Published January 25, 2017
This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, March 18, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Our next guest advises the president on the daily military operations in Iraq. And just moments ago, we had the chance to speak with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers (search ). First I asked General Myers if there's any new information from Pakistan.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: No, we're still trying to understand that situation. But it's indicative of what the Pakistani government has been doing lately, and that is they've been very cooperative and very effective in picking up al Qaeda in the urban areas. They've moved to areas that they have not operated in before, in the tribal areas. They've done that on several occasions now, and we'll just wait and see how this turns out.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any American military inside Pakistan helping them, or is that strictly the Pakistani military?
MYERS: No, the best we understand, it's strictly a Pakistani operation. Like I say, there's a lot we need to understand about it, as well, but there are no Americans that I know of that are helping.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do we typically coordinate with them and get information for them, or is this military sort of on their own -- "freelance" maybe is not the right word, but they're certainly not coordinating with us?
MYERS: In this case, no, we're not coordinating with them in this case. But we do have a lot of people that work our military-to-military relationship on a broader scale, in terms of training, equipping, and Pakistani officers coming here to school and that sort of thing, I mean, normal sort of relations, as we've tried to normalize them since this whole war on terrorism began.
VAN SUSTEREN: Obviously, it would be huge if Usama bin Laden's No. 2 were caught tonight, but what struck me as sort of interesting, to put it lightly, is that president Musharraf said in an interview on another network -- he said, We feel there may a high-value target, which doesn't necessarily mean that the target is there. It doesn't seem particularly certain to me. And so I wonder, how many times do we get it wrong in the media and get ourselves all whipped up?
MYERS: Well, I don't know. I don't keep track of that and the media has focused on this event. I was gone for most of the day, but when I got back this evening, it's all over the news, obviously. That's OK. I think it shows that the American people are interested in this war, and that's important. The outcome of this war on terrorism is important not only to the American people but everybody that loves peace and freedom. And so, you know, it's important to bring them the story, and I think they're portraying it fairly. I mean, they report what President Musharraf has said. We'll have to wait and see about the rest.
VAN SUSTEREN: But when you sit back and we go back to a year ago, when we invaded Iraq, and you sort of watch the news stories -- and obviously, you have a completely different vantage point. You have the inside story. As you look at our reporting -- not when we're using the embeds, but our reporting -- do we get it right most of the time, almost, sometimes...
MYERS: Oh, boy. You're putting me on the spot. I don't keep score, so I just can't tell you. What I can say, I think the process is important. I think the process of informing the American public, democratic publics, any public, is important. It's like everything else. Sometimes we're going to be right, sometimes we'll be wrong. That probably holds true for the media, as well. I think the one thing, you know, that needs to be kept in mind is perspective, and sometimes it seems like stories get too narrowly focused and forget the broader perspective, which is always important to kind of put things in context. Context often is missing, which is just something people need to think about.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's go back a year ago, a year ago, right before we invaded Iraq. When the president gave the word, where were you?
MYERS: When he gave the word?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how did you hear about that the president said this is a go?
MYERS: As you would expect, when I the commander-in-chief makes an important decision like that, to commit the men and women our armed forces and commit them to combat, it's a very serious matter. You would imagine that he would have around him his advisers, secretary of defense, his principal military advisers. He also met with all the Joint Chiefs. He also met with General Tommy Franks and his commanders to make sure we were ready to go, and so...
VAN SUSTEREN: Were you right there when he said this is a go?
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you think when you heard him say that?
MYERS: Well, you know, we'd been planning for some time. But things that cross your mind are, Gee, is this plan adequate to the task? What I would think about are chemical weapons or biological weapons likely to be used, really worried about that. How much fight are we going to get out of the Iraqi regular army divisions, Republican Guards, and so forth? What will it look like when we get to Baghdad? We've got a very long supply line, 7,000 or 8,000 miles from here to Kuwait, and then, you know, 300, 400, 500 miles into Iraq. So I worry about the logistics, things you'd hope, I guess, that we'd worry about, Joint Chiefs and myself. And so that's what I worried about. I did not worry about ultimately being successful. I knew we'd do it. What I worried about was the chem, the bio, the impact on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Back to our interview with General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I asked General Myers what surprised him most during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
MYERS: Gee, what surprised me most. I guess the tactics that we saw from the Iraqi armed forces, or the lack of tactics, and trying to figure out what is their strategic plan.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did they have one?
MYERS: It's not clear -- they sort of didn't have a good one. It's not clear that they had a strategic plan for defending their country, or for that matter, you know, defending the capital city. That's what I guess surprised me, is OK, why are they doing what they're doing? Is it out of some greater concept they have, or is it they're disorganized and they're not very efficient?
VAN SUSTEREN: Saddam used gas against the Kurds in the '80s. Did you fully expect that that would happen with our military, that we'd...
MYERS: We did. Yes. In fact, all the troops went in with their chemical and biological ensemble on. And you know, remember, it was in March, which is fairly warm over there, and this is gear that is hot. And we kept people in that gear all the way to Baghdad, so they could be prepared to don their mask and complete their ensemble and their gloves and their boots and they'd be ready to fight in that environment, as we train to do. And so we worried about it the whole time.
You know, remember -- and I think it was reported, we found, I think it was, oh, either 300 or 3,000, I can't remember, but a lot of chemicals protection suits were deployed them down south. And we thought, Aha. That's a good indication they're going to be handling this material and employing it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you work almost around the clock between the time the president gave the direction to go to war and well, until mid-April or when the statue went down?
MYERS: I'd say pretty close. But we all got to keep our efficiency up. And we have a lot of great folks working between myself, General Pete Pace, the vice chairman, the director of the Joint Staff, the rest of the service chiefs, General franks and his folks. We were always communicating, no matter what time of day or night it was. We had very good communications with the secretary and down to all the command levels and up to the commander-in-chief. We met at the White House very, very frequently on this. So yes, it was essentially around the clock.
VAN SUSTEREN: Between the time a couple weeks leading up to invading Iraq and, let's say, May 1, when major hostilities declared over, how often did you meet with the president?
MYERS: Boy, again, I'd have to go back and look at my notebooks, but...
VAN SUSTEREN: But just give me an estimate. I mean, was it a frequent interaction?
MYERS: Sure. You're talking about the Iraqi combat itself?
VAN SUSTEREN: Right.
MYERS: Yes. I'd say three or four times a week, maybe five times a week.
VAN SUSTEREN: After May 1 and major hostilities were declared over, at least it appears to me, we went to a wholly different type of war. Is that a fair assessment?
MYERS: Well, we went to, you know, yes, a different phase of the conflict, the stability and reconstruction phase, although we never changed our rules of engagement. In fact, they're still the same today as we had on the 19th, when we went across the Kuwait border the first time, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: Is this a harder war since May 1, do you think?
MYERS: Oh, in many respects, it is, of course, harder in a couple categories. One is, particularly now that it looks like it's the foreign fighter or the jihadist that's perpetrating a lot of these acts. In fact, they think the bomb yesterday, the car bomb that went off, might be that. That's at least their initial guess in theater. They'll have to wait and let all this play out.
People that are willing to commit suicide in that manner are very difficult to stop, so it gets harder and harder to do. Our men and women are working really hard, along with lots of other folks over there, to get the right intelligence, to work through all these pieces, so can we can get better and better. And we must continue to improve so we can provide a more secure situation. But -- but as long as they're willing to commit suicide, those events will happen. There are going to be challenges in this country for some time to come.
VAN SUSTEREN: I can understand how you train for the first part of the war until about May 1. What I can't understand is how do you train our soldiers for this second phase?
MYERS: Well, we've asked a lot of our men and women in the armed forces. They have responded magnificently. One example was a 21-year-old -- he's in the artillery. A 21-year-old enlisted person up in northern Iraq gets shot in the leg. I meet him in Walter Reed. He said, I didn't want them to take me out of the country because I was a rock star there. I said, What did you do? He says, Well, my job was helping the municipal government of Kirkuk get back on their feet and understand how to run a municipal government. And he said, And I'm an artilleryman, but I was making a big contribution there, and they always wanted to take pictures with me and all that sort of thing. He said, as soon as my leg heals, I'm going to go back there. He said, Where else can a 21-year-old have that kind of impact on a country?
Our folks are reasonably well trained for that. Our leadership is superb at that. The division commanders that led their divisions over there not only in combat but in the next phase, are commanding people like that 21-year-old I just talked about. That's not an isolated story. There are a lot of young people -- or men and women that are doing exactly the same thing.
VAN SUSTEREN: One final question. Obviously, money is always an issue with the military. Everything is very expensive. If you had an unlimited checkbook and could have one thing -- one check written, what would you do to fix -- or not "fix" is the word, but what's the one thing we could really use?
MYERS: Right now, we have a very good budget in front of the Congress. We have a supplemental that was passed last year to support our activities not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan and otherwise.
VAN SUSTEREN: But do you have a wish list? Is there something that you didn't ask for that you really wish you could get?
MYERS: Right now, in my view, we're not limited by the budget that we have to do the job. Between the Department of Defense -- and you have to include the Department of State here because they have portions of the budget that help do the sort -- like police training, for instance, and other things that -- where they're expert, that are contributing to security in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Nice to see you, General. Thank you very much for joining us.
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