Does Zarqawi's Death Cripple Al Qaeda's Efforts Worldwide?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 8, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight, the death of Zarqawi obviously disrupts Al Qaeda and Iraq, but how important is it to the overall War on Terror?

Joining us now from Washington, our terrorism expert, Steve Emerson, and Emily Hunt. We'll begin with you. Ladies go first usually on this program, unless I don't like them.


O'REILLY: You know, Americans are sitting at home. And those of us who are fair-minded people, and who love our country are celebrating this evening.

But it's hard to put it in perspective. Is this going to — is this a turning point in your opinion in the War on Terror?

HUNT: Well, no, I certainly don't think that this is a turning point in the sense that we've turned the corner and now we're really on the path absolutely to victory that can't be reversed.

I think this is going to have a big impact on the insurgency in Iraq. And I think also in terms of the way that the insurgency in Iraq impacts terrorism in Europe and terrorism in the United States. I think it's a victory, because what you want to do is remove opportunities for training. You want to remove ideological inspiration and really try to isolate cells in Europe and North America to the extent possible.

And so by degrading the insurgency in Iraq, by killing Zarqawi, it's a step in the right direction.

O'REILLY: How do you see it, Mr. Emerson?

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM ANALYST: I sort of agree with Emily. The reality is that it'll have some effect on the insurgency in Iraq, although it's questionable how much he controls the entire insurgency.

Worldwide, however, I think we've seen the devolution of home-grown jihadism by virtue of the Internet, by virtue of the Saudi Wahabist exports, by virtue of what's taught in the Islamic clerical institutions. And I think that means that the jihad cells will continue to grow regardless of what happens in Afghanistan or Iraq.

O'REILLY: All right, but command and control of Al Qaeda now that we've knocked down most of their leaders, only two national or international leaders.

You've got bin Laden and Zawahiri. Those are the only two left. We've got all the rest of them, either captured or killed. So command and control, a central force, that has got to be on the edge of collapse, is it not?

EMERSON: Well, I think you're right that Al Qaeda is on the edge of collapse. But we're in the post-Al Qaeda phase right now.

O'REILLY: Yes, no, no, I know. You've got these little cells all over the place, like the nuts up in Canada. But you know, amateurs are easier to control. Amateurs, they don't have the money. They don't have the organization. They're easier to control because there's always somebody who's blabbing, and there's, you know, that kind of a thing. Go ahead, Ms. Hunt.

HUNT: Oh, sorry. I was just going to say I absolutely agree with you, Bill. Because to me, the question is what kind of a strategic threat does terrorism pose to the United States? And I think that if you can create a situation where terrorism is a local or a national problem where the cells are isolated, where they are, as you said, amateurish, where they don't have the depth, the reach, and the resources to perpetrate a really grand scale attack, that's what I think that the aim should be of the War on Terrorism, so that we can make it more of a law enforcement problem rather than a strategic, foreign policy, political, military challenge that we have to address.

O'REILLY: All right, now Mr. Emerson, one of the problems in Iraq for the United States is that the Al Qaeda people were killing Shiites in the hope that the Shiite Sunnis would erupt in civil war.

I mean, I'm sure Sunnis want to kill Shiites, too. But this was a Zarqawi plan. Let's kill as many Shiites, let's blow the mosque up, let's do this kind of stuff, and get them to fight each other.

That's got to be hurt now that Al Qaeda has lost its leader in Iraq?

EMERSON: I think you're right, Bill. Because Zarqawi was even admonished by Zawahiri not to be doing this because it was creating such problems for Al Qaeda.

And so they've lost that chief champion for that sort of "Helter Skelter" Charlie Manson theory of warfare.

But the question is, Bill, who comes into his place? I have to believe that he has appointed a line of succession. And.

O'REILLY: Yes, al-Masri, the Egyptian is the guy that the U.S. intelligence is saying is going to take over.

EMERSON: Right. And look, in the end, they will reconstitute themselves, because when you decapitate a terrorist group, in the immediate aftermath it hurts them.

O'REILLY: OK, but doesn't..

EMERSON: But over time, they...

O'REILLY: Doesn't this embolden people who want to make money, because they saw, look, they got him. You know, I mean, the more weakness Al Qaeda can show, the more success the coalition and the Iraqi government can show, the easier it is to get the information. Am I right?

EMERSON: Well, I think, first of all, the fact that they got human intelligence shows that having boots on the ground is working in terms of getting humans, or human intelligence.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure that the payoffs of $25 million really has that allure over the ideological and tribal ties.

O'REILLY: All right, Ms. Hunt, you want 20 seconds to wrap it up?

HUNT: Well, sure. I was just going to say I absolutely agree with Steve, because fundamentally money is not going to appeal over someone who's ideologically committed. I think that Zarqawi did a lot of damage to himself in Iraq with his brutal tactics. And it was fundamentally his loss of Muslim hearts and minds that made this person willing to turn him in.

O'REILLY: All right, thanks to both of you.

HUNT: Thanks.

O'REILLY: We appreciate it. Very interesting.

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