Questions for FNC Military Analysts About Iraq

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 28, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, we asked you last night to e-mail us with specific questions about the Iraq situation.  Thousands of you did.  And we really appreciate all the correspondence.  It was great.  I really wish I could read more of the questions because many of them were very incisive.

With us now are FOX News military analysts, Lt. Colonel Bill Cowan in D.C., and just plain old Colonel David Hunt here in New York City.

All right, we're going to begin with you, even though, Lt. Cowan outranks you.  This comes from Donald Olmstead (ph) in Buford, South Carolina.  He asks: "Are our military leaders actually running the war, or are civilian politics interceding and overriding the military?"

COL. DAVID HUNT, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FNC MILITARY ANALYST:  Straight up, it's the way it's done in this country.  It's a civilian leadership.  In Baghdad it's the CPA, Bremer, back to the State Department, back to the White House.  The military runs your tactical fight, like in Fallujah, but their boss in Baghdad is a civilian.  It's Bremer.

O'REILLY:  So as we heard from Tony out in Fallujah, they're waiting for the order to go into Fallujah.  The order comes from Rumsfeld?

HUNT:  The tactical order, yes, but it gets -- Rumsfeld gets his order from the president, and it goes...

O'REILLY:   Even in a battle like Fallujah?

HUNT:  They stopped because the civilian leadership told them to stop.

O'REILLY:  All right.  So Bush has to tell Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld tells Bremer.

HUNT:  On this one he will.

O'REILLY:  And Bremer tells the command.

HUNT:  Two separate chains.  They wouldn't be quite that dogmatic, but Bremer is the boss in Iraq.   Absolutely.

O'REILLY:  OK.  All right.  Now, Colonel Cowan, do you see it that way as well?

LT. COL. BILL COWAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.) AND FNC MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, just a quick comment, Bill.  When they were actually conducting the war, that is, when we crossed the border from Kuwait and fought all the way to Baghdad, our military tactical guys on the ground were making each and every decision right up to the point that they advised the Pentagon and the White House that it was time to stop hostilities, that apparently resistance had completed.

But today, ground decisions on the fighting, how we're going to do the fighting, definitely the military guys, but whether or not we're going to engage some of these enemies being made by civilian leadership.

O'REILLY:   OK.  This is from Bob Will (ph) in Wilkesboro (ph), North Carolina.  If we went back and did it all over again, Colonel Cowan, what one thing would you do differently?

COWAN:  Oh, I'm sure all of my friends out there listening would agree with this, as will Colonel Hunt, Bill, and we've spoken about this, disbanding the Iraqi army was the biggest mistake we made.  We're now fighting a lot of those guys.  Pictures in Najaf of these fellows running around with AK-47's and V-40 rocket launchers, when we sent that army home, we told them we were going to take care of them, we told them to stand tall.  When we sent them home, we made a decision, a mistake that we're going to pay for for a long time.

O'REILLY:   All right.  Colonel Hunt, who made that mistake?

HUNT:  That was a civilian political decision, absolutely.

O'REILLY:   Rumsfeld make that mistake?

HUNT:  No, that's State Department, State Department call.  I think the...

O'REILLY:   Colin Powell made that decision?

HUNT:  Absolutely.

COWAN:  Well, Paul Bremer, I think is...

HUNT:  Well, yes, it's the State through Bremer.  I also think with Bill on that, I agree, but I think it's two parts.  I think the planning for the -- after we won the war was pretty bad.

COWAN:  Yes.

O'REILLY:   OK.  But that's a very good answer, I think, that the Iraqi army, if we had bought them, you know, hired them as mercenaries...

HUNT:  We didn't need to disband them.

O'REILLY:   ... we wouldn't have gone through this.  All right.  This is from Cathy Hargess (ph), Colonel HUNT, Annapolis, Maryland: "Are the translators that U.S.  Army and private citizens using over there dependable?"

HUNT:  It's hit and miss.  First of all, they're mostly civilians we hired on the ground.  We don't have enough people to have language qualification in the government, FBI, CIA, let alone the military.  The Marines and the Army guys that are surrounding Fallujah right now, many of the people are using local contractors, and it's hit or miss on the dependability.

O'REILLY:  So we can't really trust them?

HUNT:  No, we don't.  You get into some fights and spend time on the ground with your translator.  But up front, no.

O'REILLY:  How about, Colonel Cowan?

COWAN:  Yes, that's right.  No, I think Colonel Hunt is right.  What happens, Bill, is you develop a personal relationship with your interpreter.  My son came back last week.  They referred to their interpreters as "terps," and he said, yes, our terps, we became friends with the terps and you kind of develop a personal rapport with them, and that carries forward...

O'REILLY:  How about a person rapport saying that if you don't translate correctly, I shoot you in the head?

COWAN:  That works.

O'REILLY:  Would that work?

COWAN:  It ought to work, Bill.  If it doesn't, it ought to.

O'REILLY:  Because if it's my life on the line and I've got a translator that's not giving me the right jazz here, accidents do happen.

COWAN:  Yes, you learn quickly, Bill, when you have an interpreter, you learn quickly.

O'REILLY:  This is for you, Colonel Cowan, Doug Stanley from Addis (ph), Louisiana.: "What percentage of our current troop strength in Iraq is reservists and National Guard, do you know?"

COWAN:  Bill, I tried to get the answer out of the Pentagon today and wasn't able to.  Not that they're hiding it from anybody.


O'REILLY:  From my own experience, I was over there.  I was there in September.  I have to say I was astounded at the number of Guard and reserve people.  I talked to a lot of folks over there, the number of Guard and reserve that we have over there was an incredible number.  In fact, even some of our fighting forces, Marines, come out of the reserves.  A lot of our service support...

O'REILLY:  But they won't tell you how many.  Do you know?

COWAN:  No, no, they would have told me.  I just didn't get a chance to get an answer back from them, Bill.  But it's a lot.  The number is very big.

HUNT:  Yes, it's over 40 percent right now...

O'REILLY:  Over 40?

HUNT:  ... and it's going to 60 percent when they have this changeover.

O'REILLY:   OK.  Mary Parker (ph), who is a disabled Gulf War veteran living in Orlando, Florida asks what the Air Force is doing in Iraq.  She is a former Air Force person.

HUNT:  We love the boys in blue.  We got to love them.  They do a great support role right now.  They have everything from weather to some technical and tactical support.  Troop movement and they're there standing by.  We have got a good Air Force help.

O'REILLY:  But we could use airpower if we wanted to, but they don't want civilian casualties..

HUNT:  But not -- in combat built-up areas in the cities, you have precision fighting, snipers, you don't do carpet bombing...

O'REILLY:  Right, I understand, well, maybe on the border you could, Colonel Cowan, use the...

COWAN:  Well, Bill, I would say, first off, thanks to Carol for her service in the Gulf War.  I would say, Bill, the AC-130 aircraft, the most devastating weapon that we have right now in Fallujah, is an Air Force asset.  It's the most powerful weapon we have, Bill.  It's going to make a big difference in Fallujah.

O'REILLY:  This comes from Jadipe Denoa (ph) at Columbia University in New York City: "What I want to know is the training of the Iraqi troops, why is it taking so long, Colonel Cowan?

COWAN:  We got off to a very, very unacceptable slow start, Bill.  We're paying contractors.  In my opinion, they're in no rush to get the training done.  They get paid for as long as it takes to train them.  This goes back again to the question of letting the Iraqi army go.  We just waited way too long.

O'REILLY:  All right, so there's no accountability in training area.

COWAN:  We waited way too long.

O'REILLY:  Is that the story?

HUNT:  Yes, the 200,000 people -- we say to Iraqis -- the paramilitary force and police, fewer than 10,000 have been trained.  Bill is right, and that's...

O'REILLY:  In a year?

HUNT:  It's not -- and those are not well-done.  This is -- this was a big F on this one.

O'REILLY:   OK.  Last quick question from Brenda Pinet (ph), Coventry, Connecticut: "Why wasn't martial law declared right after Baghdad?"

HUNT:  Because they blew it.  For example, not only should they have had martial law, but we should have shot a couple of looters, we might have a lot better chance now...

O'REILLY:  Colonel Cowan, do you see it that way, real quick?

COWAN:  Yes, the biggest thing is we didn't have the ability to enforce martial law, Bill.  It's a great idea, but it we would have taken many, many more troops on our side to make sure if you had martial law that you could enforce it.  We couldn't do it.

O'REILLY:   OK.  All right.  Gentlemen, this is interesting.  I want to do this again.  I think we'll make this a regular feature as the war goes on because it was excellent questions, and we appreciated you guys coming on.

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