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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with TV7 in Indonesia

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
January 16, 2005

Jakarta, Indonesia


            TV7: Thank you for giving this opportunity to TV7, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz.  Can I call you Pak Paul Wolfowitz?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Boleh. [You may]


            TV7: Boleh, okay, what is your status of, the status of your visit?  This is informal or official? Only half, or…


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I don’t do anything informal in this job, unfortunately. No, it’s very much to help our government and our Defense Department particularly get an assessment of what is needed here, what our role should be and how to most of all how to make sure that as we go forward, and as our military will inevitably have to stop doing certain things, our people need to get home or they need to get to other places, to make sure that the humanitarian needs here can be met and I would also say it’s very important to us we understand that this is Indonesia, that it’s the responsibility of the government of Indonesia, that the government has actually stepped up in an impressive way including asking us for help. I think it’s important that…


            TV7: There is a special a message from our government, President Yudhoyono to the United States government?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Well I haven’t, I am going to be seeing him later this evening, but I have heard from four of his Ministers now and everyone of whom has said we appreciate what you have done, it was essential to have you help in the beginning and we appreciate what the whole international community is doing and we are determined as the government of Indonesia to make sure that we carry out our responsibilities. It’s exactly what I want to hear, because I think that’s exactly the way things should be.


            TV7:  Is there any specific assistance needed by our government from the United States government?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  Well, there is a lot, one of the things we need to do is develop a plan so that we know what specific assistance is needed from many different directions, and right now I think to some extent the people in Aceh are so overwhelmed.


            TV7: How do you comment about the situation there?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Oh, it is devastating it is just, it really is indescribable and you can only imagine what it would be like to be in the middle of it and it’s also tragic to think about what it means to be a survivor of that kind of thing. It’s not just, you know, it’s many cases of children who have not only lost both parents, but they have lost their aunts and uncles and their brothers and their sisters.  We heard several times that the people there are still in a state of shock, I’m not surprised at all. 


            TV7: Have you visited Aceh before?




            TV7: Long before?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I was about to say it is, well I visited when I was Ambassador.


            TV7: Do you have friends that are Acehnese?




            TV7: Friends?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I have Acehnese friends. I have one Acehnese in Washington who I don’t know well, but I still call him a friend.  He lost 200 of his family. Only one aunt and uncle who live in Washington are the only survivors.  I, it’s just hard, you can’t imagine, I can’t imagine what it is like to have that happen to you.  But I was, when I visited Aceh several times when I was the Ambassador here, I found the whole story of Aceh and their culture and, which as you know is remarkable and unique and their pride and their independence and the heroism.


            TV7:  And their region life, even the most, almost all of the most still there. What is this say?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Well I know, I say, I and the churches too, by the way.


            TV7: The churches too and also biharah, so biharah, Buddhists.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Oh, that’s right.


            TV7: Buddhists, Pak it is like America for them.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: It is, it certainly seems to me it is a hopeful symbol. And there is nothing that can be done now about what’s been lost, but there is a chance to make sure that the people who have survived have hope again and rebuild and maybe we should all be committed to making something better come out of this.

TV7:  What is your comment on the limitation, the three-month limitation, by our government for foreign military forces.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: I think that limitation is not the right word as it’s been explained to me.


            TV7:  Oh, by who?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Several ministers I talked to today including the Defense Minister and the Coordinating Minister for Security Affairs and the Foreign Minister.  It’s a planning timeline, it’s when, as a planning target, they hope and expect to transition from relief to reconstruction, but that is not a sharp line anyway.


            TV7:  That’s not a deadline, exactly the deadline, so is it possible for foreign military forces to do, to help Aceh after the 28 of March?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  I think, my impression is that if there’s a need, the need will be met.  And if the only way to meet it for some reason was with some foreign military help, I don’t think people will argue about that, but let me put it from the other side. We have flown a 1000 helicopter mission already to deliver food. We would rather the food was delivered by trucks or by ships because those helicopters have to go home probably sooner than three months.  So what is really needed is a plan for the relief effort and a plan for the reconstruction effort and when we develop that plan it’s going to take a lot of work that’s what is clear to me. It’s not a simple plan.  Then the whole international community will have a better idea what Indonesia can do by itself and what it needs help, and where it needs help.  If some of that may have to come from foreign militaries, I suspect that most of it can come from the civilian sector.


            TV7: The United States government has already sent two high ranking, the General Colin Powell and also you, and you must be have a quite a clear impression and also a clear plan to do?




            TV7: In the next, after three months?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  I think we probably have as good an idea is anybody in the world and I have to tell you, we know that we don’t know enough yet.  Let me give you an example, the medical situation of the displaced population.  We’ve just started a couple of days ago, under the leadership of the World Health Organization, sending teams out from the Lincoln actually, but led by the World Health Organization with Indonesian government, US military and I think NGO participation, going to four different zones in Aceh to assess the medical conditions of the displaced population.  Until we know the answers to those questions, we can’t make a plan.  To give you another example, we knew that there were 37 bridges taken down, and we thought well, we can make a plan for repairing 37 bridges, then you go and look at the condition of the road and you realize there is no road between bridges, and if you fix the road there’s no village along the roads. So the scale of this destruction is so big that nobody can sit and write you a plan yet, and some of these issues we can assist the Indonesian government in writing a plan, but some of them are legal issues; how do you establish who owes what property, what happens if the property is in the ocean now.


            TV7:  Because all of the papers already gone also.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Right. And then if it is going to take two or three years before you can rebuild a village is that what you really want to do, or do you want to help the people settle somewhere else? So those are political, legal, cultural issues that only Indonesians can make a plan for we can’t.  So it is a big job, just the planning.


            TV7: But some Indonesians still have the opinion that international promises, is will just promises, and not a full commitment.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Not from the United States, let me say that.


            TV7: You can guarantee that?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: When we say we are going to do something we do it.  And I know with some other countries, it’s, it gets softer, but I think it is important.  We’re happy to work with your government to try to make sure that people keep their promises, but our President has committed $350 million of U.S. government money.


            TV7:  For all of the whole world?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  For the whole, the whole disaster area, that’s true, but I mean Indonesia is 80% of that problem probably.  And his father and President Clinton are out raising private money, and the American people have been just eager to contribute. I tell you what happens in my country, people read about this tragedy and they read the human stories about what’s happened to individuals and the first thing they say is, “How can I help?”.  They want to help, and…


            TV7:  Just individual citizens, right?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: It’s individuals everywhere. Sometimes they don’t know how to help so they do something that may not be all that helpful, but for the most part they are helping and one of the things that the reason the President asked his father and President Clinton to organize this is so that the help can be channeled in the right way.


            TV7: Do you have any, just one question. Do you have any suggestions to our government for the relief operation in Aceh, because as you know there are many problems there?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: The one suggestion I have and it is from my experience from working with our military is that this kind of challenge requires the sort of detailed plan that the military are very good at drawing up, and except maybe for some big corporations, typically civilians are not used to.


            TV7: But TNI is not well equipped with (inaudible) passenger carriers, helicopters.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: It’s not a military plan, I am saying, I am, I think, I think it’s not even a matter of helicopters, it’s a matter of how you work things out in detail.  My understanding is that the leadership in your government is with BAPPANAS and I think it needs to be a civilian leadership. I just think it’s important to realize that unless there’s a detailed plan, just to say well, we need more helicopters, you could keep flying with helicopters because you don’t have a good plan for fixing the roads and then you’re wasting a lot of resources and a lot of money. So it should be a plan that is worked out in detail, I don’t mean worked out by the military, but I mean the kind of detail that


            TV7: How significant is Aceh problem, will restore Indonesian-U.S. ties, specifically the military?


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Let’s fix the problem and then we can see whether it brings something else beyond that.


            TV7:  Okay, thank you, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz.


            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ: Thank you, nice to be here.

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