Gen. Martin Dempsey, the New Man in Charge of Training the Iraqi Army, Talks with Bill O'Reilly

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 18, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Continuing now with our lead story, the "Factor” goes to Iraq. In addition to meeting and greeting the troops, I also talked with a bunch of commanders and the man who is now in charge of training the Iraqi army. This is the most important job in Iraq, in my opinion, because if the Iraqis don't fight, the USA will have to leave.

So far, the results have been mixed. A few Iraqi battalions are battle ready. Most are not.

So just how is General Martin Dempsey going to get the Iraqis to defeat a brutal enemy when many feel it can't be done?


O'REILLY: The perception in the United States is that this is a loser, that things are not going well for the United States. Is that the reality?

LT. GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, U.S. ARMY: No, I don't think so at all. There's a great deal of progress. And the mission's extraordinarily important, not only for the region, but really for the rest of the world.

And so, the idea that somehow it's being lost is -- has to be understood in the context of the stakes.

O'REILLY: But people aren't that dialed into the stakes. You know that, general. They hear what the media says.


O'REILLY: And the media says it's a loser.


O'REILLY: ...that you've got Iran intruding. You've got Al Qaeda, you've got Syria, and you've got 140,000 U.S. troops. And they can't control the country. And therefore, things aren't going to get better. And you say what?

DEMPSEY: Well, what I say is that the — Iraq as a country hasn't given up on itself. And we shouldn't give up on it.

I do understand the feeling that things are not going well here, but the reality is that there is -- there's a real pulse, not only at the national level, but also in the security forces.

O'REILLY: How can you ever hope to have a central government that has authority? Because look, you've got a guy like Sadr. And Sadr's going to do what he wants. He's got the guns to back himself up.

You got other guys running [operations supported] by Iran, being paid and trained by them. And then you got the Al Qaeda with the Sunnis and all of that.

Hey, you know, just because you're here, general, and just because 140,000 U.S. troops are here doing a great job doesn't mean these people are going to listen to reason.

DEMPSEY: Militias will go away in this country when the central government and its security forces are providing security to the satisfaction of the people. To get to that point, we've got to get after the extremists on both sides.

O'REILLY: Can you understand that after four years, most Americans are exhausted? They don't want to hear about Iraq. They don't care about the Sunni and Shi'ia. They just don't want American soldiers being killed?

DEMPSEY: Yes. I can only say in response to that that the exhaustion is understandable, but the mission is still extraordinarily important, not for Iraq, for the United States.

O'REILLY: Is Iran actively killing Americans here?

DEMPSEY: That's a question probably better posed to the operational commanders. Now it's...

O'REILLY: You talk to them, general.

DEMPSEY: I do all the time.

O'REILLY: Come on now.

DEMPSEY: And they believe that those that are fighting the fight on the ground believe that there are members of the Shi'ia militia who have been trained by Iranian agents, who are killing American soldiers. They believe that.

O'REILLY: Another perception is the police — the Iraqi police, you're training them as well -- are corrupt. Now, our military analysts at FOX News say that is true, based on personal experience. Are the police here generally speaking, corrupt?

DEMPSEY: The national level forces have been somewhat corrupted, in particular the national police. But we're right in the middle of a reform program that the new minister of interior has embarked on very aggressively to essentially "reblue" them.

And we're optimistic that that corruption, which was probably, you know, 20 or 25 percent of the force, is being weeded out. Local police are local police. I mean, they're drawn from the local neighborhoods and they respond...

O'REILLY: So you can't count on those people?

DEMPSEY: Well, you can count on them in the sense that they will exhibit local loyalties. But you know, to be fair to them, you know, they go home. I mean, their families are living in those neighborhoods...

O'REILLY: Yes, they go up against Al Qaeda, they get blown in the head.

DEMPSEY: Right. So the answer is to continue to develop — we can't give up on the local police. At some point, this country has to reach civil security, not military security.

O'REILLY: But we're talking four years now, this adventure here in Iraq.


O'REILLY: And you're telling me that, you know, you're still working hard, you're optimistic. And am I looking at another four or five years? How much sacrifice, blood, and treasure is America supposed to extend to this country?

DEMPSEY: We are here four years. But don't forget that we're in our fourth government. And so it's not as though we've had a, you know, an accrual of progress.

O'REILLY: I understand.


O'REILLY: But it's — you know, Iraq. And the Iraqis still haven't really stood up en masse and said we're with the United States, we want democracy.

DEMPSEY: Well, don't underestimate their contribution to themselves. As long as Iraq doesn't give up on itself, and the central government retains its coherence. It's messy, but it's coherent. Then my answer is we stay here until it's in our interest to leave.

O'REILLY: Thomas Friedman, the columnist for The New York Times said on the radio that the insurgents are defeating the U.S. military. Your reaction?

DEMPSEY: Well, my reaction is that the U.S. military has never been defeated on the battlefield at any time in this mission since I've been here. And I've been here almost the entire time.

O'REILLY: But 3,000 American dead, and you know, what, 15,000 wounded or something. You know, Americans are saying, not worth it.

DEMPSEY: It is absolutely worth it. Left unchecked, we would have been doing this in 2025 or so, but it would have been a far more horrific experience for all of us and I think far more casualties.

O'REILLY: Well, I wish you the best, General. You know, we're praying that the mission is successful.

Merry Christmas, general.

DEMPSEY: Same to you, sir.


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