Transcript: Iraq Withdrawal Timetable?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 24, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Iraq front and center on Friday: A massive coordinated bombing near Fallujah takes six American lives, including three female Marines, first time that's happened in the war, this while President Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jaafari in the Oval Office and a day after his defense secretary was getting a grilling on Capitol Hill, a world increasingly on edge, as tensions run over short here and deaths seem to mount over there.

The president has already scheduled a prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday to deal with all of this. Is it going to do much good?

Here to flesh things out a little bit for us is Dan Burton, a congressman from Indiana, a Republican of some renown. You might have heard of him.

Congressman, good to have you.

REP. DAN BURTON, R-IND.: Thank you, Neil. How are you?

CAVUTO: What do you make of what he has to do Tuesday?

BURTON: Well, you know, war is not a popular thing, especially if it drags on for a while and if there's negative comments on television, as we were seen.

The fact of the matter is, though, we have taken the war to the enemy. Al-Jaafari, the prime minister over there, came in yesterday, talked to us in Congress on the Foreign Affairs Committee and has talked to the president. He's very happy with what we have contributed. He says, without our help, the war against terrorism would be going very poorly.

And he said this war against terrorism involves not only us, but them and the rest of the world. He says it's something that we have to win. And so, the American people need to know that World War I, World War II, all of the wars in which we have been involved in that were world wars required patience. We have to win this war. We cannot back down to the terrorists. If we do, it's going to be very costly.

CAVUTO: Now, the president was saying it would be just as costly to set up a timetable right now, that the terrorists or the insurgents would seize on that. Do you agree?

BURTON: Oh, I sure I do, because, if you tell the enemy when you're going to pull out, when you are going to withdraw, it gives them the green light to hold off and attack at strategic moments.

CAVUTO: But, Congressman, eventually, we are going to be pulling out. We don't know when, right? So, when that is announced, it's going to be that, right?

BURTON: Well, Neil, we have already reduced our troop force over there from 160,000 to 140,000. And as they build up their military, they're at 169,000 now, we will continue to reduce our force structure over there.

But we can't give them a timetable for the withdrawal. I think we're going to have an ancillary force over there supporting the Iraqi military for some time.

CAVUTO: What is some time?

BURTON: But it is in our national interest to do that

CAVUTO: What do you think is some time?

BURTON: I don't think we can give you a definite time.


BURTON: You know, in Korea, we have had troops there for a long, long time to make sure we maintain peace in that part of the world. We are going to have troops there for a while, but it is absolutely essential if we are to win this war against terror and to keep the battle in their backyard.

CAVUTO: You know, Congressman, you are an expert on these matters, but one of the sort of simplistic fears that I have is that, if and when we do pull out, leave even a nominal force, the Syrians, the Iranians and all this other outside interference that we've been seeing from this insurgent activity really begins to come to the fore. They just pour through the borders, increasingly porous borders, as it turns out.

BURTON: Yes. Neil, you're absolutely right.

CAVUTO: And then I worry about what we do. What do we do?

BURTON: Well, it's absolutely essential that we create a very viable Iraqi military during these next few years. And I think we're going to do that. We right on schedule right now as far as building up their military. They're at 169,000. They're carrying most of the load in the fight to the enemy now. We're backing them up.

And so, as they build up their force structure, we'll reduce it. And when we leave, when we do leave, hopefully, they will have a military that is capable of defending their borders and their country.

CAVUTO: Are you confident at this point that they do, or is it understood that they're a long way?

BURTON: I'm confident they're making giant strides forward. And al- Jaafari, when he was here yesterday and talked to us, said that they're making progress. They are working as hard as possible. They're trying to bring all parts of the country together. They have got 25 Sunnis that are helping draw up the new constitution. They're really working very hard to make this thing work, and I think they will.

CAVUTO: All right. Congressman Dan Burton, I want to thank you very much. Have a good weekend.

BURTON: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Congressman Burton joining us from Capitol Hill.

There has been a clarion push on Capitol Hill from at least 60 Democrats to say that a timetable should be arranged here to give us idea of when we start phasing our troops out of the area. Of course, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has been among those advocating it. She is from the state of Texas and joins us now from Washington.

Congresswoman, good to you have.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, D-TEXAS: It's a pleasure to be with you, Neil, and your viewers.

CAVUTO: All right, so, timetable. You just heard a fellow — well, maybe you didn't, because I know we were just getting you miked up — who says that's a bad idea. Why do you think it's a good idea?

LEE: You know, it's important to note that there's no loss of courage Americans, no loss of courage among our brave men and women in the United States military, particularly those in Iraq, but there is a loss of confidence.

And the Out of Iraq Caucus participates or is demanding Congress' standard role of investigation and inquiry and responsibility of providing to the American people facts.

What we simply say in the Out of Iraq Caucus is this, one, that we want to engage in a debate on the floor. We want the truth to be said to the American people. And we want a plan. We have not heard one iota of a plan from Secretary Rumsfeld or the president as it relates to extracting our troops at some time out of Iraq.

CAVUTO: Yes, but would you argue, Congresswoman, that might be a bad idea because it would encourage insurgents who might sit on their hands and say, all right, if they're going to leave, let's say, at Christmastime, that is when we pounce?

LEE: You notice, Neil, I did not say a date certain. I said as soon as possible and a plan. This administration has offered no plan.

CAVUTO: But doesn't a plan involve a timetable?

LEE: No. A plan suggests, what is your strategy?

Right now, though many will say that the Sunnis are included in the constitution writing, there's no proof of that. In fact, part of the insurgence is about Sunnis who believe that they're not included. So, we'd like to hear a strategy from the administration.

And when I say this, there are many different opinions in the caucus. So, I they don't speak for the caucus, per se. But I do believe 62 percent of the American people, more than half of the American people, who have lost confidence in the war, think we shouldn't have gone there in the first place, they deserve debate; they deserve answers.

And you know what? In the last 24 hours, with the number of bombings and the terrible loss of life of our young Marines in the last 24 hours, including women, I think the American people are due some kind of response from the administration. And whether the truth has been told, that's what I think is important.

CAVUTO: But, Congresswoman, do you think that you send a different message, though? I mean, if this sort of thinking had been around when we started World War I and things looked iffy for us, when we got going in World War II and things looked iffy for us, when we started the Civil War and things looked iffy for us, we would have pulled out, all of those cases.

LEE: Oh, I don't think it's a question of looking iffy. I think it's a question of what representations were made by the administration in going to war.

And, therefore, we knew why we were in the Civil War. I think most Americans did. We knew why we were in World War II. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor. We know the Korean War, to a certain extent.

But I don't think we have the facts here. It is imperative. For example, General Abizaid said, contrary to Secretary Rumsfeld, who said something totally different about the insurgents, we're almost finished, the general said, no, it is continuing. It is a threat. And we have to continue to work.

CAVUTO: Given that view, don't you think it is risky to start saying, all right, maybe get a timeline for a potential pullout, which...

LEE: Absolutely not.

What we need is truth and truth to the American people, so, that the thought processes can be around what the strategy will be. Let me tell you what an answer will be. We're not, as they say, abandoning and running. But what we have not done is included our allies in the Mideast. We have not had a summit with our Arab allies, our surrounding neighbor allies to encourage more coalition with those groups to be able to substitute, along with European allies, in Iraq for American soldiers.

There is a way to respond to the lack of confidence of the American people, and it's not being done at this point. The Out of Iraq Caucus will be part of that discussion.

CAVUTO: OK. I hear you. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you. Good seeing you.

LEE: Thank you for having me.

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