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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with KGO-TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 06, 2003

(Interview with KGO-TV, San Francisco, Calif.)

Q: Secretary of State Powell made some very telling points in his dramatic presentation at the U.N. yesterday. But did he make the case for war?

Wolfowitz: I think he made the case for being seriously concerned about the danger posed by Saddam Hussein. I think the American people, for the first time, had a kind of overview of the issues that have been troubling the president, now going back to the State of the Union message last year.

Our hope still is to persuade Saddam Hussein, or at least the people around him, that Iraq should disarm peacefully and that that would be a much better outcome than our having to use force. But the decision really rests with Baghdad at this point.

Q: What about containment? Critics say it's worked 12 years now, maybe not ideally, but it has kept him mostly out of mischief. Why not continue containment?

Wolfowitz: I think Secretary Powell made a powerful case of how containment isn't working, that he is continuing to develop his weapons. He's continuing all his past practices of hiding and concealing and cheating inspectors. And, worst of all, his connections with terrorists, which go back decades, and which started some 10 years ago with al Qaeda, are growing every day. And we see this terrorist network, that cells have been disrupted in England and France and Spain, that are closely tied to facilities in Iraq and even to the Baghdad regime. It's a danger that is, as Secretary Powell said, one we cannot continue to live with.

Q: So what happens if the administration can't get a second resolution out of the U.N., one authorizing the use of military force?

Wolfowitz: A second resolution would be helpful. I hope that, in fact, all the members of the Security Council will step up to understanding what it means for the United Nations to have the world take it seriously. It's, in many ways, a test of the credibility of the United Nations.

But I think there's no question about the credibility of the United States. There's no question that large numbers of countries will be with us no matter what. And as every day goes by, we have more saying, "We're with you." It will be a very strong -- if we have to use force, it would be with a very strong coalition.

Q: But some allies continue to balk, like Germany and France? How important is that?

Wolfowitz: I think it's a test of Germany and France, to be honest. After having heard the case that was presented yesterday, if they still say that there's not a problem there, then the problem is with them. I think they've seen it. Their publics have seen it. Hopefully they're persuaded. But sometimes there are some people that can't be persuaded about anything. Let's wait and see.

Q: You hear an awful lot of criticism that, listen, we're having problems with North Korea and we're treating them a lot differently than we're treating Iraq in this case. Would you respond to that, please?

Wolfowitz: Well, first of all, the same goal is there, which is to remove weapons of mass terror from the governments that are themselves supportive of terrorists. And that's the problem the president identified in the State of the Union message last year, where he talked about the axis of evil. It's very interesting that, right after that speech, everyone said, "Well, doesn't he understand that Iran and Iraq and North Korea are each of them a different kind of problem?" And over the subsequent weeks, we laid out policies for each of those three countries that were, in fact, tailored to the specific circumstances of those countries and that are different. And now suddenly people say, "Well, why are you treating North Korea differently from Iraq?" Well, it is different.

First difference: We have 17 U.N. resolutions dealing with Iraq. It is time to make sure that they are enforced. We have yet to get agreement to take the North Korean issue to the United Nations, and that is an issue we're working on now with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with our allies in Asia and with China and Russia. So they're at very different stages of the diplomatic process. The goal remains the same, but the circumstances are different.

Q: You mentioned the administration would like a diplomatic solution. But what are the chances we can work out a diplomatic solution with Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think after what we've seen in Saddam Hussein's behavior, as laid out quite clearly in the evidence Secretary Powell presented yesterday, one can't be very hopeful about the chances. The only thing that remains is that perhaps, finally, he, or at least the people around him, will be persuaded that the course they're on is one that leads to their doom, and maybe they will change. But there's not much time.

Q: The military buildup in the region continues. How ready are we in terms of force structure to carry this out if we have to? How ready are our men and women psychologically to carry out this if they have to?

Wolfowitz: Our military is ready to do whatever the president asks them to do. The president has not yet made a decision to use force. But I'll tell you, the spirit of the men and women of our armed forces is just magnificent. They are dedicated, they are courageous, and they're incredibly smart and innovative. Anyone who tries to take them on is making a big mistake. And I'm afraid that perhaps Saddam Hussein is making that big mistake.

Q: Although no decision has been made, how soon would we be ready to commence military operations if the president does make that call?

Wolfowitz: Well, as I said, we respond to the orders of the president. We're ready to do whatever he asks us to do, whenever he asks us to do it.

Q: All right, Mr. Secretary, anything you'd like to add, that you'd like our viewers out here in San Francisco to know?

Wolfowitz: Well, I just hope, if they haven't had a chance to do it, that they will sit and listen to the full hour and a half of Secretary Powell's presentation, or at least read the transcript. It is a powerful case.

And if you realize that on each of the major topics that he hit, he only had time to present a fraction of the evidence, and some of the evidence is still of the sort that we can't talk about publicly, but that is -- he described very clearly the threat that has us all so concerned and has the president of the United States prepared to risk the lives of our men and women in combat in order to prevent an even greater threat to the American people.

Q: Mr. Secretary, they tell me I have a few seconds left, so let me end on this question. I know the administration went to great lengths to try to avoid giving away the sources of some of this declassified information. But what are the risks?

Wolfowitz: The risks are real. We do everything we possibly can to make sure that we haven't put someone's life in danger who has risked their life to give us information. In some cases, like some of those transcripts that you heard, there's a certain risk that the Iraqis will figure out how it is that we were able to pick up that kind of message and we won't get any more of those messages.

In some ways, what we had to do was what a prosecutor would never do, which is to unveil some of his evidence when he's still in the course of a criminal investigation. But it is important, we understand, for the American people and the people of the world to understand that there is a real problem here and that we are not just making up a case, that we are looking at the evidence, and the evidence is powerful.

Q: All right, Secretary Wolfowitz, thank you very much.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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