January 27, 2005, 7:30 AM
JANE SHANNON: Good morning. It’s 7:31. I’m Jane Shannon along with Greg Hersholt. In Iraq today, a school that was supposed to serve as a polling center has been blown-up by insurgents in more pre-election violence that’s also left eleven Iraqis and one U.S. Marine dead. Joining us live now on the 710 KIRO News line now is retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey, now a consultant on national security and terrorism. General McCaffrey, the level of violence has gone up in Iraq, as expected. How dangerous do you expect it to be on Sunday?
GEN. McCAFFREY: Well, I think we’re in the beginning stages of a civil war in which the Sunni Muslim population, twenty percent of the country’s total, is trying to regain control of Iraq again, so it’s going to be tough. On the other hand, the elections are a very important weigh-station toward forming a more legitimate Iraqi government, so we’ve got to move ahead.
GREG HERSHOLT: How do you explain this to the American people? According to polls more and more people are getting skeptical about the outcome of this Iraqi thing. How do you explain to people, from a Military perspective, how this powerful force over there – the U.S. and the coalition – are almost still sitting ducks at the mercy of these little scatter-shot car bombings everyday?
GEN. McCAFFREY: Well, I’m not sure I’d characterize it as sitting ducks, nor scatter-shot car bombings. I think what we’re facing is a very well entrenched, well organized insurgency there may be as many as 80,000 armed fighters in this population of four or five million Sunni. In addition, there’s considerable antipathy among the majority Shiite population to a foreign infidel presence. Things have gone off-track. There were some misjudgments along the way so the real question of moving forward is: Can we get an Iraqi government in office in the coming couple of years that will be accountable to its own people and not represent a threat to the region? There’s no real reason why we can’t pull that off. But this is a very expensive, dangerous course we’ve embarked upon.
JANE SHANNON: General, how long do you think the U.S. is going to stay in Iraq?
GEN. McCAFFREY: The jury’s out. I think the Sunni Muslim insurgency thinks they can drive us out in the next couple of years, and again regain control of the country. And so the question is: Where is the political will of the American people? How much are we willing to endure to achieve our objectives? 12,000 killed, wounded, and injured so far, probably on the order of $5 billion a month. Many of us would argue it was worth doing, but not worth doing badly. Really, the jury’s out. If we achieve our purpose, I’d be astonished if we could pull this off in less than five years or so with a fairly substantial U.S. Military presence on the ground.
GREG HERSHOLT: General, we’re always happy to talk to you. Retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey is in Seattle today in his roll as Chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering consulting firm.