This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Dec. 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MURTHA, R-PA.: You have got to be more honest about this. It’s not going as well as you say it’s going. You have got to tell us what’s going on. The American public is going to back fire and it has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: Congressman John Murtha. Democrats are divided over what to do in Iraq. And the public is skeptical. The president and the Pentagon seemed to have discovered the need to talk about public opinion and worry about it as a few critics call for immediate withdrawal. Where are we in Iraq? How much progress are we making? Is this war winnable? Here to talk about those and other questions is retired Army Major General Bob Scales. General Scales, good to see you.
MAJ. GEN. BOB SCALES, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: Hi, Jim.
ANGLE: Let me ask you first. Obviously John Murtha has made the decision that this is unwinnable. What is your view? And if we are making progress, how much progress are we making?
SCALES: That’s a great question. The war is in a period of transition for both the good guys and the bad guys. For the bad guys, the days of the traditional insurgency is over. And this war is increasing compressing into a foreign-led Sunni insurrection that’s center around Baghdad and the routes that lead into Baghdad. His military center of gravity is control of the Capitol.
For the coalition forces, it’s moved from a U.S. led — a U.S. executed campaign into a U.S.-led and increasingly, an Iraqi-led executed campaign with the hope eventually the Iraqis will take over.
But, in any case, the key period of transition is going to be 2006. One side is going to focus on collapsing Baghdad, the other side is going to — our side is going to focus on turning this over not Iraqis so that they can make substantial progress in securing their own country.
ANGLE: And the Pentagon has let it be known by the end of 2006 they expect to have about 100,000 troops instead of the 150,000 plus that are there now.
SCALES: But, you know, I have a problem focusing on numbers. Look, I’m a historian and soldier. And people always ask, what are the numbers going to be? How many Iraqis are we going to have, how many Americans are we going to have?
I was there in Iraq six months ago, and as a soldier I kind of know what right looks like. I have been through this before. And I like to look in the eyes of the soldiers both Iraqi and American and see if there is any fight there. And what I saw is there is fight there. The Iraqis want to fight and win and protect their country and expel the insurrections — or the insurrectionists.
And if there is good news here there may be problems with logistics and communications and transportations and infrastructure, but most important is the tip of the spear, the fighting elements on both U.S. and Iraqi are willing to prosecute this war. And as far as the Iraqis are concerned, fight and die for their country.
ANGLE: We do seem to be coming to a key crossroads here, especially are for the Sunnis. We have elections in two weeks not for an interim government but for a permanent government.
SCALES: That’s right.
ANGLE: And the Sunnis have to decide, do we want to place all our chips on an insurgency that would have to last for four years, or do we want to settle things with the rest of the Iraqis and work with this government?
SCALES: Yeah. It’s an interesting point. The Sunnis in many ways are bifurcating. You know, the hard liners are sticking to the insurgency, but there is an increasingly large group that thinks like this. We are a minority, 20 percent of the population, but we are the best educated, the wealthiest and we are the segment of the population with the most experience both in terms in ministries and in the military and time is running out. It’s time to cut the best deal we can with the majority, knowing ultimately, of course, that the majority rules in a democracy, but overtime I think they realize that their ability to influence things in Iraq are going to diminish and it’s time now to cut the best deal they can and get the most out of this election that they can.
ANGLE: If I were a Sunni, I think I would be worrying about the fact that the U.S. is slowly withdrawing and probably gone for the most part in a couple of years.
ANGLE: And the government will be run by the Shia, whom the Sunnis had abused for decades and they will be in control. I think I would worry about that situation unless some accommodation could be made.
SCALES: Accommodation, and also a sense even among the Shias of a growing sense not so much of patriotism but of nationalism. There’s — for instance, the national motto of the army is Iraq first. There is an effort, particularly among the Shias to build the sense of nationalism and unanimity and the Sunnis, I think, as long as they cut the deal, they move away from the insurgency, they can be part of this process of change.
ANGLE: Let me ask you about public opinion. I hear Republicans grumbling the president hasn’t done a good job nor has the Pentagon in keeping people informed about where things were? How important is that when you are fighting a war, which by its very nature is bound to be controversial?
SCALES: Absolutely. Jim, war is ultimately a test of will. That’s the strategic center of gravity to use a military term. And the will that’s most vulnerable right now is the will of the American people. The enemy knows that and we know that. So we collectively need to do a better job of reflecting in the media and in the minds of the American people the real situation, the real military situation on the ground. It’s a heck of a lot better in Iraq when you stand on a street corner with a group of Iraqi soldiers than it is back here in some of our newsrooms.
ANGLE: You know, it’s interesting; Americans have always been willing to sacrifice as long as they know that the cause is worth it.
SCALES: That’s right.
ANGLE: And that it’s not hopeless and endless. Do you think we have gotten to the point where people have some reassurance from the president and the Pentagon on that point? You’ve got 30 seconds.
SCALES: I think we are getting there. And, again, the key is not what the Americans are doing in this next coming year. The key is what the Iraqis are doing. So if we want to get the message across, my advice is let’s focus on the Iraqi conduct of this war. Pay attention to the progress that they are making and pay less attention to our own because ultimately the Iraqis will determine their own fate.
ANGLE: General Scales thank you very much, sir.
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