Wolfowitz Disputes Notion Saddam 'Just Another Bad Guy'
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2004 Saddam Hussein "institutionalized and sanctioned brutality on a scale" unimaginable to most Americans, the Pentagon's second- ranking civilian said in Philadelphia today.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz addressed the World Affairs Council of Greater Philadelphia. Wolfowitz was standing in for his boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Scheduled to testify May 7 before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Rumsfeld remained in Washington to prepare, DoD officials said.
Wolfowitz said thinking of Saddam in the same way as other disreputable leaders falls short of recognizing the brutality of his regime.
"According to a somewhat popular theme still these days, the world is full of bad guys, and Saddam Hussein is just another bad guy," Wolfowitz said. "When I hear Saddam referred to in that way, I can only conclude that the person speaking lacks even a most basic understanding of what it was like to live in Saddam's Iraq."
He told of seven Iraqi businessmen now at the Texas Medical Center in Houston for surgery made necessary by Saddam's brutality.
"When Iraq's economy was falling into shambles, Saddam's way of placing blame was this: He ordered a few merchants to be rounded up," Wolfowitz said. "With flimsy evidence, they were found guilty of destabilizing the Iraqi economy, and were sentenced to lose their right hands. The amputations were filmed, and the video, as well as the hands, were sent to Saddam."
He expressed the hope that the surgery will give these businessmen better lives, but said the fear cultivated by such a regime is difficult to overcome.
"The fear that is instilled by a thousand or tens of thousands of such acts of brutality is not a fear that goes away overnight," he said. "It is a fear that we are still contending with in Iraq, and it is a fear that our enemy works every day to instill in the minds of Iraqis."
Guerrillas in other conflicts, he said, usually emphasize the positive aspects of their viewpoint. But that's not the case with the insurgents and foreign fighters in Iraq, he added, who "only emphasize death and fear and destruction, and remind people that they are on a list to be punished, if and when the Americans leave."
That fear makes the coalition's work difficult, he said, but it also is why winning the struggle is important.
"Until Iraqis are convinced that Saddam's regime has been permanently and irreversibly removed, and until a long and ghastly part of their history is put to rest and overcome, that fear will remain and it will remain one of our biggest challenges," Wolfowitz said.
He referred the audience to an intercepted letter written by fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and pointing out that it's posted on the Internet, said it shows what the terrorists are up to in Iraq. "It is remarkable how he realizes that their only hope lies in sowing enough destruction and chaos, and creating a civil war before the Iraqis have their own government and their own country," Wolfowitz said.
The Zarqawi letter, he added, reveals that the terrorists realize what will happen when freedom takes root in Afghanistan and Iraq. "These terrorists know that the Iraqi and Afghan people's success in taking hold of their future will one day serve as a powerful example to oppressed people in neighboring lands," he said. "As George Washington said, 'Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.'"
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Wolfowitz said, made it necessary for the United States to take the offensive against terrorists.
"In the space of a few hours, we saw the violence and grief that 19 terrorists can inflict, and we had a glimpse of the even greater harm the terrorists wished to do to us," he said. "The terrorists hate our country and everything we stand for in the world. They seek even deadlier weapons, and they would use them against us. In the face of this danger, we have only one option, and that's to take the fight to the enemy."
Wolfowitz also addressed the widely published photos of U.S. soldiers abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "The actions of the soldiers in those photos are totally unacceptable," he said. "They betrayed their comrades who serve honorably every day, and they have damaged that cause for which brave men women are fighting and dying."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, American Forces Press Service, contributed to this story.)