updated 12/20/2004 2:04:15 PM ET 2004-12-20T19:04:15

Guest: Tommy Franks, Eric Simon, Cheri Jacobus, Christopher Hitchens

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  Tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, red state America declares the Christ back in Christmas.  Voters punish an Oklahoma school district for removing a nativity scene from an elementary school.  Should communities across the country follow Oklahoma’s example?

Then, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who helped liberate Iraq will show us the documentary footage he shot while fighting insurgents and terrorists.  You won’t want to miss behind-the-scenes footage and stories from the soldiers themselves. 

Then, from a pilot in the air to a general with boots on the ground.  Retired General Tommy Franks visits SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to tell us what is going right in the war on terror.  If you think the media are missing the good news out of Iraq, you belong in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

BUCHANAN:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I’m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe. 

Top story tonight, God in America.  A new study says from the Parents Television Council says there is three times as much of God on TV than there was just 10 years ago.  What are the networks trying to tell us?  We’ll break it down. 

But more on the fight to take Christ out of Christmas.  Now some of America’s values voters are using their electoral muscle against this hostility to Christianity.  A grade school in Mustang, Oklahoma, removed a nativity scene from the Christmas program.  It is ignited a prairie fire.  Mustang residents took their rage out at the ballot box, voting down two school funding bonds worth $11 million. 

Is this the way to combat the growing forces of militant secularism? 

Joining me now, “Vanity Fair”’s Christopher Hitchens, author of “Love, Poverty and War,” and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus. 

Christopher Hitchens, do you think they did a good thing out there in Oklahoma paying them back for taking that nativity scene out of the public grammar school? 

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, to the contrary.  It shows how petty and spiteful they are. 

They say, if we can’t have our religious symbols in a school, we’ll cut off funding for everyone’s education.  That should end the argument right there.  Who do these people think they are?  They may recently have thought they won, did win, a democratic election, but they don’t have a mandate to alter the Constitution or change the secular character of the country. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, you ought to read the Constitution.

HITCHENS:  And they show what kind of people they are.

BUCHANAN:  Well, do you think it was a good thing to take the nativity scene out of the public school when most of the children and parents wanted it there? 

HITCHENS:  Only two times I know of has anyone attempted to ban Christmas in any way.  One was the Puritans in New England and the other was the great Oliver Cromwell, in many ways, a fabulous person during the Puritan revolution in England.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Otherwise not, no, because these people may not know it, but they’re lucky to live in a country where all religious belief and all religious observance is protected. 

They have Christmas music in the men’s room of every public place, every station I’ve been into, every airport, every restaurant since Thanksgiving. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, what is the matter with that?  Private business.

HITCHENS:  It’s like living in a one-party state.  No, you can’t get

away from it.  It’s like living in North Korea for a month.  You can’t get

·         it’s all about the dear leader. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  They have homes to go to. 

BUCHANAN:  You came over from a very secularized, socialist country, Great Britain, where the country, it is predominantly Christian.

HITCHENS:  A country where the queen is the head of state is not—and the church—is not a secular country. 

BUCHANAN:  And the church.

HITCHENS:  Where the Church of England is by law established.  It’s one of the reason that I left. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You have a problem with the celebration of Christmas in many public and private places and companies and stores.  We understand that.  We’re going to get back to you.

HITCHENS:  Let them keep in their homes.  No public space, no public money.  If they can’t understand it, it’s they who live in the wrong country. 

BUCHANAN:  Cheri.

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  This is secularism on steroids, Pat.

I think it’s almost comical, if it weren’t so serious, the way some people are going overboard, in terms of saying, you have to keep religion out of the holidays.  You have to keep it out of the public, as if people are supposed to go into their basements and practice their religion in private.  Religion and Christmas and Christ and Christmas is a part of American life and it has been for several hundred years.  I think it will always be.  I think what we’re seeing now, not just since election...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Not in the schools.  Not in the schools. 

JACOBUS:  Why shouldn’t it be?

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Excuse me, ma’am.  You would have to go into a basement to escape Christmas music and Christmas decorations and Christmas themes.  You have to go into a basement to practice it.  But these people do have homes to go to and presumably families in which they can celebrate.

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS:  I think most Americans would say, then, if you feel the need to escape people’s practicing of religious freedom, then go into the basement. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Merely silly.

BUCHANAN:  Who are you, a British Trotskyite, former Trotskyite, I gather, to come over to what is a Christian country and tell American Christians what they can do in their schools and in their department stores? 

HITCHENS:  I don’t have to be here, Mr. Buchanan, if you’re going to be rude, OK?

BUCHANAN:  I’m not being rude.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I’m your guest.  You have no idea what my citizenship status is.  You have never before raised this question in many times of inviting me for free on to your show.  Will you keep a civil tongue in your head, please? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think it’s quite civil and...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Would you please do that?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, yes we’re doing that, Christopher.  I want to know upon what ground do you tell—do you say....

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  To tell the American people what they can do in their department stores, restaurants?

HITCHENS:  On this occasion, because you invited my view on separation of church and state, which is not an importation from Britain or a Marxist invention, but is established by the Constitution.

A revolution had to be fought to prevent people from imposing their religious opinions in the public square or using public money.  Now, is that clear or is it not?

BUCHANAN:  Did you know that when the Constitution was signed, nine states had their own official state churches?

HITCHENS:  Yes, I do know that.

BUCHANAN:  That the Constitution simply says there shall be no establishment of religion, but it allows the free exercise thereof? 

HITCHENS:  It doesn’t require public subsidy. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  If at a department store, let’s say they play Christmas carols over the loudspeaker and on the elevators and things like that, is that not the free exercise of religion, rather than the state imposition?

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Then please don’t be telling me that, under those circumstances, Christians are forced to take cover.  The question is a simple one.  Should public money or public spaces be forced to endorse or subsidize this? 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  And in the schools, no one who isn’t a Christian has to listen to this stuff, because they have to be there.  I don’t have to go to Union Station.

JACOBUS:  The thing is, Christianity, religion is a part of American life.  And as taxpaying citizens, I think we want the right, we deserve the right to practice our religion. 

And it’s not a matter of religious tolerance.  In this country, people go one step further.  We just don’t want religious tolerance.  We want religious accommodation.  And it’s not just Christianity.  We celebrate Jewish holidays.  I think that’s a great part of Americana.  And I think now there seems to be a move to take away this right from Americans that we’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years, and people are going to rebel against that and that’s a good thing. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you, what is wrong with—I agree with you on one point—everybody does—that no child who is not a Christian or does not want to sing Christian carols or attend a Christmas pageant should be required to do so.

But what is wrong if in a school, the carolers want to sing some Christmas carols on the last day before they go home for Christmas?  It’s all voluntary.  Nobody is mandated to stay there.  They want to celebrate their love and joy at the birth of Jesus Christ by singing these Christmas carols in a season that Americans love?  What’s wrong with that? 

HITCHENS:  They’re free to do it.  They can go house to house.  It’s fine by me. 

BUCHANAN:  They can’t do it in school? 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  No, no.

BUCHANAN:  They can’t do it in school? 

HITCHENS:  No.  I’m sorry, not in the schools.  The children have to be there. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let them go home.  Let the ones go home.

HITCHENS:  Let the carolers go house to house. 

Who is suggesting—what absurd self-pity is this that Christianity is not a motif from Thanksgiving to Boxing Day?  Everybody knows that it’s there.  There’s another freedom.  I think the lady said Christianity was a part of American life.  I don’t think we needed to come here to prove that.

Freedom from religion is also a fundamental right, the right to be secular, not to be bothered by it. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But who is imposing Christianity on anyone? 

HITCHENS:  Well, the other people—this is just the thin end of the wedge, notice.

There are people now in some of the so-called red states who won’t fill lawful prescriptions for birth control because they don’t feel it suits their religious opinion.  They are in the wrong profession. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Why are they in the wrong?

HITCHENS:  They shouldn’t be pharmacists.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, you mean they don’t have the freedom not to fill a prescription?  This is a free country, Christopher. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  A pharmacist—you go to the doctor.  He gives you—or she—a prescription.  You go to the pharmacist to get it filled, not to hear their religious views.

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS:  This is secularism gone way too far. 

BUCHANAN:  No, I disagree with you. 

Look—excuse me—but if somebody is at a counter and he’s selling you a prescription and he says we don’t fill those prescriptions and by the way I believe in Christ and I would like to—there is nothing wrong with that.  That’s the exercise, it seems to me, of freedom. 

JACOBUS:  Well, that’s what I just going to say, Pat.

HITCHENS:  That’s holding up the patient. 

JACOBUS:  Just a minute, Christopher.

Secularism in this country, it was accepted in the beginning and still is accepted in order to protect freedom of religion, not to protect people from religion, so that they can walk around in a vacuum from religion.  And I think the people that expect it to be that don’t understand America, don’t understand why we even have a degree of secularism in this country.

And I think it’s going to backfire.  I think it’s why we’re seeing these protests.  It could be a good thing, because now I think, instead of teenagers rebelling with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, they’ll be rebelling with religious—practicing religion in public places.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I can’t wait to see the joy of that. 

BUCHANAN:  Do you have a problem with Catholicism and with—I know you have a problem with Mother Teresa.  Do you not? 

HITCHENS:  No, I’m an atheist, Mr. Buchanan.  I think an anti-theist.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I think exercise of religion...

BUCHANAN:  You’re an anti-theist.

HITCHENS:  I think the influence of religion is and always has been very harmful.  We’re currently engaged in a war with a lot of vicious, faith-based terrorists, quite frankly.

BUCHANAN:  All right, do you think the influence of Jesus Christ was less beneficial than that of Leon Trotsky?  You were a Trotskyite at one time, were you not? 

HITCHENS:  That’s a very good question.  Have we got time for this? 

BUCHANAN:  I’ve got time. 

HITCHENS:  Good.

No, I think the influence of religion is wholly bad. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You think Trotsky was by and large a beneficial figure, as opposed to Christ? 

HITCHENS:  Mr. Trotsky, unlike the Catholic Church, managed to oppose both fascism, Stalinism and imperialism at one time and led a heroic life doing so.

BUCHANAN:  And he massacred the Kronstadt sailors.  And he was a

terrorist

HITCHENS:  No, he didn’t.  No, he didn’t.  He was not responsible for the Kronstadt massacre.

BUCHANAN:  He was a good man, basically? 

HITCHENS:  But the other thing about him is that we know who we’re arguing about.  We know he existed. 

BUCHANAN:  You don’t know Christ existed?

HITCHENS:  No.  There’s no proof of that at all.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Well, let me read you something you wrote back in 1992, endorsing Governor Jerry Brown for the Democratic nomination over Mr. Clinton.

This column—this is your column—“cannot stand idly by and tolerate Jerry Brown’s repeated encomiums for the woman calling herself Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She is a dangerous, sinister person who probably belongs in the caboose of the Pat Buchanan baggage train.”

HITCHENS:  I remember it well.

BUCHANAN:  “Jerry Brown currently suffers from the perception that he is somewhat rudderless.  Intellectually, he couldn’t make a better move than dropping the hell bat over the side.”

Now, you call Mother Teresa a ghoul in Calcutta, a hell bat and I believe a fascist as well? 

HITCHENS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  No, not a fascist, a friend of poverty, a friend of poverty, not a friend of the poor.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  A fraud and a fundamentalist fanatic. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Was Leon Trotsky a better man and a better influence than Mother Teresa? 

HITCHENS:  Beyond doubt.

BUCHANAN:  He was?

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Millions of people are poorer or sicker or have died because of Mother Teresa’s campaign against the empowerment of women in the Third World. 

She has gigantically increased the amount of poverty and misery in the world.  And she was on the take from the vilest elements of the rich, from the Duvalier family, in Haiti to the Keating (ph) Savings and Loan racket.  She was a terrible person and she believed that abortion was the greatest threat to world peace and contraception the moral equivalent of abortion. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS:  You know, the great thing about this country is that we protect his freedom to say this.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  No, no, you don’t.  I don’t have any permission from you to say that, nor do I require it.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  It’s not my privilege.  It’s my right, ma’am. 

JACOBUS:  It’s your right.  It’s your right. 

HITCHENS:  Thank you. 

JACOBUS:  You’re absolutely right.  It’s your right, just as it is the right of people who feel otherwise and people who believe that Jesus Christ was a savior or that he was a great man or whatever are people that practice—celebrate the Jewish holidays. 

They all have the freedom to celebrate and practice their religion. 

HITCHENS:  Indeed they do. 

JACOBUS:  And they don’t have to do it in their basement. 

HITCHENS:  Indeed they do.   

JACOBUS:  If they are taxpayers, they should have the right to practice it in their schools.  And when I was 5 years old...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  What about taxpayers who aren’t religious?  They have to subsidize that right.

JACOBUS:  Let me just—when I was 5 years old, in kindergarten, public school, and we celebrated obviously the Christian holidays—well, we celebrated Christmas and sang the Christmas songs, but we also learned the Hanukkah songs for the kids, too.  And nobody was offended.  Nobody grew up with green horns growing out of their head and it was fine.

And that’s more than religious tolerance.  That is religious accommodation.  We celebrate that in this country.  Nobody wants to go back to the basements to practice their religion. 

HITCHENS:  When was this period when Christians were hiding in basements?

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS:  Basements and caves and religious freedom...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I think this is probably what it is. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  This is a chance for well-fed, spoiled, self-pitying Christians to act like they’re in the catacombs because someone wants to insist that we don’t have anything but separation between church and public space in this country.

BUCHANAN:  You get the last word.

HITCHENS:  Now they think they’re being thrown to the lions.  It’s pathetic.

BUCHANAN:  You get the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Have a blessed Christmas. 

HITCHENS:  Have a cool—have a cool yule.  It’s a winter solstice. 

JACOBUS:  And happy Hanukkah.

HITCHENS:  It’s a winter solstice.  That’s all it’s ever been. 

BUCHANAN:  Christopher Hitchens, Cheri Jacobus, thank you for joining me.

Coming up, ever wonder what it’s like for our soldiers serving in Iraq?  Well, now you can get a pretty good idea because a Black Hawk helicopter pilot make a documentary of his combat there.  We’re going to show some you of that footage, talk to him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  A Black Hawk helicopter pilot who helped liberate Iraq has some stunning footage from that war and he’s here to share it with us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DESERT SKY”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was a guy by the name of David Yarber (ph).  And he had been in the first Gulf War and he was taking this footage.  And all of a sudden, you hear this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The rocket just goes overhead and this guy never cusses whatsoever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Nobody’s seen the war on terror like the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our next guest was an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  His new documentary, “Desert Sky,” is based on the footage he shot while serving in Iraq.  It’s a year in the life of the world’s largest air assault helicopter brigade, as told by the soldiers themselves. 

Captain Eric Simon, welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

CAPT. ERIC SIMON, “DESERT SKY”:  Thanks, Pat, for having me on. 

BUCHANAN:  Delighted to have you here at this season. 

Let me ask you, how did you happen to go about taking all this footage when you’re over there doing battle for your country? 

SIMON:  Well, the clip you just showed a couple seconds ago was actually taken by another guy.  About 85 percent of the other footage, I did take myself.

I took my video camera with me.  And my boss approved of it.  And I had the kind of access that some of the media people didn’t, being part of a unit, filmed a lot of what was going on, knew what I could and what I could not film, of course, due to security reasons, and knew that was going to make a documentary when we got back.

But, of course, things got a little bit more serious later no the deployment.  About November of last year is when we had our first aircraft shot down. 

BUCHANAN:  You lost an aircraft.

Let me ask you, you’re filming while you’re flying the Black Hawk helicopter? 

SIMON:  I have no footage of myself flying.  We have footage of the missions going on.

In fact, there’s very little of myself in it.  It’s about the troops in the brigade, the other guys in the unit.  I have more footage of really things that went on, on the ground, but behind the scenes of what was going on in the unit while we were over there,  very little of the mission footage, unfortunately, because there wasn’t as much available to me as I would like to have shown.

So I concentrated more on the human interest stories of what was going on, on the ground. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Let’s take a look at your film and a fellow soldier talk about how you were received in Iraq. 

SIMON:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DESERT SKY”) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They were pointing at the car in front of us and just gawking their heads.  I couldn’t figure out what it was.  And then finally I realized there was a blonde female soldier in the car in front of us.  And I think they had never seen something like that.  There was—one gentleman was walking along the street and he was watching so intently that he walked right into a pole.  I seen several people trip over themselves.  And they just—for that one soldier, they just kept watching her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  OK.

Let me ask you, how were you received by the people when you were doing this, doing the filming in Iraq itself? 

SIMON:  At the time, it changed from place to place where you went, depending on the cultural makeup of where you were in Iraq. 

Of course, in the north, with the Kurds, very receptive of us.  When we get down around Baghdad, the Sunni Shiite Muslims, it was mixed feelings.  Down the southern end of Iraq were the marsh Arabs in those areas, very secure area for us to be, very receptive.  So it depended on where you were at.

Up in Mosul, they were very receptive of us, very glad to have us.  We helped rebuild the university there, so I got to meet some of those people.  So, based on my personal experience, very well received, although I know some other soldiers who had some hard times with Iraqis who did not receive them as well. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  I guess, well, you are sort of describing the north, the south—the south being basically complacent and the north being very friendly, and the troubles of course in the famed Sunni Triangle. 

Let me ask you this.  Did you lose many of your buddies over there?  And how did the reaction of the American, the Black Hawk helicopter pilots and the folks you talked with on the ground, the rank-and-file soldiers—have their attitudes remained the same as this thing has gone from a successful triumph to suddenly a guerrilla war which increases in intensity and bloodiness and hostility? 

SIMON:  I’ll tell you, the majority of the soldiers that I know that are over there, we knew this was coming.  We knew it was going to grow into, like you said, guerrilla warfare against insurgencies.

During the war itself, actually, and after the war, during the rebuild of Iraq last year, we lost our first aircraft.  We lost a total of three.  One was a shoot-down on November 7, aircraft 431.  And then, a week later, we had a midair over Mosul of two more aircraft.  I knew one of the pilots on board the first aircraft that was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

And that was Captain Ben Smith.  He was a friend of mine I had worked with.  So, that’s where it really hit home for me.  We lost a total of 12 out of our brigade crew members and some mechanics that were on board one of the aircraft that were killed.  We had to mourn, but, at the same time, we had to carry on with our mission, so it was very hard to grieve in some respects.  And that’s why we had the memorial ceremonies. 

And even after we left in January of last year and February, we knew it was going to get rough.  We knew that, once the insurgencies were able to regroup, that it was going to be tough going.  And we also knew that Mosul was going to have problems once—we had 22,000 soldiers leave the Mosul area, the northern AO, or area of operation, of Iraq and replaced with only 8,000 of the Stryker brigade and other units.  It gives an environment where insurgencies can thrive a little bit more. 

And that was known.  And then we knew it was going to be a complicated matter, so...

BUCHANAN:  You said—Eric, you say you knew Mosul was going to be complicated.  And it certainly it is.  When we were retaking Fallujah, you had those terrorist insurgents hit Mosul.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  And the Iraqis, apparently, the ones we had trained, the cops, they took off.  And now there’s a lot of fighting going on there.

Did the American soldiers there on the ground, the Black Hawk fellows, did they think that when they went in that our leadership here, that we had anticipated enough how tough and hellish the fighting was going to become? 

SIMON:  The famous saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. 

It’s easy to say now, well, of course, we knew it was going to be that tough.  Your imagination can only take you so far before the operation begins.  I mean, hey, it took 10 years to rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II.  We knew that this is quite a different area as far as culture and all those respects.  We knew it was going to be tough, at least the people I was around.

How it goes from there on is always hard to say, but the group of people—I hung around the command people—I was involved with knew it would be tough, which is the reason they sent back in General Petraeus, who was my commanding general at the time we were in Iraq last year, because he had a very, very good grasp of what was going on, did a great job of rebuilding the northern area.  They decided to pull him back in to go back in and finish the job.  I shouldn’t say finish, because it’s going to take a lot longer than he’s in the job there. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  I understand that the returns from this film are going to go to help the families of the soldiers over there.  Is that correct, Eric? 

SIMON:  Yes.  Of the 12 crew members and soldiers from our brigade that were killed, there are several children who lost their fathers. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

SIMON:  It was all men that were killed from our brigade. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

SIMON:  And this will benefit a scholarship fund that we set up for the children of those soldiers we lost last year. 

BUCHANAN:  Excellent. 

Eric Simon, merry Christmas.  It was a pleasure having you on the show.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  Thank you, Pat.  Merry Christmas to you, too.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

To learn more about Eric’s documentary, “Desert Sky,” you can go to 159thFilm.com. 

Coming up next, my interview with retired General Tommy Franks.  He’ll tell us if the insurgents in Iraq are forcing us to fight the war on their terms. 

Don’t go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, I’m Sergeant Joe Abindano (ph) stationed here in Baghdad, Iraq. 

I want to say happy holidays to my family in Marietta, Georgia.  I love you all and I hope to see you soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Coming up, we’ll ask the soldier’s general, Tommy Franks, how our soldiers are doing in Iraq. 

But first, let’s get the latest MSNBC headlines from our News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

General Tommy Franks led the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq as head of U.S. Central Command.  Earlier this week, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, yet has found time in retirement to take up a new cause, which we’ll talk about later.  General Franks sat down with me to discuss the war in Iraq, the war on terror, and why he thinks America is despised in the Middle East.

I began by asking the general if the insurgency is forcing us to fight the Iraqis on their terms. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RET. GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER:  We are fighting the war with the Iraqis right now.

And to go to the former part of your question, Pat, I don’t use the term disbanded, because I don’t think it’s appropriate.  I think the Iraqis disbanded their own army.  They did that themselves.  But I have said and I will continue to say that I fault the bureaucracy, both our own and the international community, the international bureaucracy, in not having hired back this disbanded Iraqi army much more quickly than in fact we were able to do. 

We put essentially 250,000 angry young people on the street.  And I think we would have all been better served had we been able to get them hired back onto the Iraqi payroll very quickly and had them providing their for their own security. 

BUCHANAN:  Senator John McCain, General, says he—he told “Meet the Press”’ Tim Russert that he thinks we need now, because of the situation in Iraq, the increase in incidents of attacks on American and allied forces, 40,000 to 50,000 more American troops in Iraq. 

Do you agree with Senator McCain?  Do you believe we need more troops, far more, say, than the 12,000 who are going to be added up until the election? 

FRANKS:  Actually, I have a lot of respect for the senator and on many things I agree with Senator McCain.  On this particular issue, I don’t agree with him.  And here’s why.

When I served as the commander of Central Command, I was asked repeatedly by George W. Bush and by Don Rumsfeld, do you have what you need?  Do you have the number of troops you need and so forth?  And, in every case, I gave them a straight-up answer. 

Now, the reason I tell that you story, Pat, is because I have every suspicion that the president and Rumsfeld continue to ask my successor, John Abizaid, and our man on the ground in uniform, George Casey, continually, do you have what you need?  If George Casey or John Abizaid were to come up and say, well, I need 40,000 to 50,000 more people, then I would answer in the affirmative to your question.  I would say, yes, we need them.

But you know what?  Our commanders on the ground have not made a request for those forces.  And so I have to believe that they believe they have what they need there. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you a larger question then, General.  It’s something like 80 percent or 85 percent of the American Army ground forces have either been into Kuwait, they are there now, or they are on their way being rotated back in.

FRANKS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  And this is an insurgency in a medium-sized Arab country of 25 million and it’s got an enormous slice of the American Army and ground forces tied down there.

When you take a look at potential trouble spots, Iran or Syria or North Korea, do you believe American armed forces are large enough in terms of manpower to deal both with this war and the contingent conflicts we could be fighting in the next year or three years? 

FRANKS:  Pat, I think that’s the question.  I think you’ve asked an honest question.  And I will tell you, it’s a hard question. 

The first thing I would do is take a hard look to be sure that what you laid on the table initially is true, that 80 to 85 percent of those serving in America’s Army have served in Iraq.  The first thing I would do is verify that, because I’m not sure—being candid with you, I’m not sure that that’s correct. 

If I found out it was correct, then I would be inclined to say an increase in the size of the Army ought to be reviewed.  So that’s kind of where I am on the thing.  My belief is that, of the active forces we have in service today, a percentage of far, far less than 80 percent to 85 percent have served inside Iraq at all.  So that’s kind of where I am. 

If that’s true, then we ought to take a hard look at force sizing right now.  But I will tell you, I’m not convinced that that percentage is correct. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I was referring to those who had been there, those who are there now or those who are on the way.  And I’ve seen that number, 75, 80, 85 percent.  Maybe I’m wrong, General, but I appreciate your answer on that. 

Let me go to, again, a larger question here, and it’s one that was taken up at the time of 9/11.  When these people, evil as they were, came across the Atlantic Ocean, they committed suicide, driving airliners into the Pentagon, tried to hit our Capitol, and went into the World Trade Centers.

FRANKS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Committing suicide, killing 3,000 people, most all of them Americans. 

Why in your judgment is the United States government and President Bush seemingly so hated in that part of the world, the Arab world and the Islamic world?  We see polls, I’ve seen them, that show the president’s support in various countries in single digits, normally friendly countries.  Why do you believe we—the United States—and we consider ourselves a good country.  Why are we so seemingly widely despised in that region of the world? 

FRANKS:  Well, I will tell you, that’s tough.  And I think that any sort of sound bite I could give you, Pat, would probably be either incorrect or incomplete.

But let me wing it within a context like this.  I believe it has to do with activity and inactivity.  If you look at activity by the United States of America between about 1990 and leading up to 2001 on 9/11, you will find essentially inactivity with regard to ruffling feathers.  If you look at the world post-9/11/01, you find the United States has, as we all know, been very active in a global war on terrorism. 

Activity tends to destabilize the status quo.  When we find activity, especially activity that involves the use of military force, it’s very easy to look around the world and find a lot of people who will condemn that.  And so, while I don’t believe, Pat, that that is an absolutely all-encompassing answer, I do believe that it has to do with the fact that America is using armed forces in a hostile way and we hadn’t been doing that for a few years before that.

And I think that gives rise to a lot of complaints internationally. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, when you say—and we are indeed using American military power.  We overthrew the Taliban and removed them and we sought to build a democracy there.  And, of course, we overthrew Saddam Hussein.  You seem to be saying, General, that the very fact that the United States is going in there, in our minds, to liberate these people from tyrants and to end a serious threat to this country and the region, that, in the region, they do not believe that is our motive.

They do not trust that is our motive.  They do not think our motives are benign.  They obviously—if they hate us, they must believe our motives are malevolent; we’re not trying to liberate them.

Do you think that is a widespread perception in the Arab and Islamic world? 

FRANKS:  I think what you find when you look into the Arab world is, you find essentially two camps. 

You find a camp of well-educated people who in fact not only can watch Al-Jazeera, to use but one example, but they can also read.  And that group, as they read from the world press and have some appreciation of what America looks like on the street post-9/11/01, would not share that view, I actually believe.

Then I believe that you find a great many people in the Middle East who remain stirred up, if I can use that term.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FRANKS:  Because of the Palestinian intifada, the relationship between the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Middle East difficulties. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.   

FRANKS:  And that sort of stokes—that sort of stokes resentment.  When you couple that with military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, then those flames are further raised. 

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCHANAN:  More of my conversation with Tommy Franks after this short break. 

Don’t go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi.  This is captain Joseph Estrada (ph) from Baghdad, Iraq. 

I want to say seasons greetings to my wife, Wilma (ph), and my fantastic family, Jeremy (ph), Joalynn (ph), Weyoni (ph), Whitney (ph), Wesley (ph), all from Yorktown, Virginia. 

Happy holidays, guys.  I miss you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back. 

In my conversation with General Tommy Franks, I asked him if he felt the U.S. was treating the Palestinians fairly. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKS:  It would be difficult to say that our country has tilted too heavily toward Israel. 

Look, when you go back a long, long time, you find the rationale and the reasons why we in this country are very close friends of Israel.  And I believe it will remain that way.  So, I think the trick, the issue for us it is to work through how to remain the friend of Israel that we choose to be in this country and I believe will continue to choose to be and, at the same time, come to grips with the realities that the Palestinian people have a long way to go before they’re going to be stable, before they’re going to be satisfied, before they’re going to be in their own country. 

And so, the way I look at it, Pat, is not—is to avoid this notion of either/or.  What we need to do, and I’m hopeful we will do, is work very, very hard to bring the balance to the equation that will, in the end, serve both Israeli and Palestinian. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, General, you gave a rousing speech up at that Republican Convention, and was extraordinarily well received by the delegates.  I wanted to play you a very brief clip from it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKS:  The global war on terrorism will be a long fight.  But make no mistake about it.  We are going to fight the terrorists.  The question is, do we fight them over there or do we fight them here?  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  General, the case has been made or it’s been argued that the reason the terrorists were over here is because we are over there.  Bin Laden himself in his declaration of war gave three specific reasons why he declared war on the United States, his fatwa. 

One is, he believes, our one-sided support of the Israelis, who he says are persecuting the Palestinians.

FRANKS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  Our presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia.  At that time, we had thousands of troops there.  And what he says is our persecution and killing of one million Iraqis, which is ridiculous and outsized, but he said that we were going to attack them again. 

Now, this gets to the question of bin Laden.  I talked about that poll on the president.  Why is bin Laden, given the fact that he’s responsible for the massacre of 3,000 innocent people, why is he so admired in the Middle East? 

FRANKS:  That’s tough. 

What I have talked about on several occasions is the difference between Saddam Hussein on the one hand and Osama bin Laden on the other.  You know, Saddam Hussein was captured reasonably quickly after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, whereas Osama bin Laden sort of remains at large.  Where he is, we don’t know. 

So, the question is, why is that?  Well, you have Saddam Hussein on the one hand in a country where the people don’t like him very much.  And so one can rest with some degree of certainty that Hussein is going to fall pretty quickly. 

Now, Osama bin Laden, on the other hand, is revered by millions of households in the Middle East.  And so he has become and he remains a very hard target.  In the end, we’ll have him, but he will be a tough target because of perhaps ideology.  I’m not sure what all the rationale behind it is, but he is supported. 

BUCHANAN:  In the run-up to the war, the neoconservatives inside the administration, also outside in magazines and others, argued the case that this would be, in the famous term, a cakewalk, that the United States would be greeted with garlands of flowers in Baghdad, that democracy would quickly take root, and that it would spread throughout the region.  There would be a domino theory, a domino effect of democracy into Syria and all these other places, and this would demonstrate to the Palestinians that resistance was futile and they would sit down and make peace with the Israelis. 

Was the president of the United States misled to some degree by the neoconservatives? 

FRANKS:  I’ve told a lot of people, tongue in cheek, that I’m not precisely sure what the president thought from moment to moment, but my sense is that there was no misleading. 

I can tell you that, as we worked our way toward the operation in Iraq through many, many days and many, many nights, there was recognition that we didn’t know what we’d find when we got there.  If you look at a spectrum of possibilities, you say, when the regime of Saddam is gone, well, what are we going to be left with? 

Well, on the one end of that spectrum, that continuum, you can see peace breaks out all over, an Iraqis steps forward, and the flowers, the flower petals come out, and there is great happiness.  On the other end of that same continuum or spectrum, one sees civil war. 

Actually, you don’t know what you’re going to find when you get in there.  And my belief is that there was hope across this country, not just within this Republican administration, but hope across the country that we’d see the one end of that continuum or spectrum that I described.  And, in fact, we didn’t. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, one final question now. 

FRANKS:  Yes, sir.

BUCHANAN:  My hero, General Douglas MacArthur, said old soldiers never die.  They just fade away. 

FRANKS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  You haven’t faded away.  Your book is still on “The New York Times” best-seller list, where it drove my little book off, I think, after about two or three weeks.

FRANKS:  Pretty good book, though, your book, Pat.  Pretty good book.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Pretty good book, all right.

But, General, tell us what you are doing, now that you definitely are not fading away. 

FRANKS:  I don’t want to turn this into a math sort of an exercise, but I want to give you some numbers that I think are very sobering for our country.

Sixteen young teenagers are killed in automobile accidents every day in this country; 6,000 young people, teenagers, lose their lives in car crashes every year; 1,400 kids are injured every day; 500,000 young people are injured every year.  How many times have you been driving and looked on the back bumper of a big truck at a sticker that says, how am I driving, call 1-800 and so forth? 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FRANKS:  Well, since those stickers started appearing on trucks, I think we’ve seen a 50 percent to 60 percent reduction in truck accidents. 

And so I started thinking, what happens if we put a sticker on the back of a teenager’s car that says, how am I driving, and gives a number and so that people can call in and leave a message, and then the message goes to wherever the parents would like the message to go?  In some cases, I think the parents are going to say, call my kid and play back this warning that has just been submitted. 

I think, in some cases, parents are going to say, send me a copy of the complaint that’s been lodged against the driving of my teenager.  It seems to me that there may be a possibility to reduce teenage death on our highways.  And so I’m a big fan of this bumper sticker approach.  And the name of the outfit is called Teen Arrive Alive.  I’d encourage you and your viewers to look it up on the Web site. 

BUCHANAN:  It’s been a privilege and a pleasure talking to you, General.  And good luck.  Have a great Christmas.

FRANKS:  Always a pleasure. 

BUCHANAN:  And trust the book stays right up there. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKS:  Always a pleasure.  Have a good holiday. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, sir. 

FRANKS:  Thanks, Pat. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCHANAN:  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will return in just a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY has been highlighting media bias in the national and local news all through the year.  Monday night, we’re going to review the worst of the worst.  Don’t miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi.  I’m Specialist Kyle Flood (ph) from the 2nd 197th New Hampshire National Guard. 

I’m located in FOB Danger in Tikrit, Iraq. 

I just want to say happy holidays to my dad, my mom, my brother, Brad (ph), Allison (ph), the rest of my family and friends back home in Bartlett (ph), New Hampshire.  Happy holidays. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  During this holiday season and always, our prayers go out to our troops fighting for our freedom overseas and to their families missing them back home. 

If you’d like to do something to help, you can make a donation to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital right up the road here.  Just call 202-782-2071 or go to www.FisherHouse.org.

And thank you all for visiting SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY this evening. 

“HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” is up next. 

You have a great weekend.  We’ll see you Monday. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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