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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with WABC-TV

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

(Interview with WABC-TV, New York, N.Y.)

Q: Thank you for joining us.

Wolfowitz: Good to be here.

Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary, we've seen a lot of pictures here in New York and the rest of the nation about military preparations. Can you just bring us up to date on where we are in preparing for contingencies in the Middle East against Iraq?

Q: Well, we're -- the military preparations that we're making are still very much focused on trying to convince Saddam Hussein that he has to give up his weapons of mass destruction. As Secretary Powell's presentation yesterday, I think, made dramatically clear, Saddam Hussein has clearly not made that decision to disarm.

I think the mobilization that we're doing, the deployment of forces, obviously put us in a position, should the president decide to use force. But they also send a powerful signal to Saddam Hussein that he has very little time left to make that fundamental decision to disarm.

Q: Much of the discussion now is around the United Nations, whether or not members of the Security Council, reluctant to go to war against Iraq, can be brought around and how important their decision might be to our government's decision whether or not to disarm Iraq by force. Can you tell us where the minds meet on this issue of whether or not we go, despite what the U.N. does?

Q: Well, I think yesterday they heard a very powerful case, and frankly, I think, a much more powerful case than they anticipated. And I think as that sinks in and it sinks in with their publics, I think we're going to find more and more countries moving closer and closer to our position. In fact, that's already happened just in the last 24 hours.

In many ways, the issue is, is the Security Council going to stand up to the test that the president put to it last September? Are we going to be able to demonstrate that the United Nations really is an effective organization? Because I think if we can't come to an agreement to act on the basis of clear facts, then it's going to have a very harmful effect on the world body. I hope, in the end, that that is persuasive even to the most reluctant members of the Security Council.

Q: The Iraqi government, in their reaction, has, of course, tried to discredit the evidence with colorful phrases that Americans can identify with, the idea of special effects being a part of the presentation. What is your read, the Defense Department's read and the administration's read on how effective the Iraqi argument against our evidence might be within the Security Council?

Wolfowitz: Well, let's remember that -- what was it? -- a couple of months ago, I believe, Saddam Hussein held a referendum on his position and power and he received 100 percent of the Iraqi vote. I mean, these people know a lot about special effects and manipulation, and they've been doing it for years.

What Secretary Powell presented were absolute hard facts that are verified by large organizations in our government. And, believe me, you cannot, in our government, put out that kind of information unless there's very solid agreement on it.

I think the Iraqis were caught with their pants down, and they're very embarrassed.

Q: I would say there are three concerns, major concerns, on the part of many Americans; I don't know if you agree. But one concern is that a war with Iraq would take away from the war on terrorism. People are very concerned about that, especially here in New York, as you can understand. How can you reassure them that this would not be the case if the unfortunate happens and we do have to go to war?

Wolfowitz: Look, I think, again, I would urge them to go back and look at the tape again or read the transcript of Secretary Powell's very lengthy presentation. It's very clear that Iraq is part of the war on terrorism, that we are dealing with terrorist networks that are connected in part to Baghdad. The great danger that the president has been focused on, really since the beginning, and certainly since his State of the Union message last year, is the danger of a connection between a country like Iraq that is ferociously hanging on to the most dangerous biological weapons, and its connections to terrorists. It's a dangerous country to deal with. It's an even more dangerous country to leave out there able to do its damage.

Q: Concern number two of the points that I was mentioning involves occupying Iraq and how long that might take, how long our forces, and in many cases family members, might be committed to being in that region.

Wolfowitz: Let me first emphasize, we still hope that somehow, if not Saddam Hussein, at least the people around him will come to their senses and it will be possible to have a peaceful resolution of this problem. So you're hypothesizing that that doesn't happen, and I'm reluctant to start speculating.

But I think the fact is, if it comes to the use of force, the president has made clear that we will do what we need to do afterwards to make sure that Iraq emerges as a positive force in the Middle East and not the destabilizing force that it's been for the last several decades. And that may take some effort, but it's going to be an effort that has huge rewards in terms of America's security, in terms of building a better future for the whole people of that region.

Q: And, of course, North Korea. We have what I guess could be termed as some saber-rattling from North Korea in the form of them doing nuclear testing. What about that? What about if North Korea becomes a confrontational situation while we're involved in Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Well, North Korea is a problem. They seem to be acting in ways that suggest that they want to be even more of a problem. And our message to them has to be, "The further you go up this ladder of escalation, the further you're going to have to climb down in the end," because if North Korea wants to come to any kind of normal relationship with the rest of the world -- and that country desperately needs it; it's in the most bankrupt economic condition -- it's going to have to come to terms with the commitments it's made over many years to get rid of its nuclear weapons.

It's a problem we have to deal with. Militarily we have the capability to defend our interests around the world. But right now, North Korea -- the North Korean problem is one we're working intensely with our partners in the region -- our allies, Japan and Korea, with China and Russia. And we're still in the early stages of working on a peaceful diplomatic solution to that problem.

Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary, turning to an issue which is specific to our area but likely shared by other areas in the nation, our Senator Schumer has estimated that it would cost New York City more than $100 million if all the reservists who work for the city, particularly our uniformed services, are called up. It would cost us a lot of money, especially if they are involved for a period of time.

Is there any relief that we could look to, solutions from the Defense Department, to help municipalities like ours bear the possible financial burden of having so many reservists called up?

Wolfowitz: Of course, it's a nationwide phenomenon, and we are trying very hard to minimize, to the extent possible -- I don't mean to -- have to call up large numbers of reservists. We're trying to make sure we don't call them up unnecessarily; trying to make sure we don't call them up for longer times than we need to have them, that there are going to be burdens and sacrifices though throughout the country and particularly on members of the armed services and their families is without question. What I think people need to keep in mind is that the danger we're dealing with, the danger of a dictator possessing weapons of mass terror, possibly some day putting them in the hands of terrorists, will cost us in ways that are just incomparably greater than what it will take to deal with the problem now.

Q: Have there been any directions of some form of relief for especially the large municipalities that might lose a lot of their uniformed service people to the reserve service?

Wolfowitz: Again, it is a nationwide phenomenon. I know it particularly hits hard in law enforcement and other areas. I think we're all going to be stretched. We're stretched very hard at the Department of Defense. But as I said, our best contribution is to try to make sure that we only call up those people that we absolutely need to have.

Q: Is --

Wolfowitz: I think this is going to have to be the last question.

Q: I'm sorry. Is a military draft out of the question? Is it off the table at this point?

Wolfowitz: It really isn't needed. And, in fact, we wouldn't know what to do with the huge numbers of people that would be generated by military draft. I think there are other things that those of us who are not in the armed forces can do to support the effort and filling in the kinds of gaps that you've talked about that are created when the reservists are called up. It's clearly a major thing that people not in the armed services have got to step up and do.

Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary, thank you very much again.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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