Candidates Clash Over Iraq Withdrawal Troop levels in Iraq are a major political issue in the 2008 presidential election. Both Democratic hopefuls say they will withdraw troops, while Republicans believe the U.S. should stay put. Two military experts with different points of view discuss the merits and logistics of staying in, or withdrawing from, the war zone.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

At the moment, the U.S. is withdrawing forces from Iraq as the so-called surge winds down. The last of the extra troops that went to Iraq are scheduled to be out in July. And U.S. commanders proposed what they call a pause before they decide what happens next.

At the same time, the war is a major issue in the presidential campaign. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say they would end the war as quickly as possible and bring the troops home. Republican John McCain believes the U.S. cannot afford to fail in Iraq and would keep U.S. troops in combat as long as necessary. Five years after the U.S.-led invasion - should we stay or should we go?

Later in the hour, what are the Democrats going to do about Florida and Michigan. But first, the military issues behind the debate over the weigh ahead in Iraq. If you'd like to know more about the risks and prospects of rapid withdrawal or staying on, give us a call. We'd especially like to hear from those of you who've been in Iraq. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

We begin with Douglas McGregor, a retired colonel and decorated combat veteran who served during the Gulf War. He's with us here in Studio 3A.

And, Col. MacGregor, thanks for coming in today.

Colonel DOUGLAS MacGREGOR (U.S. Army, Retired; Professor, U.S. Military Academy): Thanks for inviting me.

CONAN: So do we stay or do we go?

Col. MacGREGOR: I think we should announce our intention to completely withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible - something that was suggested, by the way, in the Baker-Hamilton Commission. And I don't think we can expect really any legitimate government to emerge in that country until it becomes clear that we're getting out. And I don't think you're going to see any effort inside the country to reach solutions until it's very clear that we are leaving. As long as we make it clear that we have no intention to leave, I fear we're reinforcing the division of the country and setting it up for worse violence than we've already seen.

CONAN: And I'm sure you've heard the arguments that you're setting up a very risky situation. There's still might not be reconciliation; you might leave chaos behind and al-Qaida might build a base in western Iraq.

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, I think we need to keep something in mind in a rather sort of perverse way. The Iranian government, our government and al-Qaida all seem to be enthusiastic about dividing Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines. If you go back to world opinion polls that were taken at the end of last year, more than 80 percent of the Arab population wants to hold the country together. And more than half of the Kurdish population suggested that they wanted to hold Iraq together.

So we have a majority of the population that wants to keep it together but they're not really represented by Mr. Maliki and his government. He's really a minority government. His party is a really separatist party. And Maliki, of course, is tied to Iran. And we are also sponsoring him and his forces. So you got about 20 percent of the population that seems to think that Iraq would be better off divided for all sorts of reasons.

And I think that we need to get out so this imbalance and attitude can be rectified in our absence. So I don't subscribe to the nightmare scenarios. I don't see any evidence for a large Iranian army mobilizing on the border with Iraq prepared to march in. They could not protect much power over their own borders either.

Certainly, nobody from Saudi Arabia or Jordan is planning on intervening. The only people in the region that have the power to do much are the Turks. And of course, their interests are limited to Kurdistan and what they perceived to be justifiably so a threat to their national security.

CONAN: Joining us now by phone from Cupertino, California is Barry McCaffrey, a retired general. He served in the United States Army for over 30 years and retired with four stars.

General McCaffrey, good of you to be with us today.

General BARRY McCAFFREY (U.S. Army, Retired): Good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And do we stay or do we go?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, I think Doug MacGregor had a very sophisticated grasp for this whole problem all along. And (unintelligible) I would not disagree with him on what he says.

Practically speaking, I think the next administration regardless of who wins will rapidly understand that we're going to come out with a preponderance of our forces in the first 36 months. It's $10 billion a month. It was running a thousand killed and wounded a month now. It's probably down to 120 or so. There's no political support for the war, so one way or the other, the Iraqis and the U.S., the political leadership understands we're actually coming out.

So the question is under what - with what end result? I think Doug's right. We're going to get a good feel for this sometime between July and January as we get down to 15 or probably even lower, 12 per gauge. We're at 21. We hit the peak of the surge. We're going to…

CONAN: And that's about 140,000 men, right?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, it's hard to say. You know, I'd rather talk about output of functions because I think what's going to happen is you're going to see a rapid transition to a smaller number of fighting forces and try and retain 20, 30, 40,000 people providing embedded trainers to the Iraqi Security Forces as well as a continuing air power, special operations, intelligence, logistics capability.

But I think the bottom line is, when it come to people on the ground, wandering around in large urban Arab populations, six million people in Baghdad, there's going to be a lot less soldiers there before this administration lays off. We're going to start getting a notion - can Iraqi police, the national police, the local police and the army hold this together, yes or no? I am mildly optimistic that they will do so.

But again, that's a snapshot. I just got back from Iraq in December, you know, this bringing General Dave Petraeus and our Ambassador Ryan Crocker who's enormously competent. There's a regional engagement that was lacking a year or so ago. We got Secretary Bob Gates and Dr. Rice now talking to the Iranians and Turks and Saudis, so I'd be cautiously optimistic but we're about to find out as the troop levels drop.

CONAN: Would you be surprised, Gen. McCaffrey, to see American forces in Iraq five years from now, 10 years from now?

Gen. McCAFFREY: No, I think if the Iraqis somehow craft a operative loose federal structure, which is where I think they're headed, and if the Iraqi Security Forces become a non-sectarian - I mean, a year and a half ago, the Iraqi police were a terrorist organization in uniform. So if they - and now we have this massive retraining, re-equipping, fired most of their leadership, so if they become an Iraqi national security force, I'd say we'll stay and that we might be there for a decade with modest troop levels, 20, 30, 40K.

But again it won't be counterinsurgency campaigns in Tikrit, Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, instead it's going to be different function. I think so. I think if it cooks off enough, if it turns desperately ugly, if we go toward all-out civil war, which was happening right after the Samarra bombing, we are right in the verge of all-out civil war. If that peaks up, I think, the reaction of the American people and the Congress will constrain our ability to stay regardless of who's in office.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. Our guests, Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Ret. Col. MacGregor.

The question, should we stay or should we go? 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And let's begin with Ben(ph). Ben's with us from Portland, Oregon.

BEN (Caller): Hi Neal. How are you doing?

CONAN: I'm well. Thank you.

BEN: I actually think that we should stay but my reason for we to stay is different than everyone else I've heard. I actually think we should stay because of the citizens in Iraq.

If I could, I'd like to share a personal story of why we're over there. The second time I went over there was right during the start of major conflict, and as we're moving towards Baghdad, my convoy was able to, you know, go (unintelligible) time without any insurgent fire. I was in the very last vehicle watching the very end of all of everyone moving and all the Iraqi citizens were waving at me, you know, trying to get some monetary assistance. They either wanted food or American money or something. I had one little girl, I think, she was about five or six wave at me with the scaredest look in her eyes. And while she couldn't see my face because I have goggles and a mask on, I waved at her with my non-weapon hand and she actually smiled just a little. And out of all my memories there, that's the one that sticks out the most in my mind. And I think just for that one little girl, I would go back and I would do anything possible to help her.

CONAN: I wonder how you respond to that, Col. MacGregor.

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, I think his depiction of the population with his hand out is pretty accurate. We flooded much of Iraq, particularly the Sunni areas, as soon as Petraeus arrived with hundreds of millions of dollars, which is one of the reasons we've seen some downturn on the Sunni side and the violence. Although I would argue that you still have substantial numbers of Iraqi Sunni insurgents who continue to refuse the money and continue to attack us, which is why we've seen our casualties in (unintelligible). We had 40 killed in January and a couple of hundred wounded. I don't know what the numbers are for February yet and, usually, don't know for a few days.

But I would say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And quite frankly, we can't fundamentally improve the lives of people in that country. You can make a good argument that since we arrived, things have gotten infinitely worst. Hundreds of thousands are being killed, wounded or incarcerated. Millions have been driven from their homes and now live in refugee camps outside the country.

I'm afraid the people who live in the country will ultimately decide its destiny, not us. So, I think prolonging our stay in that country is ultimately counterproductive. And I would go one step further in acknowledge what Gen. McCaffrey said, I don't think we can afford to stay much longer. We've spent a trillion dollars. We're spending now under Petraeus more than twice what we spent under Casey.

The numbers every month much have risen in terms of expense. We can't afford it and there is no support for it, so there's going to have to be some decision. Whether or not we can maintain any forces in the country is another issue. I would argue that ultimately that won't be possible. There is so much hostility and antipathy towards us with most of the Muslim Arabs who live in that country. It's going to be very hard for us to stay.

CONAN: So, you would be surprised to see residual American forces there?

Col. MacGREGOR: Over the long-term, absolutely.

CONAN: Yeah. Ben, I wonder how you respond to that.

BEN: You know, with all due respect, I honestly have to say I disagree with you. Are you saying that all the money we put in so far has been wasted? And that we shouldn't try and help anyone who's over there? Or are you saying that it's pretty much a lost cause?

I mean, personally, I think that we should do everything in our power. I will agree that, yeah, you know, there are some things that need to be fixed and some better solution needs to be found but to completely pull out and leave them to their own devices, I think, would be absolute chaos and be even the worst than what it is now.

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, that's your opinion. And there are many people (unintelligible). I don't. I think that if we leave, we are going to see things sort out quicker rather than longer. Much of the way, as things sorted out in Ireland when the British left and in many other places when the French left the Algeria and so forth. There will be a short period of time where there are some fighting. But ultimately, there will be a new status quo.

The other point is that the notion that we could go into Iraq and within a space of a few years at gunpoint established an Anglo-Saxon democracy was always a very fundamentally flawed objective. That's something we should never have undertaken. We have no right to undertake it and we need to put an end to it. It's had a morally corrupting influence and it has killed, wounded or incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people that never were our enemies.

CONAN: Ben, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

BEN: Thank you, Neal.

Gen. McCAFFREY: Neal, I wonder if I might add a point.

CONAN: I'm afraid, Gen. McCaffrey, we can but right after the break if you'll just hold on, please

Gen. McCAFFREY: Okay.

CONAN: So, stay with us. General McCaffrey will be with us to talk about Ben's point and we'll take more of your calls, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

The war in Iraq is about to enter its sixth year. And the question that many people debate the most is, should we stay or should we go? What happens if we stay? What happens if we leave?

We're talking through some of the options with Ret. Col. Douglas MacGregor as well as Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey. Of course, we want you participate in the conversation as well.

If the election had happened yesterday and you were to ask to advice on what to do by the president elect, what factors would you consider as you made the decision? 800-989-8255. E-mail talk@npr.org. E-mail us talk@npr.org and our blog is at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Before we get to that. So, General McCaffrey, you wanted to make a point about Ben's call at the end of the last segment.

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, I just wanted to flag something. And I tell people who'd widely missed inside the Beltway among the political and media leadership is the incredible character and capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces that are fighting these conflicts, and Ben is certainly exemplifies it.

You know, it's 34,000 killed and wounded. I just had a seminar in Baghdad with 39 Army battalion commanders. And you'll listened to these guys, their professionalism, their raw courage, their ability to try and create a new operative political reality on the ground to jumpstart economics is simply phenomenal.

They have been, you know, and you can see the difference. It's like night and day since Petraeus turn around the strategy and got us back into small-unit counterinsurgency operations. They actually have made a difference. But I would, at the same time, take note of Doug MacGregor's arguments that in the long run, it's going to be an Iraqi solution. It's probably healthy, they think, were leaving, which were going to do largely in the coming couple or three years.

CONAN: Let's go to Roger. Roger's with us from San Francisco.

ROGER (Caller): Yes, thank you. You know, physically, how long do you feel it will take to remove our tanks, our artillery, our heavy armor? But this - I'd like to emphasize this. This war from the very beginning was a dreamt-up war. There was no real justification for it.

Now, of course, we should get out. And what we've lost diplomatically all over the world - I don't know if we can recover from it. But I appreciate the - your guest. I've spoken to Gen. McCaffrey before. He's a very fine man. And the colonel, he seems to be right on target.

So I would like to know if we wanted to pull out today, how long will it take us to get our people out of there and our equipment out of there?

CONAN: Gen. McCaffrey, do you have any ideas?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, I mean, you know, pick a scenario you want to sign up for, in 90 days we could, you know, withdraw and blow in place remaining residual supplies. In a year, we could come out pretty logically. I'm not actually sure if that that's the challenge. In January, I was at the Jeddah Economic Forum and, you know, 2,600 people, 160 nations. The Saudis certainly (unintelligible) of Sunni Arab thinking, their general notion is, wait, you people entered Iraq uninvited, don't leave the same ways. So I think there's a widespread belief on the part of, certainly, Jordanians, Egyptians, Saudis, the Gulf Coast states. You people better not pull out. Leave the Persian Empire on our northern frontier and leave the place in chaos. So the downside is still considerable and it's something that the next president has got to take into account.

CONAN: And, Col. MacGregor, what do you think?

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, again, I think the most important thing is to make the decision to leave. And this is a good time for it, frankly. It's not going to happen this year. But it would be good because of the current conditions that are not perfect. But we have flooded the place with cash and people are not shooting at us in great numbers. Moqtada al-Sadr is keeping us powder dry for the moment. So I think it's a good time to get out.

The bad news is that if you were to ask the Iraqi parliament, what do you want to do? They would vote overwhelmingly to get us out of the country. It is Maliki and his minority supporters that are trying desperately to keep us in the country because they're the ones that (unintelligible) the profit from it.

So I think we need to keep in mind that that parliament, let it vote. It will vote to get us out. There's no question about that. I think the Arabs are ready for us to leave. Do the Arabs want things from us? Absolutely. We're a co-belligerent in the struggle for power. People will exploit us for cash, for influence, for assistance to try and position themselves. But ultimately, they want us out. And we just need to make that decision.

Once that's made, you can set up a timetable, whatever it is - 18, 24 months, something like that, so that you're not doing us the kinds of things that we describe. You don't have to destroy large quantities of equipment and you can withdraw with some measure of dignity.

CONAN: Roger, thanks very much for the call.

ROGER: Thank you for the opportunity.

CONAN: And let's turn now to Kathleen(ph). Kathleen with us from Athens, Ohio.

KATHLEEN (Caller): Yeah, hi. I wanted to thank Col. MacGregor and Gen. McCaffrey for bringing up the deaths of the Iraqi people and the millions of Iraqi refugees that I think many Americans don't really want to think about quite honestly.

But I wanted to ask, whatever happened to that regional meeting that was recommended by the Baker-Hamilton study group and would that help? And then I also wanted to mention, I have a dear friend who - Peggy Gish(ph) - from the Christian Peacemaker Team who was in Iraq before the invasion and has been accumulatively for four years with the Iraqi people - living with Iraqi people and interacting. And she has reported over and over again that the Iraqi people want us gone. And, Neal, she would be a great guest on your program. She comes back real soon.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the suggestion, Kathleen.

But we heard Gen. McCaffrey say the surrounding states need to be, you know, you came in there uninvited, to leave uninvited, would you agree with that, Colo. MacGregor?

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, no, not necessarily. I think, first of all, there's no point holding a regional conference until you make the decision to leave. Until you do that, no one's going to pay much attention to any conference that you convene. Secondly, I think we need to look to the people inside the country for solutions, not outside of the country.

Iran exerts a negative influence in the minds of many, many Arabs, including millions of Shiites. After all, Moqtada al-Sadr is not pro-Iranian per se. He's an Arab nationalist, which is one of the reasons he wanted these provincial elections because he would have swept all the provinces full of Shiites, leaving Maliki and his sponsors and Hakim and others tied with Tehran out of a job.

So, I think we need to be careful about assuming that a regional conference is going to help us until we make the decision to leave.

KATHLEEN: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: Kathleen?

KATHLEEN: Thanks.

CONAN: Thank you.

Let's go now to - this is Carol(ph). Carol's with us from Jefferson, Iowa.

CAROL (Caller): Yes, sir. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

CAROL: Yeah. I'm a mother. We're on our fifth tour of a kid (unintelligible) now. I have a son in Iraq right now. And all of the operations are labeled covert. And so, they aren't reported on. My husband is a pastor. And for the third time, he's been asked to leave his church because he prays for soldiers every week and people are tired of hearing about the war. And while we can't give specific information about, you know, what happens to our children, you know, they're in battle all the time, and I mean, it's - that part is hard enough to live with. But to have my husband's job be threatened, and the toll that this has taken on families is just so horrendous.

CONAN: After all those sacrifices, Carol, do you think it's time to get out?

CAROL: Well, I'm not really allowed to say that.

CONAN: You are right here right now.

CAROL: Yes. I don't think we should have gone ever, but we don't say that. We just pray for the troops, and people are tired of that.

CONAN: Hmm.

CAROL: And because it's so underreported and it's on the 12th page of the newspaper, nobody even understands the sacrifices.

CONAN: Gen. McCaffrey, let me ask you. As you're hearing from Carol, and I think you would hear from other people, yes, there's fatigue with the war. There's - in terms of a political support, I think the latest Pew survey I saw that reflecting, I think, the results of the surge. People said, well, a majority of Americans said Americans should stay rather than leave precipitously. But nevertheless, the political support for the war is fragile at best.

Col. MacGREGOR: Yeah. Well, my heart goes out to Carol. You know, my son's in a (unintelligible) Brigade in Afghanistan in combat right now. And certainly, that division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I was just down there last week. I mean, they've absorbed huge numbers of casualties over the last several years. And there's no two ways about it. This has been - an under-resourced too tiny army. The smallest active duty force since 1939, in which this dreadful Mr. Rumsfeld ended up putting us in a situation where there was a disconnect between the resources, both the administration and Congress provided the Armed Forces and a strategy they elected to pursue, which is simply outrageous.

Now, having said that, I think, though, comments in order with Carol - when you look at polling day, which admittedly can be interpreted in different ways, the most respected institution in American society, bar none, is the U.S. Armed Forces. And I might add it's not a good news survey because the presidency is in the dumps, the reputation of Congress and the media and others. But the country has not walked away from their soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard, they're absolutely supportive above them. And these kids in uniform around the country are treated with tremendous respect and deference, and their families are supported.

However, there's no question that it's a tiny fraction of the population sustaining the burdens of this war. And you know, I think the country has rejected it. I would agree they think it was a mistake to go in there. They think it was badly executed. Now they're listening up for political leadership which we're not going to get out of this president, but the next administrations going to have to end up with a strategy that sounds like it will work and is supported by the American people.

CONAN: Carol, how long before your son's scheduled to come out?

CAROL: July. He's been told he can be re-deployed in November. And another son and another son-in-law can be redeployed then too.

CONAN: So you're looking at this as a never-ending story if American forces are going to be in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

CAROL: Yes, sir.

CONAN: And given the reaction that you're reporting in your community, do people recoil at the sight of a uniform? It's hard to believe.

CAROL: One of my sons is transferring post and has come home to do recruiting duty just two weeks ago and yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. And in fact, he cannot even talk to students, you know, for recruiting duty.

CONAN: Yeah, that context, I could understand. There are a lot of high emotion running. Yeah.

CAROL: But, you know, and it varies from community to community. I also do funerals for veterans and yes, that's getting stranger too.

CONAN: Carol, thank you very much for the call. We wish your sons and your son-in-law the best of luck.

CAROL: Thank you, sir.

CONAN: Appreciate it.

CAROL: Bye.

CONAN: We're talking with Ret. Col. Douglas MacGregor about - and with Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey about a central question. It's going to be presented throughout the presidential campaign. In Iraq, should we leave or should we go? 800-989-8255, if you'd like to join us. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

And this is TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And here's an e-mail from Bobby(ph) in St. Louis.

After spending an enormous amount of money in Iraq, why wouldn't we establish a permanent base there as we have in Germany, Korea, Guantanamo Bay, et cetera, don't we need a permanent base in the Middle East? Why not in Iraq?

Col. MacGregor?

Col. MacGREGOR: Well, we need to keep it in mind that we stayed in Germany and Japan at the end of the Second World War, not because we love Germans and Japanese but because there were 15 million Soviet troops poised to overrun the rest of Europe if we did not do that. We arrived actually quite late in Germany in the war. The Russians now admit to the loss of 40 million. So had we not gotten there when we did, that little bit of Germany wouldn't have survived at all.

We have a similar situation in Japan - the floodgates open - Manchuria, Korea were flooded with the Soviets; we simply had no choice, we had to stay. And then we went about assisting the populations that were there, rebuilding their respective countries. But those populations did the rebuilding - we did not. And that's something that's not widely appreciated and understood, and that has to do with culture and a lot of other things.

We're not faced with those circumstances in Iraq. They don't exist. We're not protecting Iraq from imminent invasion by multiple armies. I mean, I hear these things about Islamo-fascist forces. This is very misleading stuff. There simply no armies interested in going in. The one army that's capable of doing it is the Turkish army. Their interests are limited to Kurdistan. They're concerned about a Kurdish state that is going to bankroll and support terrorism against them. That's it.

I have confidence in the Arabs in Iraq that if we get out of the way, they actually will sort things out. But we have to be prepared to allow that to happen and live with the outcome which we may not particularly care for in some cases.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Gen. McCaffrey?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, you know, I think Doug actually makes a very strong argument and certainly an easier argument to be made than that of the current administration.

It's hard to imagine - let me just go to the bottom line. It's hard to imagine anyone - Clinton, Obama, McCain - coming into office and announcing a precipitous withdrawal with what many of us would argue would be the likely outcome which would be intense civil war to decide the situation. All of which would imperil our interest in the region which are best characterized by the word oil.

So the Saudis, the Gulf Coast states - nobody - and for that matter, I'd be somewhat in disagreement with Doug on whether the Iraqis want us out and whether the parliament would vote to get us out. The Kurds would have us be there for a hundred years. You know, the place looks like some - Irbil looks like Dallas suburbs, you know, four-star hotels like from Vienna.

The Sunnis want us to stay long enough for them to re-arm. You know, 60 percent of the two Iraqi divisions in Anbar province now are Sunnis. They're joining the army and the police, and when they think they can protect their interest, they'll be happy to see us gone. And the Shia tend to fall in the same camp.

So I think it's a mixed bag. We've got to come out of Iraq. Certainly, we should not be fighting internal security operations there two, three years from now. But at the same time, it's hard to recognize that there wouldn't be a huge negative impact on the region and our own national interest, we pulled out in one (unintelligible).

CONAN: Nevertheless, do you think there are a lot of other U.S. military facilities and bases throughout the Persian Gulf and the Middle East? The United States is going to be a player there for decades, at least.

Gen. McCAFFREY: Of course, when we should be. You know, we want to - first of all, we got to stop the belligerent language, you know, dealing with Iranians. I think what Dr. Rice is now sensibly doing is trying to build some kind of a coalition, Sunni Arabs to sort of hedge in the Iranians. They're going nuclear. They're going to be a problem: their economy is in the dumps, they've got sort of silly leadership, they're destabilizing, so it's certainly significant U.S. Naval and Air Forces are going to be in the region and more likely than not, we'll - if particular the Iraqis pull back from the (unintelligible) and construct some modestly operative state and get provincial elections going, which is the key issue, then I'd see us in Iraq with 20, 30, 40,000 troops for a significant amount of time, but again not doing Arab city internal security operations.

CONAN: Barry McCaffrey joined us by phone today from Cupertino, California.

Gen. McCaffrey, thanks very much for your time.

Gen. McCAFFREY: Yes, sir.

CONAN: And Douglas MacGregor was with us here in Studio 3A.

Col. MacGregor, we thank you for you time today.

Col. MacGREGOR: My pleasure. Thank you.

CONAN: You can find more of NPR's reporting on the war and a chart of military and civilian deaths in Iraq since March 2003 at our Web site, npr.org/talk.

And this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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