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O'Reilly Factor: Col. David Hunt Changes His Tune, Sort Of

Reported by Marie Therese - October 22, 2005

Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, Tony Snow, sitting in for Bill O'Reilly, interviewed Col. David Hunt. The administration must be really worried about this incident. This is Hunt's second appearance in two days to discuss the same topic. His Factor appearance reinforced and in fact increased his disapproval of what transpired in the remote regions of Afghanistan

SNOW: The Pentagon has launched an investigation after an Australian television station aired this video on Wednesday.

VIDEO CLIPS shown of American soldiers walking around while two bodies burned. Unfortunately FOX News did not air the sound. Go to SBS Dateline to read a transcript. For some strange reason, SBS is not releasing the video, only the transcript.]

SNOW: It allegedly shows U. S. soldiers burning the corpses of two Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Then another group of soldiers, reportedly from the Army's Psy-Ops [Psychological Operations] unit taunted the militants over loudspeakers, trying to get them to come out and fight. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while condemning the alleged atrocities, is trying to reduce tensions. He fears a violent anti-American backlash. .... Colonel Hunt, number one, what do you know about the burnings? Were those actual bodies?"

HUNT: Yeah. The first reports which always got to be checked are: Yes, those were Taliban guys. The soldiers who burned them said their excuse was to - ah - because of disease, to burn 'em and then somebody came up with the idea to use it in psychological operations but those right now are gonna be considered real bodies. Yes.

SNOW: OK. And, to explain what happened, there had been an armed conflict the day before. One U. S. soldier died. One Afghan soldier died. Two Taliban fighters - two on each side so afterward you have these bodies lying out. They set 'em on fire and, if I got it correct, the psy-ops guys literally were saying to the Taliban: Don't be girlie men. Look what we're doin' to the bodies of your comrades. Correct?

HUNT: Yeah, they did. Of course, the Taliban didn't come out - they're not stupid. The issue here, quite frankly is - psychological operations are a good idea. You can tell people you're gonna burn a body. You can use a goat to burn and - bad smell. You can do a lot of things - lie to the enemy. You can do a lot of things but you can't do the desecration of the body. The reason, Tony, it's the humanity. It takes the humanity away from the soldier. The rules of [land mine ?] warfare and the code of conduct are to protect us, the soldier, from turning into an animal, from turning into a terrorist.

Killing is hard enough and its - in our country we do it with some rules and some ethics and some morals. It's still very, very difficult. It damages you for the rest of your life. But if you don't - you gotta hold back. If you start doing things like burning bodies, the next step is ears start - you start loppin' off ears, you're collecting body parts, you become inhumane. And this is where as a country we can't have that. It hurts the soldier. It hurts us.

SNOW: Now let's clarify. The U. S. Central Command has said quote "Under no circumstances does U. S. Central Command condone the desecration, abuse or inappropriate treatment ...

HUNT: Right.

SNOW: ... of enemy combatants." Also, to add that in Islam you cannot cremate a body. You have to dispose of bodies of friends and foes with traditional burial so this clearly is designed to do several things. Now, I gotta ask you. U. S. soldiers have to be aware of the issue of desecration. (Hunt shakes his head in agreement.) We had Abu Ghraib. We've had concerns about Guantanamo. What happens to somebody- and I don't want to be convictin' anybody here, but let's just assume ...


SNOW: ... hypothetically that something like this did happen.

[COMMENT: Notice how Snow still acts as though the desecration had not been proven yet, even though Hunt admitted the story was true!]

SNOW: What drives somebody to do that and, furthermore, what prevents leaders in the unit from saying: "No, you can't do that. Stop it, you idiots"?

HUNT: Yeah. And the backdrop of this, if you remember, is Fallujah in which we had U. S. contractors burned and hung from a bridge and so, sometimes people want to think it's OK. If they do it to us, we can do it to them. It can't be done. People in combat is a lot of stress. There's a lot of frustration. We already talked about people dying the day before on both sides and our guys get frustrated and without good leadership, tough leadership, stupid things, bad things like this can happen. Again, this is designed, these laws, to protect the humanity of us, the soldier, from not turning into animals. And when you start desecrating bodies, you're turning into the bad guy. We have to fight a guerilla on his terms, without becoming the guerilla. Very difficult to do.

[COMMENT: Lest we all forget, Colonel Hunt has not always been so rational. On August 23rd he appeared on the Factor and said that we should resurrect the Phoenix program as used in Vietnam and disband all militias in Iraq.

Thememoryhole.org describes the Phoenix Program in Vietnam as follows:

"Created by the CIA in Saigon in 1967, Phoenix was a program aimed at 'neutralizing' - through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture - the civilian infrastructure that supported the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. It was a terrifying 'final solution' that violated the Geneva Conventions and traditional American ideas of human morality."

What has caused Hunt to so radically alter his position? Does the Colonel know something we don't?]

HUNT: Most of the units - 99% of the soldiers - do not do this. They will be court-martialed. They'll lose their rank. They'll probably be thrown out of the service. (FOX showed clip of the Israeli and American flags being burned in undated footage) I doubt if they're gonna spend time in jail. And this is the backdrop - the backdrop we also had, if you remember, about the untrue story of us flushing Korans down the toilet and what - and how bad that got. So we have to keep this under - under control as best we can so our guys don't get hurt.

[COMMENT: Hunt is still claiming that the Newsweek story about the Koran precipitated a riot in Afghanistan despite the fact the the DoD and Gen. Richard Myers both absolved Newsweek of any responsibility for the disturbance.]

SNOW: Colonel, they were just showing pictures of protests in Afghanistan, burning American and Israeli flags.

HUNT: Yeah.

SNOW: Obviously, this is going to make things considerably more tense with the local population.

HUNT: Absolutely. And one of the ways you get around this and help it, not get around it - is, of course, as President Karzai talked, some senior military people from our side are gonna talk. There's a two-star general over there, who has come out in public. More talk in our embassies all throughout the world. The Muslim community has got to know we don't condone it and it's wrong and educate the people that we're not, this is not the normal American way of doing business, which it is not. The reason for that is so there isn't a backlash on the great things we have done up until this and so our guys don't get hurt because of it.

SNOW: And also so that our guys get something that is very, very important which is the cooperation of the locals.

I don't think the Colonel should be so quick to say that this and other instances are aberrations. Check out the Frontline show entitled "The Torture Question" at the PBS.org website for a different take on this question. The approval for these behaviors goes all the way to the top.]

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