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Lindsey Graham Discusses Need for More Troops in Iraq

Location: Washington DC

April 12, 2004 Monday

Transcript # 041205cb.260

SECTION: News; International

HEADLINE: Sen. Lindsey Graham Discusses Need for More Troops in Iraq

GUESTS: Lindsey Graham

BYLINE: Greta Van Susteren

VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, the president is planning to address the nation after a tough week in Iraq, a week in which approximately 70 coalition troops were killed in the bloodiest violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein a year ago. Joining us on the phone is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Welcome, Senator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hey, Greta, can you hear me?

VAN SUSTEREN: I can hear you very well, sir. Let me ask you about General Abizaid, he has now asked for-he wants two more combat brigades. He says he needs more help. Do we have enough help for these men and women on the ground in Iraq?

GRAHAM: Yes. We do have enough troops to meet his request, but I do believe we do not have enough people in uniform to meet the needs of all of our obligations, and I think you'll see an effort in the House and the Senate, hopefully with the administration, to increase our in-strength because we have more obligations than just Iraq. We need more people.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many more people do we need, in your personal opinion, how low is our number?

GRAHAM: Well, and it is just a personal opinion, you can't have 535 members of Congress running the Pentagon, but when you tell me that 40 percent of the people in Iraq will be from the Guard and reserves by the end of the year, I know we cannot sustain recruiting and retention having their deployments that are ongoing in nature in the Guard and reserves forever.

So Senator McCain says we need 10,000. I've heard up to 30,000. We need to professionally decide how many more we need, and admit we don't have enough people in uniform to meet all of our obligations of this nation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Graham, we've got a pretty brave lot over in Iraq. And many of them say that morale is good and many of them say that they have enough soldiers on the ground. But when I see the number of people being killed, I can't help but think that more boots on the ground, as unpleasant that thought is, would certainly make it safer for those who are there. Do you disagree or agree with me?

GRAHAM: Well, here's what I think the phenomenon we're facing. The military commanders I trust to tell us how many people they need. I don't want to micromanage the war in Iraq. But I do know from being on the Armed Services Committee, that we're over utilizing the Guard and reserves, and our commitments all over the world are taking a toll in terms of longer deployment.

So we need to address the overall picture of our military. Do we have enough people to accomplish the task? But the motivation level in Iraq is high, but if you're a family member, you live in fear of the phone ringing and this will take a toll. So rotating people through there in a rational way is a good policy, because it keeps spirits up. And you can't, you know, wear the people out.

So bottom line is, we're in a tough period. It's going to get better. And the U.N. is not going to save the day over there. The U.N. cannot do militarily what we're capable of doing. The U.N., if they were in charge tomorrow, the people who are attacking us, Greta, are killing Spanish people, Italian people, kidnapping Chinese people, Australian people, their goal is to drive out people so they can run Iraq with some Islamic fundamentalist state. They don't want the U.N. any more than they want us. So you're not going to be able to do a deal that way.

VAN SUSTEREN: How are you going to get-what's the-sort of the sales pitch to get people to enlist in the military to get our numbers up?

GRAHAM: Well, recruiting is pretty good right now. Here's the sales pitch. We're in a war and we need you now more than ever, because the war on terrorism, you're not fighting traditional armies or navies, but the people who are trying to drive us out of Iraq, if they had their way, they would dominate that region of the world. And they do not want to peacefully coexist with us.

So when Senator Kerry and others say we need to internationalize this, that's not the problem. They blew up the U.N. compound. They are attacking every nation that wants to help rebuild Iraq and make it a democracy. So my call to people who want to join the military is, we need you now more than ever because the war on terrorism should be fought over there, not here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Quick question, I have 30 seconds left, Senator. June 30 date for the hand-over, is that a firm date still in your mind?

GRAHAM: It has got to be. We've got to allow the Iraqi people to set their own course. We can't wait on the U.N. or anyone else. People need to start voting in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you a quick follow-up question. To whom are we giving the authority specifically?

GRAHAM: The Governing Council will be the first stage in the process, soon to be followed by a mandate from the electorate in Iraq. The people who are fighting us don't represent the Iraqi people, the thugs and murderers. We need voting to occur in Iraq. We need Iraqis to be making more decisions, not the U.N., not the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: And with that I thank you very much, Senator. Next time we'll get you on camera.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, what will President Bush say to Americans tomorrow night when he holds his first formal news conference of the year? Who will testify before the 9-11 Commission hearing tomorrow? And is this panel about politics or protecting us from terror?

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