[Mr. Wolfowitz spoke via satellite link to the AIPAC National Summit meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.]
Thank you, Tim [Wuliger, AIPAC Chairman] … President [Amy] Friedkin … Howard Kohr [Executive Director]…. As always, it’s a real pleasure to join you and AIPAC’s leadership – even if it’s only a virtual meeting.
As you may know, I am just back from Iraq. I arrived from Baghdad a few hours ago. In fact, that trip was the reason I could not be in Phoenix today.
And of course I have some thoughts to share with you about that trip. But first, let me emphasize AIPAC’s role in working on some of the most critical issues facing us today. When you engage on an issue, people take notice.
So I would like to thank you for your support for the President’s emergency supplemental funding request to support U.S. troops and complete our mission – which is to help the Iraqi people free themselves from the criminals who terrorized them and to protect the American people from this same kind of terrorism. As you know, both the House and the Senate are in the final stages of approving the Administration’s proposal for $87 billion.
That money will buy a lot of things, including urgently needed supplies, weapons, ammunition, fuel, maintenance, life-saving body armor, and a variety of other critical military items needed by U.S. forces. It also will provide military pay for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, who are serving so bravely and so well in the war on terror. Taken together, these items will account for $66 billion -- or three-quarters of the supplemental funding request.
The remainder -- $21 billion – will go to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan deal with the dilapidated infrastructure created by Saddam Hussein and the Baathists in one case and the Taliban in the other. Our contribution to this effort will be supplemented by billions of dollars contributed by other nations. But even at that, it will not cover all of the damage that those brutal totalitarian regimes have done in decades of abusing their people and wasting their resources.
This supplemental request is essential for us to finish winning the war in Iraq and to secure the peace – so that the Iraqi people can build a new, free Iraq – an Iraq that will no longer export terrorism and instability to the Middle East and the world. A successful, free Iraq can instead be an inspiration for hope and moderation throughout the region.
The supplemental request is now in a conference committee where important differences between the House and Senate bills are being worked out.
Now, about Iraq:
· In the last few days, the surviving elements of Saddam Hussein’s criminal gang and the terrorists with whom they are making common cause have mounted a number of terrorist attacks aimed at stopping the progress that is being made toward building a free Iraq and to take the country back into the dark prison of tyranny.
· The victims of those attacks are real heroes. They include several Americans and an even larger number of Iraqis. They include civilians as well as American soldiers and Iraqi policemen.
· But make no mistake: The criminals who are responsible for these deaths and injuries are the same people who abused and tortured Iraq for 35 years and terrorists who have made common cause with them.
· Their object today is to destabilize the country so they can resume the terror that they visited on the Iraqi people during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
· But these terrorist acts will not deter us. We will be unrelenting in our pursuit of the enemy. As the President has said, we’re taking this fight to the enemy. And we’re getting the job done despite the desperate acts of a dying regime and its evil partners.
In fact, these attacks demonstrate what we have known all along: A free Iraq is in the interest of everyone who wants a free and peaceful world. It is replacing a dangerous regime that gave aid and comfort to global terrorists and terrorist organizations. And it means that Iraq will no longer be the source of regional instability that it has been for several decades.
As you know – perhaps better than anyone -- regional stability is crucial, not least to Israel. The centerpiece in the President’s vision for peace between Israelis and Palestinians hinges upon the creation of a viable, peaceful, democratic state of Palestine, living side-by-side with a secure, democratic Israel. Moreover, for peace to take root, not only Iraq but other state sponsors of terrorism must cease harboring terrorist groups.
September 11, 2001 – another date that will live in infamy –has taught us all that terrorism must cease throughout the region and throughout the world. That’s why the removal of an Iraqi regime dedicated to terrorism and instability was crucial for Israel, for the countries of the Middle East, and indeed for the United States and for all countries that cherish peace and freedom.
Obviously, raising up a free and democratic country out of the ruins that Saddam Hussein left will not be easy. But, as I said, we are getting the job done despite the actions of criminals and terrorists. This is now the central battle in the war on terror.
That’s the critical message that is understood by the American people, by our fighting troops, and by your members.
American citizens perform their public duties when they vote and when they involve themselves in the great issues of the day. So I want to thank you again for AIPAC’s support on this crucial issue.
Let me close by saying again what an incredible job our brave troops and their international partners are doing in Iraq, fighting alongside courageous Iraqis – Iraqis who, in increasing numbers, are literally putting their lives on the line to defend their country and to build a free, prosperous future of Iraqi self-rule. They are taking the fight to the enemy, an enemy whose aim is to destroy the substantial progress being made there and to take Iraq back to the darkness from which it has finally been liberated.
But this is not an enemy who stands and fights. It is an enemy that hits and runs. The Iraqi people are standing and fighting, standing and fighting for a future of freedom. And with our support, they will prevail.
Thank you very much. And I guess we have time for just a couple of questions.
Wolfowitz: : I think the good news is the big news. In fact, there's a wonderful editorial in the Wall Street Journal today that, I believe, starts off more or less saying that the rocket attacks will be the big news, but that the real news is what took place in Madrid where an enormous number of countries came forward and pledged some $13 billion in support for Iraq, additional to the $20 billion that we're seeking from the Congress. That is really big news.
In fact, there is kind of a pattern. The terrorists get a lot of attention because a bomb is a big story. If you think back to that terrible bomb that attacked the holy mosque in Najaf in August and murdered the great Iraqi leader, Baqir Al-Hakim, and killed some 150 people right on the steps of the holy mosque, it was a devastating blow. It probably took no more than a few people, maybe a dozen people to do that. We know even in our country that a few terrorists can kill a lot of people with a bomb.
The real news to me is what was much less noticed. That is the remarkable calm and moderation with which the entire Shia community of Iraq responded over the next few weeks to this really devastating act of violence. There was a long funeral procession that carried the remains of Baqir Al-Hakim from Baghdad to Najaf. I think there were 40,000 people in the procession and hundreds of thousands who turned out along the way without any acts of violence. His brother -- by the way, the last of seven brothers; the other six have been murdered by the Saddam Hussein regime or by this recent act -- his surviving brother, Abdelaziz Al-Hakim, who is a member of the new Governing Council of Iraq, has been a leader for moderation.
And I think this audience would be particularly interested in a conversation I had just last night. It's hard to think how recently we came back from Baghdad. Just last night in Baghdad we had dinner with Abdelaziz Al-Hakim. And when we got to the subject of freedom of religion, he said that his family has believed deeply in freedom of religion for a long time. He mentioned that his recently martyred brother, when he was in exile in Iran, had appealed to the Iranians to allow the Iraqi Christians who were prisoners of war to be able to get together to celebrate Christmas, and that he had joined them for that celebration.
Then he mentioned that an Iraqi historian who lives in England had written a history of Iraq, of modern Iraq, in which he mentions that -- in the late 1960s -- Abdelaziz's father, a great Shia religious leader, had been known as a defender of the Jews of Iraq even after the difficult events of 1967. I'm assuming the biographical details are true, but in any case, to me it was very moving to have this devout Shia clerical leader speaking with such conviction about his commitment to religious freedom.
That's just one of many success stories that don't make it on the front pages like a bombing does. Of all of them, that one to me is perhaps the most important, because one of my principle concerns is how to get other people to come and help take some of the burden of this war from our troops. And the people who are coming forward in the greatest numbers are Iraqis. We have some 80,000 to 90,000 now fighting in the police, in the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, in the Facilities Protection Service, fighting and in some cases dying. In fact there have been more Iraqis killed since June 1st than any of our other coalition partners.
So I think we're seeing success. I think the terrorists are seeing success also. And that's why they're trying to target it. But we will win.
Wolfowitz: : That's a very good question. I think my boss created a bit of a stir when a memo of his was leaked that had some people suggesting that this was inconsistent with the statements that we've made frequently that we're making progress in this war on terror. But it's not inconsistent at all. The key to understanding the whole subject is to understand how big the problem is and how big the task is.
I think some people fail to understand the significance of September 11th. They realize that something big happened, that somebody attacked the United States, but they almost seem to want to go back to a paradigm that once we find the perpetrators of those attacks and punish them or kill them, that we can kind of go back to the status quo of the last 20 years, where terrorism was treated as an evil, but a manageable evil, that you would take a hit now and then.
I think September 11th was a demonstration of just how bad terrorism will be in the future, much worse than what took place on that terrible day, if we don't do something to bring it under control and to eradicate these international global terrorist networks and to eliminate the possibility of states providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.
That's not going to happen with just one victory -- and we've had some enormous victories in Afghanistan and Iraq in cooperation with some 90 countries and in law enforcement actions that have made real inroads against the al Qaeda network and other terrorist networks. But it's going to take time. It's going to be long. And I think one of the most helpful things that AIPAC can do as an organization is both to educate your members, and through your members to help to educate the American people and the American Congress that this is not a war that's going to be won with one victory, or in just a few months, or even just a year or two. It is going to be a long struggle.
The American people have shown remarkable patience and ability to prevail in long struggles, despite the supposed impatience of democracies. But the key to doing that is having democratic movements, grassroots movements like yours, that educate people to the importance of what's at stake. So I would welcome everything you can do in that regard.
Thank you. I think I'm due back with Mr. Rumsfeld shortly, so I appreciate this chance to be with you, even if I can't see you.