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Bill O'Reilly admits Iraq a "diversion" from war on terror

Reported by Chrish - July 28, 2006 -

On The Factor last night 7/26/06, Bill O'Reilly had David Scheffer, a former US Ambassador and current professor of law at Northwestern University. After his anti-UN "Talking Points Memo", where he advances the neo-conservative view that "it is left to us, America, to take the lead against the Islamic fascists bent on creating havoc in the world," O'Reilly invited the Ambassador to point out where he (BOR) was going wrong.

O'Reilly was rude, interrupting and raising his voice to the very calm and polite professor. O'Reilly's indignation stems largely from his assertion that no-one knew about the 13,000 missiles that Hezbollah had ("Nobody knew the missiles were there; the Israelis were taken by surprise"), and he ridiculed the UN for not detecting the movement (from Syria, he asserts, with no proof) from their stationary positions. When Scheffer counters that it's not the UN's job to do intelligence like that, and the US intelligence agencies failed to detect it also, O'Reilly is temporarily taken aback. He says that we were distracted by 9/11 and the war in Iraq, and he's not happy with the US intelligence either, but wants the UN held responsible.

Here's an edited transcript (sorry no video available):

BOR Where am I going wrong?

DS The first misstep is when you talk about the UN not properly fighting the war on terror. In Lebanon they adopted resolutions that didn't call on themselves, the UN, to disarm the militia but rather called on the Lebanese government to disarm the militia. The UN has no authority and no power itself to disarm the militias - we have to look to other parties to do that.

BOR (overtalking) What were the 2,000 soldiers doing there? Why were there 2,000 soldiers in Lebanon?

DS The UNSC has never given them the mandate to disarm. What they're there for is in an observing capacity...

BOR (interrupts, sharply) Observe what?

DS ...to observe whether or not there are movements of troops and other munitions across that area; if Hezbollah moves towards the Lebanese border with Israel , or if Israel moves across that border into Lebanon, those are situations that are reported on by the force...

BOR (overtalking) OK, would you agree with me that they missed the movement of an estimated 13,000 missiles (scoffs), that Hezbollah somehow placed in southern Lebanon. (Scoffs again) The UN somehow missed that.

DS And so did everyone else including our own intelligence...

BOR (overtalking, waving hands, getting louder) But everyone else wasn't there. 2,000 UN were standin' there, and their job as you just described it , was to observe no misbehavior (sic). Somehow they missed 13 THOUsand, and we're not talking about an American state here, we're talking about a dessert region with a few roads and a few villages, and they missed it?

DS They didn't exactly miss it - their duty on the ground is not to be intelligence officers per se. They're in very fixed positions. They don't have the authority to move on every single road and in every capacity, (BOR is trying to interrupt again - "so you're telling me" - but DS doesn't let him this time), and Hezbollah doesn't permit them to do so.

BOR Hezbollah doesn't permit them - that's interesting. (He starts counting his points off on his fingers.) (1) Nobody lnew the missiles were there - the Israelis were taken by surprise. (2) You're telling me 2,000 UN soldiers missed it, then, (2 again) they don't have the authority to tell Hezbollah not to have the missiles. But do they have the authority to call me? (o my god, the ego.) To say Hey Bill, you should see what's goin' on here (DS laughs), or to call Kofi? Maybe Kofi shoulda been called, and then Kofi could tell everybody. Maybe that coulda happened, Mr. Ambassador. See, you're tryin' to put a happy face on an abject failure. You can say, yeah, we couldn't stop the Rwanda slaughter when you know the UN troops ran away. You yourself did a great job in the Balkans, knowing (jabbing finger) the UN couldn't stop the ethlic (sic) cleansing, yet you continue to put a happy face on it, sir, and I'm perplexed.

DS Remember UNIFIL has been there since 1978, one of the longest UN peacekeeping operations in the UN system, and their presence on the ground with, frankly, only 2,000 soldiers is not necessarily sufficient to undertake the kind of intelligence activities that in fact monitor all those types of activities.

BOR I find it stunning that 2,000 UN forces don't pick up an inkling of 13,000 missiles, long range, comin' in from Damascus. (Comment: Now since nobody saw these rockets moving, how can he say with certainty they came from Damascus? He can't.) I find that stunning. Maybe I'm naive.

DS Then you should also find it stunning that the US intelligence community did not determine that either.

BOR (Huffs) That's another situation. I think (stumbles a little) we've been so diverted, by the 9/11 and the war in Iraq, that we just weren't paying attention.

AHA! An admission that the war in Iraq is not the same as the war on terror and has in fact "diverted" us from watching terrorist movements of weapons, endangering our allies in the region and, ultimately, us.

BOR (continues, throwing up hands) But I'm not going to make any excuse for the US government. Our intelligence agencies....obviously have been troubled. (Uh-oh, troop morale just plummeted and the enemy is celebrating. /sarcasm) But you are making an excuse for the UN which I think is so impotent, there isn't enough Viagra in the world . These people aren't going to protect us, they don't know what's going on, and Annan is a schill. He's not helping in the war on terror. I'll give you the last word.

DS Kofi Annan as Secretary General has repeatedly condemned Hezbollah for the attacks on Israel and has called for the immediate cessation. It's logical for him as Secretary Geberal to want a cessation of hostilities because that's what most members of the UN want, including most of our allies...and he's also responding to the humanitarian tragedy there. He has to get some of that fighting under control or minimized so he can get the UN humanitarian relief in, so it's quite logical for him to be taking that position.

O'Reilly thanks and ends the interview.

It was known and documented that Hezbollah had these rockets. According to Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2006:

In May 2005, as international pressure increased for Hezbollah's disarmament,[1] the group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, announced, "They say [we have] 12,000 rockets ... I say more than 12,000 rockets."[2] It was the first time Nasrallah had ever publicly quantified Hezbollah's arsenal. The risk of escalation has increased in recent years as internal events in Lebanon become less predictable and as Iranian and Hezbollah activities and interests have come into greater conflict with U.S. and Israeli security concerns. A number of scenarios exist in which Hezbollah might order a missile strike against Israel.

If Israel was surprised it is not the fault of the UN.