Containing Saddam Is a Dangerous Notion, Wolfowitz Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2002 Critics opposed to using force to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are wrong -- possibly dead wrong, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said in Florida yesterday.
In an evening speech to West Palm Beach audience, Wolfowitz noted he hopes that current efforts to eliminate Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction programs can be achieved peaceably.
He said he disagrees, however, with those who contend that the danger posed by Hussein's regime can be avoided "if we simply contain the Iraqi regime indefinitely."
First, the deputy defense secretary pointed out, no one knows what goes on inside Hussein's mind. He called the Iraqi dictator a wildly unpredictable man who has recklessly and callously attacked his neighbors and his own people.
Wolfowitz said Hussein terrorizes his own citizenry to maintain rule. The dictator, he said, has thrown the children of persons opposed to his rule into filthy prisons. Those Iraqi children languishing in jail, Wolfowitz declared, range in age from 12 to mere toddlers.
The deputy defense secretary called Hussein a dangerous risk- taker who would say or do anything to stay in power.
"We must certainly plan on the assumption that a moment of maximum danger will come if Saddam believes that his survival is in peril, and that he has little to lose by using his most terrible weapons," Wolfowitz said. Consequently, he maintained, confronting and toppling Saddam could well be the only logical option peace-loving nations have to ensure their own safety.
Citing a statement attributed to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wolfowitz said terrorists could provide unstable, immoral leaders like Hussein with the means to strike enemies by proxy -- possibly using WMDs -- without leaving a clear trail of evidence or responsibility.
"The most dangerous assumption of all, I believe, is the assumption that Saddam would not use terrorists as an instrument of revenge," he said. Such a tactic would be nearly impossible to fully defend against, he added.
Wolfowitz said some people believe Hussein should be allowed to remain in charge because Iraq otherwise would collapse into anarchy. Such reasoning, the deputy defense secretary noted, is wrong.
"The one risk that it seems to me to be highly exaggerated, is this risk that the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime would be a cause of instability in the region," Wolfowitz remarked. "To the contrary, that regime itself is a major cause of instability in the region."
He noted Baghdad hasn't controlled northern Iraq for a decade. "The effects have not been instability, but rather, some remarkable progress, particularly by Middle Eastern standards," he said.
The deputy defense secretary noted that Iraq is one of the more important countries in the Arab world. How, he asked, could genuine stability be possible in Iraq when it is controlled "by one of the world's most despotic tyrants?" In answer, Wolfowitz said he's convinced Iraq -- and the entire Middle East region -- would be immeasurably better off without Hussein.
Sooner or later, he said, the Middle East "will have to cope with the reality" of an Iraq without Hussein. "It would be far better for that admittedly enormous change to take place when the eyes of the world are upon Iraq," Wolfowitz said. "The United States and a strong coalition are committed to seeing that change through to its successful conclusion."