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.