Wolfowitz: 'We've Got to Go on Offense' Against Terrorists
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz today told congressional questioners that offense -- not defense -- will win the global war against terrorism.
Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage appeared before a joint session of the House and Senate Intelligence committees investigating allegations of military and domestic intelligence shortfalls that existed before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
The deputy defense secretary told committee members terrorism is not a law enforcement problem and can't be dealt with simply by retaliating against individual acts of terrorism. At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Wolfowitz noted, the FBI was prohibited from reporting or sharing information about Americans to intelligence agencies.
"This is an issue we've got to confront now," he emphasized.
The FBI operates under rules that require agents to be careful with information that could be used to prosecute people.
Yet, the war against terrorism can't be won only on the domestic front, Wolfowitz said.
"We're not going to win this war on defense, no matter how good our intelligence is," he emphasized, "We've got to go on offense."
Going after global terrorists does not just mean a 'one-off' military retaliation, the deputy continued. "It means the kind of campaign that we're conducting now against terrorism -- it means a war," he said.
Armitage quickly and firmly responded to a question: "Do you feel that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has contributed to the rise of al Qaeda?"
"No, Senator," Armitage responded, adding that Osama bin Laden was planning the 9-11 attacks against America "at a time when the Israeli- Palestinian question was in a much more benign state."
Then-President Clinton, he noted, was meeting with delegates from the aggrieved parties at Camp David, Md., with resolution very close at hand.
"So, I do not buy the argument that our policy in the Middle East is responsible for al Qaeda (and) Osama bin Laden," Armitage said.
It was only after the terror attacks on America "that Osama bin Laden could even say the word 'Palestinian' out loud, publicly," the deputy secretary of state noted.