‘This Week’ Transcript 10-22-17: Former CIA Director David Petraeus

This is a rush transcript for “This Week” on October 22, 2017 and it will be updated.

RADDATZ: And let’s turn now to another retired four-star general, and former CIA director, David Petraeus. Good morning, General Petraeus. Great to see you here this morning.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, (RET.) FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Martha. Thanks.

RADDATZ: I want to start with what the White House said, about it being highly inappropriate to debate a four-star general.

PETRAEUS: Well, I think we’re all fair game. And I certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on Capitol Hill during the surge in Iraq and subsequent endeavors in Afghanistan central command and so forth.

We, in uniform, protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly. I remember opening The New York Times in the morning of the big testimony on the surge at the six-month mark, and there was a full-page ad attacking me personally.

I didn’t appreciate it, needless to say.

RADDATZ: I remember that. It said, “general betray us.”

PETRAEUS: Yes. But at the end of the day, we are fiercely protective of the
rights of our Americans to express themselves even if that includes critizing us.

RADDATZ: General Petraeus, you saw the emotional response that John Kelly had about the Gold Star family and the call the president made. But — he also had very harsh words about Congresswoman Wilson. Is that appropriate? Especially given that he was wrong?

PETRAEUS: Well, it was obviously an unfortunate situation. We need to unite behind our Gold Star families, to embrace them with compassion and support, not to drag them into partisan politics.

Sadly this is a bit symptomatic of what I think is afflicting our country right now. Arguably, the most important threat the United States faces is not that of Russia, Iran, North Korea, or even Chinese competition, or ISIS, it’s parochialism here at home, especially in this city, which is preventing us from resolving issues that could allow us to capitalize on extraordinary opportunities. As America is leading the world in the IT revolution, energy revolution, manufacturing and life sciences. We need to relearn the word of compromise. We need to take the volume down.

Look, I know John Kelly very, very well. He was a tremendous division commander, two-star commander of the Marine forces in Anbar Province during the half of the surge, served with him subsequently in other positions. I have to think that this weekend, he’s sitting at home or in the White House, trying to
figure out how to turn down the volume, how to get this behind us, and how to focus on what really is important to the country over all.

RADDATZ: But he didn’t do that this week. I want to go back to that. He didn’t do that this week. And he has been seen, as you say, as this voice of reason in the White House. But did he lose some of that authority by joining this political fight?

PETRAEUS: Again, my hope is that the John Kelly that we all know and respect enormously, whose family, obviously, experienced that personal loss of a service member, of their son, the last full measure of devotion as Abraham Lincoln termed it, went through that.

And again I just have to think that he is thinking how can we turn down the volume? How can we move forward and how can we focus the administration and the
country on the issues that are preventing us from capitalizing on extraordinary opportunities?

RADDATZ: I also want to get your reaction to what Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, said earlier this month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I’m increasingly concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson.

I have been in too many countries, globally, where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens. That is not the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Do you have any of those same concerns?

PETRAEUS: Well, I know them all, obviously, as does our great former chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Mullen, who whom it was a privilege to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you have to depend on some people, these are some pretty great people. I think the administration has a superb national security team, arguably among the best in recent memory. And by and large, they are guiding a policy that is really more continuity than change in a number of areas, although certainly there are changes in areas such as tax, trade climate and so on.

But, this is a superb team, and it’s a team that has helped guide the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria, that has made the right call with the president approving on Afghanistan, I believe, that is seeking to get China’s attention to deal with the North Korean situation in a way that is ever more pressing.

So, again, this is a superb group of individuals. They’re not all military, obviously, Secretary Tillerson, our U.S…

RADDATZ: You know, General Petraeus, earlier this year in June at the Aspen Ideas Festival, you kind of dodged a question, saying that the team is important. You dodged a question about whether President Trump was fit for office, saying it was immaterial because of the team. Immaterial?

PETRAEUS: Look, I felt it was inappropriate for a former general to be judging whether someone who was elected by the American people is fit or not. He’s our president. And what we need to do as a country is try to support those who are supporting him so that we can, indeed, continue this economic growth that we have had, so that we can shore up national defenses, so we can come to grip with issues like immigration reform, infrastructure investment, tax reform, and all the rest.

RADDATZ: And I do want to talk about Niger and what happened there, given they were ambushed. Was this an intelligence failure as some on the Hill are saying?

PETRAEUS: Well, we don’t know, obviously, and that’s why there’s a team out there from the Department of Defense, which includes some FBI investigators, as I understand it, and we’ll have to wait to see what they find out before there investigating. And we’ll have to wait to see what they
find before that kind of judgment.

RADDATZ: And you saw the fall of ISIS in the stronghold of Raqqa in Syria this week. What does that tell you about where we are. Obviously that is a success. But now what?

PETRAEUS: Well, it’s a very important success. Because as I mentioned the last time we
were together, the sooner ISIS could be shown to be a loser is the sooner it’s not as effective in recruiting, in proselytizing and encouraging, inspiring and so forth. And that is now very much the case. Plus, their media center in Raqqa has now obviously been destroyed, as well.

But as I also said, the battle that matters most is the battle after the battle, it’s what happens after the Islamic State is defeated. And we’re already seeing that in Iraq. This is the battle over power and resources in countries that have a lot of resources, particularly in the case of Iraq. And what you have seen there is right after the defeat of the Islamic State, in an area around Kirkuk, because of an ill-timed referendum, pressure on the Prime Minister Abadi to keep going, and to reclaim areas from the Kurdish Peshmerga that had been occupied when Iraqi forces evacuated them in the wake of ISIS.

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