WASHINGTON D.C. — One year later, Saddam Hussein remains in captivity and is awaiting trial. But how far has the U.S. come on the road to a peaceful Iraq? General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of Operation Desert Storm, joined "Hardball with Chris Matthews" Monday. Below is a transcript of the interview.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, 'HARDBALL' HOST: General Schwarzkopf, are we on schedule in Iraq in winning this war?
GEN. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, RET, U.S. ARMY: I think in the final analysis, we are behind where we thought we would be at this time.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I think that we felt that once Saddam Hussein was captured and the two sons were killed, that the loyalists would sort of fold their tent and creep away, and we‘d get about the business of rebuilding downtown Baghdad and some of the other places. But just the opposite happened. Plus, we hadn‘t counted on it turning into jihad. And once it turned into jihad, you had all these foreign troops coming in from all over the place, the terrorists, and of course, they are the ones that are wreaking havoc these days.
MATTHEWS: Why did we not expect that the Iraqi people would resist occupation?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I think that there was, you know, from the very beginning of the campaign, there was an assumption that the Iraqi people were just waiting for us to get there. Remember at one point, somebody said they would be strewing flowers in our path as we came into Baghdad. That showed a total lack of understanding of the culture that we were dealing with.
On who is responsible for Iraq strategy
MATTHEWS: Who is responsible for that misinformation for our troops and for our strategy? Is it the Defense Department civilians?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. I think that you have to put the blame there to begin with, and they obviously they were driving the train as far as intelligence apparatus and the information we were getting and that sort of thing.
MATTHEWS: Those intellectuals, those ideologues in the Department of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, et cetera, et cetera, have they learned their lesson? Have they sent the message to the generals saying, "You know what, we had this all wrong, it‘s actually our country against their country, it‘s not just simply us against Saddam Hussein?"
SCHWARZKOPF: I‘ve got to tell you, my experience is, those people don‘t back down very much and take the blame themselves.
MATTHEWS: Now that we know that we‘re facing something of an insurgency, whether it‘s fueled by outside agitators or it‘s fueled by nationalism, or it‘s fueled by the old regime that simply wants to resist the takeover by the democratic forces of the Shia, who will probably win the election, how have we changed our strategy in terms of dealing with this unexpected resistance?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, initially, of course, when the invasion took place, it was a classic military operation, and was very easy to handle. But now that we‘re into the house-to-house fighting, fighting against an enemy that is very elusive, very, very hard to identify, and at the same time, you know, you‘re destroying families‘ homes and that sort of thing. So it‘s the toughest, as I‘ve said in the very beginning and I‘ve said over and over again, combat in cities is the toughest type of battle that you are going to fight. You‘re going to take a lot of casualties, and unfortunately you‘re going to see a lot of civilian casualties also. And when you couple that with the religious fanatics, then you‘ve really got a problem on your hands.
Strong words for Donald Rumsfeld
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about equipment and weaponry and armor. Back when you fought and won the Persian Gulf War in 1991, did you ever have a deficiency in your preparation in terms of equipment, armor, or weaponry?
SCHWARZKOPF: Initially when I told people what I needed, they said, "Oh, no, you don‘t need that much," and there was a lot of second-guessing. Finally, Colin Powell, I prevailed on Colin and Colin set the record straight as far as Washington, D.C. was concerned, and from that point forward I had everything that I needed to make sure that we had a great victory.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the service people‘s complaints last week to the, especially that one fellow from Tennessee, to the secretary of defense, saying that the military, the Marines and the Army, are denied the armor protection they need on those vehicles?
SCHWARZKOPF: The humvee was never considered an armored vehicle to begin with. So the system they‘ve come up with is a jerry-rigged system which really doesn‘t give you much protection when you‘re going against being blown from a bump, a mine on a side of a road, or something of that sort.
But they deserve every bit of protection that we can give them. Absolutely. And I was very, very disappointed—let me put it stronger, I was angry about the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the Army. I mean, as if he as the secretary of defense didn‘t have anything to do with the Army, if the Army was over there doing it themselves screwing up.
MATTHEWS: It‘s funny because you know, when you look at history, and you‘re an expert on military history, General, you look at the Germans and certainly the French before them under Napoleon, when they went into Russia, they had the wrong clothing, they didn‘t know they were going to be fighting a winter war. Here, it seems like the Americans‘ troops weren‘t aware what kind of a battle they were going to be fighting, and that was a problem not of the troops, but of the leadership, isn‘t it?
SCHWARZKOPF: I think in the initial battle, pretty well unfolded the way we considered it would be, and it was a classic military operation. It was only after the fact that things have gone awry. And I think we‘re there with a whole lot more equipment than we thought we‘d be there. That equipment is really—you know, people think of sand, they think of a beach here, but it‘s not that way. It‘s a very, very fine powder. And it gets into everything, and particularly into motors and aircraft, and that sort of thing. And it‘s very, very hard to put up with that just to begin with.
On troop morale
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about troop morale. Obviously you‘re a military man and your friendships are probably all kinds of networks that go through the military. What do you hear about morale? Let‘s go from the officer—officers on down, and up through the enlisted ranks. What‘s the mood of the men fighting and women fighting that war over there right now in Iraq? We lost eight more people last weekend.
SCHWARZKOPF: The mood is very professional among the regular Army, and the regular Air Force and the regular Navy. I mean, they have got a job to do, they know how to do the job, and they‘re in the process of executing that. They‘re taking casualties, and they never expected to do their job without casualties, but what they‘re trying to do is do their job and minimize the casualties at the same time. So it‘s strictly sort of a professionalism that they knew what they signed up for when they came in, and when they stuck around, they knew what to expect. And they‘re going to do their job and they‘re going to do it very, very well.
Of course, the other side of the soldier is the reservist. And that‘s a different story, because these are people who really are not adequately trained to go right into battle. The concept has always been that you would activate the reserves, and then those units that needed additional training would get that additional training before they were thrown into the battle.
MATTHEWS: What about the National Guard people and the reservists now? According to numbers we‘re looking at, they suffer about a third more KIAs than the regular Army. Is that a result of the fact they‘re not prepared, they‘re getting killed more frequently than the regular guys are?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I think there‘s a couple of things. Number one— I think it‘s kind of premature to start comparing numbers against numbers at this time, the casualty county, although it is there, it‘s extremely small compared to what it could be. So I think it‘s too early to make judgments along that way. On the other hand, I think that the concept has always been that they would train before they would go into battle, train as units, and that was expected to happen.
I think that it‘s sort of unfair to now be complaining about the fact that they are being thrown into the battlefield more so.
The other thing is you‘ve got to consider the type of missions that they have. You know, most of the transportation organizations over there are reserve component organizations, and they‘re the ones that are getting blown up along the side of the roads—they‘re facing a tough challenge that they haven‘t had to face before.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we‘re making proper use, or we‘re overusing or abusing the reservists in this war?
SCHWARZKOPF: Oh, I think we‘re making proper use. I don‘t think we‘re overloading them. I don‘t think we‘re abusing them, and I think you‘re going to—if you were over there, I‘d think you‘d find an awful lot of reserve component units who are very proud of what they‘re doing, and that, you know, that speaks well for them.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s great to have you on. Merry Christmas, General. Thank you for joining us.