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Lt. Col. Ralph Peters: In Praise of Killing

Reported by Marie Therese - November 11, 2004 -

On Big Story with John Gibson (11/10/04, 5:05 to 5:08 PM EST) perennial military analyst, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, forcefully sang the praises of a high kill number. (He had earlier espoused the same principles on Tuesday night's O'Reilly Factor.) Here are some of the pearls of wisdom he shared with host John Gibson on the ongoing siege of Fallujah and the hunt for Zarqawi.

GIBSON: Let me ask you about what is the end of this? I mean, literally, I presume because this fighting is very tough and brutal and vicious, that there really is no other outcome except those insurgents "die" (his emphasis). Do we accept the surrenders? Do we believe them if they're going to lay down their arms? Or do they hafta all be killed?

PETERS: Well, the best outcome, frankly, is if they're all killed. But we obey the laws of war. If they at the last minute throw up their hands, before we can kill them, we will accept their surrender. But the prisoners, frankly, are a liability.

We'll obey the laws of war, but our troops are clearly out to kill.

And they are using effective targeting, just hammering these guys, and we shoot straight. And, so, when I look at - when I hear numbers above 500 already killed, that's good.

And it does sound - the rumors I'm hearing or back channels I'm hearing - are that the proportion of killed to prisoners is extraordinarily high and that is good news because, at the end of the day, this is about taking Fallujah away from the terrorists as a safe haven. But it's also, frankly, about killing terrorists.

You'll hear nonsense about "Oh, we can't kill our way out of a terrorist problem." You kill enough of the right people and you make the problem a lot smaller.

GIBSON: Colonel Peters, we are doing this to Fallujah because we think that was a terrorist nest and that's where Zarqawi was and now we've discovered these slaughterhouses where he was beheading hostages, where those awful tapes were made. What is the next Fallujah? If we've shut this down, is he on the loose or has he got another place to run, where he can run things?

PETERS: He may still be in Fallujah. He may be in Ramadi. He may be in a small village. He may have ducked across the border into Syria. One thing Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Hamas leaders all have in common is they send the poor young saps out to die, the deluded young people. But they duck out themselves. So we'll get him eventually, But the real mission for our troops was not to get Zarqawi. It was to take away this city-state of terror, this safe ground for the terrorists in Fallujah, and was to kill terrorists.

Now, taking Fallujah won't stop the war. The terrorists are still there. But in the Arab world and the greater Muslim world, Fallujah had become an important symbol. So they've not only lost the practical benefits of owning Fallujah, but they've been saying "Oh, we'll destroy the infidels, if they come to Fallujah. The US military will never set foot in the streets." Yeah, well look who's walking the streets now. And, so, practically and psychologically, practically and symbolically, this is already a huge win and we're not gonna stop until it's finished.

GIBSON: You know, we want this guy Zarqawi bad.

PETERS: Sure. You bet.

GIBSON: His pastime is cutting the heads off of Americans. Can we get him? Or is he one of those guys like bin Laden who's gonna slip off to a cave out of our reach? Is there any hope, really, you can get him?

PETERS: Yeah, there is hope. However, ya' gotta remember even in our own country it took decades to get the Unabomber. So, one individual or two individuals can hide in the great wild world, but what is working against Zarqawi now - Fallujah was so important - another reason was [that] now the initiative is with us, now the Iraqi people know we're serious and so, with that $25 million reward plus these beheadings are not Islamic - they're against Islam and many Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere know it - and so, I think, Zarqawi, by attacking civilians, by attacking recruits, by staging these crazy bombings, he's making a splash in the media and on al-Jazeera, certainly, but he's not gaining the support of the Iraqi people. He's not winning hearts and minds, so we can't put a time frame on when we'll get him, but we will!


Peters better pray to his Warrior Gods that there are no civilian casualties in Fallujah, especially children. His argument will crumble to dust at the first sight of a tiny body, wrapped in the swaddling of death and laid in a dusty grave,

In transcribing this, I kept flashing back to a tiny little moment caught and aired during a CNN special this past summer. Narrated by Candy Crowley, it was about the War in Iraq.

An American soldier at fairly close range shoots an Iraqi insurgent. The man falls on his face, obviously wounded and still moving. Without blinking an eye, the American finishes him off. Ka-pow! A clean one, in the back. Bang-bang! Another faceless human being gone. On to the next one.

What a fool I've been! I actually thought we might still be acting with honor, adhering to a code of behavior, even in war.

And, now, Colonel Peters announces it for all the world to hear.

Attention! Attention! The only good enemy is a dead enemy. The higher the body count, the more successful the war. Remember: It's cheaper to bury the bastards that to feed, clothe and shelter them.

Welcome to the "New World Order."