Do the Iraqis Want to Fight for Their Freedom?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 12, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  Now for the top story tonight.  There's another view of this.  Joining us from Washington is Qubad Talabani (search), a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (search), who's father is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council (search).

Hey, what about this ambassador, [Rand] al Rahim?  She's too scared to come on and talk to me the way you are.  Do you know her?

QUBAD TALABANI, PATRIOTIC UNION OF KURDISTAN:  I know Rand very well.  And anyone that's worked with her professionally knows she doesn't scare easily.  So I doubt that she's  hiding from you, Bill.

O'REILLY:  Well, it's true she is.  Mr. Talabani, your doubt is misplaced here.  She -- we had her booked on this program for four days, all right?  She canceled hours before.  And you were nice enough to take her place and we appreciate it.

With no excuse at all.  She's petrified, frightened because I'm going to ask you the same questions I'd ask her.  Do you believe the Iraqi people, the guys on the street, all right, are going to fight for their freedom?

TALABANI:  I think that they will fight for their freedom, Bill.  And we -- you know, we should look at Iraq as one big country here.  We've seen troubles in Fallujah and other parts of the country.  But these are focused problems.

You've got a lot of the country that is calm, that is quiet, that is  progressing.  And there's a lot of cooperation between the Iraqi people, both at the community levels and at the political levels, even in some places on a military level between the coalition and the Iraqi  people.

Something that I'd like you to try to understand is that the Iraqi people have been brainwashed for 40 years.  They haven't been given the opportunity to think, to have their own opinions.  So they're  so used to turning a blind eye to murder, to chaos, to oppression.  And they're under pressure from some of these extreme Islamic organizations.

O'REILLY:  We understand and sympathize, but we can't be staying there forever getting casualties the way we're getting them.  That's impossible.  It's not going to happen.  It may cost President Bush the election in November.  So either the Iraqis are going to step  up and step up fast or they're going to lose it.

Now a lot of this hinges on the clerics, al Sistani, the Shi'ite  ayatollah, OK?  Now he -- no he's not coming to our aid.  He's not saying help the Americans.  He's not saying anything.  So I don't know if your optimism is well placed.

TALABANI:  Well, I'm optimistic.  And you know, having gone through what we have as the Kurdish people, we know that, you know, given the time and given good leadership by the Iraqi people -- by the Iraqi governing council, that this can be better.

O'REILLY:  Well, where is the Iraqi governing council?  Why didn't we see them last week saying this is horrible, we condemn it, and we don't want it?  Why didn't we see them running out there?

TALABANI:  Well, they're mediating at the moment between, you know, some of the factions in Fallujah and other parts of the country, but this is an opportunity for them to assert themselves as the governing institution of this country.

O'REILLY:  But they have not done that.

TALABANI:  This is an Iraqi problem.

O'REILLY:  They have not done it, Mr. Talabani.  And we're sitting back here waiting for somebody to help us out.  Come on, look, you got al Sistani, the chief Shi'ite cleric, you've got the Iraqi governing council.  All right?  You've got the American ambassador too afraid to come on.  Nobody will step up to say, you know, the Americans are really helping us here.  Help them.  Come on, what are we supposed to think?

TALABANI:  I disagree with you, Bill.  I disagree.  Go to the Kurdish north.  Look at the way...

O'REILLY:  No, that's a different story.  It's a different story.

TALABANI:  That's not a different story.

O'REILLY:  You know it.

TALABANI:  We talk about Iraq being one country.  Well, look  at the way the Kurdish people are greeting the Americans and the British.

O'REILLY:  It's not going to be enough.  Look, it's not going to be enough...

TALABANI:  They are other parts of the country where there is a good level of cooperation.  You're focusing on Fallujah.  You're focusing on some places in Najaf.  Iraq is a big country.  There's 22 million people...

O'REILLY:  I'm focusing on the top leadership in the country, Mr. Talabani.  The Iraqi governing council and the top cleric, and they're not stepping up.  Now...

TALABANI:  The governing council is making continued statements in support for the coalition.

O'REILLY:  It's not enough.  They've got to come out on  television and they got to tell the Iraqi people to help the USA  Now...

TALABANI:  You should invite them out on Fox.

O'REILLY:  Well, we have invited them, but we can't get  them.  You know, you tell your father we'd like to talk to him.  But look...


O'REILLY:  ...the Kurds are a different deal.  The Kurds are pro  American.  They always have been.  We know they're on our side and it's different.  We're worried about the Shi'ites.  That's the majority in that country.

Now two more questions.  Uprising, this is what the American press is.  That was baloney, was it not?

TALABANI:  There is no uprising.

O'REILLY:  All right, so what do you think when you see the  American press playing right into that the hands of the terrorists?

TALABANI:  I've been critical of all of the international press because...

O'REILLY:  No, it's the American press.

TALABANI:  It's -- yes, well the American press has been to  blame as well.  The British press has been all...

O'REILLY:  No uprising.

TALABANI:  You're focusing on the bad things that are going on in the country.  There is no uprising.

O'REILLY:  That's right.  And listen, I was the only one that put  my neck out.  Even on the Fox News channel, we had people calling it an uprising.

Second thing, we have reports that Iran is behind this al-Sadr guy and his militia.  Do you believe that?

TALABANI:  It's difficult.  Anything to do with Iran is murky.  You can never read them properly.  But Sadr is a problem that needs to be dealt with by the Iraqis, by the coalition.  And we cannot allow him  to run around with his own militias and cause the trouble that he's causing.

O'REILLY:  That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  All right, Mr. Talabani, we appreciate you stepping up for the ambassador.

TALABANI:  My pleasure.  Anytime.

O'REILLY:  You tell the ambassador that we're very disappointed in her.  And she better, you know, if she wants to win over the American people, and that's very necessary for you guys to have freedom, she better start stepping up here and stop hiding  under her desk.  And we appreciate you coming in.

TALABANI:  Anytime.

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