RAY SUAREZ: For more on what the Fallujah operation accomplished and what challenges still lie ahead, we get three views.
Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong was deputy commander of central command, the headquarters for U.S. Forces in Iraq from 2000 to 2003. He's now with Shaw Group, which has construction contracts in Iraq; he is the author of the book "Inside CENTCOM." Adm. Stansfield Turner was director of the CIA during the Carter administration. And Mark Levine is an assistant professor of Middle East history at the University of California at Irvine. He was in Fallujah this spring just before the first U.S.-led offensive to retake the city.
RAY SUAREZ: Gen. DeLong, you heard Gen. Sattler. He said the back of the insurgency has been broken. You've taken away the safe haven. Do you agree with that?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL DE LONG (Ret.): I agree that it was important that... it was important that what he did there was well done. But I agree that's the beginning. For... I've been over there six times the last four months.
People I talk to say that there's... this is almost a Sunni civil war with Al-Qaida helping them. There's Fallujah, there's Mosul, there's Ramadi, there's other places that are going to be places where the Sunni extremists are going to try to prevent the January election. So I think Fallujah was a great start, but there's other places that have to be tamed.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Levine, what do you think has been accomplished by this military action?
MARK LEVINE: Well, I would agree with the general. I think the most important thing that we see from my perspective is the fact that the Shia communities did not show the same solidarity with Fallujah as they did in April.
When I was there and the invasion was about to start and afterwards you could see a lot of Shia having sympathy, doing supply caravans. At this point, with this invasion, Sistani has said almost nothing. Even Muqtada al-Sadr has been very quiet, threatened to suspend his participation in the election, which is basically a meaningless statement this far in advance.
If the U.S. and the Allawi government can turn this, as the Gen. said, from an Arab/Iraqi revolt to a Sunni revolt, then that's a very big strategic victory for them.
RAY SUAREZ: And Adm. Turner, what do you think has been accomplished by the assault on Fallujah?
ADM. STANSFIELD TURNER (Ret.): Well, I think we have to ask ourselves who has the most staying power left. Is it we or is it the insurgents? And I'm worried that the insurgents are fanatics, the insurgents have supplies of people apparently almost endlessly coming from outside the country as well as in.
On the other hand, you and I and most Americans bleed almost everyday when we read of more casualties in Iraq for a war that I don't think we really understand or has been explained to us as having been fully necessary. So I'm worried as to whether we have the staying power to see this through or whether the insurgents will be able to hang on longer.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, do you have to look at this in both near term and longer term time frames? Right now, Fallujah is in ruins and it's virtually empty. If you start to bring back a civilian population, do you also have to, for instance, garrison the town, or keep forces on the ground there?
ADM. STANSFIELD TURNER (Ret.): I certainly think you will have to. It's a very difficult situation in which we have done something like a hundred million dollars worth of damage to Fallujah and we're not going to win this overall contest in Iraq until the Iraqi people believe they're going to be better off under our administration than they would be under the insurgents or anyone else.
And I don't think that coming back to a hundred million dollars worth of damage is going to endear those people to us.
RAY SUAREZ: Gen. DeLong, how do you figure out how many insurgents got out of the town and will be able to regroup elsewhere in the country and fight you?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL DE LONG (Ret.): I don't think you're going to know. I think some did get out just like some people come into the southern borders of the United States. But as I said earlier, there's probably four or five other places that we have to do the same thing and I think Gen. Sattler had it right.
The same thing that happened in Fallujah; first of all, they talked to the people of Fallujah before they did it. They knew they were coming in. They also... the decision that was made to go in was made by the interim government, by President Allawi.
So the Iraqis were part of this. They know they want elections in January or even later than January they've got to solve this radical Sunni issue which, once they do that, if they do that, they'll also get rid of the... Al-Qaida will have to get out - as the professor said.
RAY SUAREZ: But General, if you don't know if the insurgents have gotten out intact, are still a force that can oppose you elsewhere in the country, how do you do the cost benefit analysis to figure out whether this was worth doing now that you have a city of 300,000 that's in ruins, there's been loss of life on all sides.
How do you figure out whether what's been gained is worth what's been lost?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL DE LONG (Ret.): Well, the cost-benefit analysis is, in fact, what do you want at the end? What's the objective? The objective is to get the elections. To get the elections you had to clean up Fallujah.
This was a hotbed of not only insurgents but Al-Qaida. They've done that. They've done it with most of the Iraqi people as the professor said were behind this. This is mostly Sunni, mostly Al-Qaida. Is it going to take some time to clean up? Are we going to have to keep some forces behind? Will the Iraqi police be able to police Fallujah? All questions that have to be answered.
But if we want free elections and we want this country to be a national feel good about themselves, then we have to clean up these other hotbeds of Sunni radicalism -- my opinion.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, you heard what Gen. DeLong just said. Do you think the Fallujah operation has moved Iraq closer to being able to have credible national elections?
MARK LEVINE: Well, I think first of all I wouldn't suggest that most Iraqis were behind the cleanup of Fallujah.
I think what you really have is the majority of Iraqis -- and by this I mean the majority of Shia -- are totally abhorred by the occupation, do not trust the Allawi government at all, see it as incredibly corrupt, see the violence it has unleashed or okayed, authorized and the violence and the corruption within the administration as being little different than Saddam. These words were said to me by someone who until a couple of weeks ago was very senior within the Allawi administration.
However, it's really a question of, as Adm. Turner said, of violence against violence. And in this sense, you have Sunnis in Fallujah, most of whom according to the sources I've spoken to, got out.
If the Shia see that the attacks by Sunnis against government forces, which is largely against Shia policemen, Shia soldiers, if they are more appalled by that and lose any sense of solidarity with the Sunnis, then you could see some kind of elections, some kind of stability in the majority of the country.
The problem is, is what kind of stability and what kind of election will you have? If the goals of the Bush administration to come in were an Iraq that was peaceful, prosperous and free, even after these elections, you're not going to have an Iraq where the vast majority of people have any chance of any prosperity anytime soon.
There's going to be a continued insurgency for years, really, at some level. And democracy is the one thing that no one that I know thinks is going to happen, even if there is an election. So I don't see a win-win situation. What I do see is if enough violence is deployed by one of the two sides, as Adm. Turner said, someone is going to blink.
Either the American people or the Iraqis who've actually suffered upwards of 100,000 dead in the last year, which makes having an election, in the last year and a half, incredibly hard to hold.
Imagine if the American election that just happened, happened in the context of well over a million dead Americans, an occupying army and violence in most of the major cities on a daily basis. It's almost impossible for Americans to imagine having an election like that.
So in that context, there's no way Iraqis have... any Iraqi I know who's Arab has any love for the Americans or for Allawi and it's going to take a lot of money and a real change on the ground to have them have any faith in the future system that's going to happen after January.
RAY SUAREZ: We just heard the professor's brief on what makes elections difficult. But from the American point of view, are they absolutely necessary at the same time?
ADM. STANSFIELD TURNER (Ret.): Well, they are necessary if we're going to democratize Iraq. But that's a long-term project and I don't think we're really going to be ready for elections at the end of January and we're pushing it to do that.
If you were a Sunni in Iraq today, you'd be asking yourself "do I want to participate in these elections when it's almost certain that the Shias are going to win the elections and dominate the Sunnis?"
And you also have to ask yourself: Has this incursion into Fallujah really helped unite the Iraqi people behind what we're doing or has it worked the other way? Has it weakened Allawi, the interim prime minister because the Iraqis have seen him following the U.S. lead. They look on him more as a puppet of ours rather than an independent person.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me jump in right there, because I'm wondering then, after you say that, what the alternatives were. You had a sizable city where rebels against the government and the occupation operated with impunity, were able to organize and launch attacks elsewhere in the country.
Were there alternatives militarily to how the United States handled Fallujah over the last two weeks?
ADM. STANSFIELD TURNER (Ret.): Not a military alternative. It's a combined diplomatic and military alternative. It's one of containing a place like Fallujah by isolating it and then developing enough of the Iraqi military and police forces to let them go in and do it. But that means postponing the elections, which, of course, is something the Iraqi people very likely want.
So we've got a tradeoff here between postponing the elections or going in as we've done and doing $100 million worth of damage which is going to hurt us in the long run. I think we should have been more cautious and waited and postponed the elections enough to get security into the places like Fallujah.
RAY SUAREZ: Gen. DeLong, how do you respond to Adm. Turner's critique?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL DE LONG (Ret.): Well, I... I agree that the elections may not happen in the end of January. I agree that... with the professor that the Iraqis I've talked to, the Shia, don't like expatriate politicians, they want somebody who stayed the course, who was there during the Saddam administration.
But I also agree with the way the administration has gone with it so far, that you had to clean up Fallujah. The people I've talked to over there-- and I've been there a lot recently-- have told me that we needed to use force in Fallujah first and there's other places.
But I would also submit that this is a Sunni radical civil war right now. I think the United States, the U.N., and the coalition forces need to appeal to the moderate Sunnis and to get them to work with the Shia right now so we can have a coalition government with the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, very quickly before we go, are there going to be more Fallujahs?
MARK LEVINE: Well, I think there's going to be more Fallujahs, especially if the Shia see... many Shia I spoke to said this time with Fallujah it's good that they're suffering like this. Let them see how we've suffered under Saddam.
And if there's that little solidarity on the grassroots level, it's going to be very hard to get the kind of moderates together on all sides, and that's going to leave violence for Sunnis as the only option, especially if more and more people are pouring in. And that, sadly, is I think what's going to happen in the next few months.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, guests, thanks a lot.