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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Good Morning America

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 28, 2003

(Interview with Diane Sawyer, ABC Good Morning America.)

Q: Well, as you heard in the newscast, Iraq is now saying that it will destroy its banned missiles starting probably tomorrow on the deadline.

And also this morning there are hints that the Russians might be threatening to veto the new U.N. resolution proposed by the U.S. Britain and Spain.

So the question of the morning is, would either of these moves stop the United States from going to war. We ask this question of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who joins us this morning from Washington.

And good morning. Thanks for joining us.

Wolfowitz: Good morning. Nice to be with you.

Q: So, Saddam Hussein, however 11th hour, however begrudgingly, is now talking about destroying those Al-Samoud missiles, maybe 100 of them. Even though the U.S. has already dismissed him generally, does this mean anything at all?

Wolfowitz: Look, it's not about Saddam Hussein dribbling out the weapons that he claimed he didn't have when he's caught holding them. What is needed, the only thing that would solve this is a full disclosure of all of his weapons of mass terror so that they can all be destroyed.

He's a dangerous man, and he's dangerous to his own people. You showed a picture of a preacher in a mosque in Baghdad. Your watchers need to understand nobody in Baghdad can speak their mind. I was in Dearborn, Michigan, on Sunday with 300 or 400 Iraqi Americans. They all have families back in Iraq. And this is one of the signs that they put together for that event, with the flag of old Iraq and the United States, it says, "Working shoulder to shoulder together to liberate and rebuild new Iraq."

It's hard to describe the hunger the Iraqi people have to be rid of that tyrant.

Q: But if you'll not accept any move by Saddam Hussein at this point as being progress, what about what the Russians have said this morning. The president talked yesterday to the -- President Putin of Russia and apparently asked him for help on getting on board. And yet this morning, there is a report that the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, has gone public and talked about the right to veto in the United Nations Security Council, hinting that they might use it, if necessary.

If the Russians veto, would the U.S. simply ignore it and go to war anyway?

Wolfowitz: Diane, you know, in the 1930s the League of Nations failed the test of whether it meant what it said. It's very important now that the United Nations not fail a similar test. We need the United Nations as an instrument to address many other issues besides Iraq. North Korea is one of them.

Q: But would the U.S. then simply ignore a Russian veto?

Wolfowitz: The United States has got to defend its own security. We have more than 40 countries who are with us in this effort. Some of them, including the people inside Iraq, as I mentioned, who are hungry to be liberated, are terribly afraid that this thing will drag out in ways that are very dangerous to them.

Saddam has a very clear choice. He's failed to make that choice. It's now going to be a test of the United Nations, whether the United Nations meant what it said in the 17th resolution on Iraq.

Q: Did President Putin promise that he wouldn't veto?

Wolfowitz: I was not in that discussion. But I was in a discussion as -- let me say again, if your viewers could hear what these Iraqi Americans say about the tortures their families have experienced, and the goodwill they feel toward the United States, we have the potential in Iraq of finding 20 million Arabs who cheer us, who support us, and who will help us in the fight on terrorism.

Q: I want to talk a little bit about the military effort, if I can, because as we know, there are signs that the Iraqis are now moving troops down -- the Revolutionary Guard, which are the best troops -- down toward Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein's hometown, as we know, and that there are even rings being formed around Baghdad of troops, including some trenches. And they have tested filling the trenches with fire in order to prevent any U.S. troops from getting through.

This is my question to you, because I know from the beginning you've been a proponent of taking action. In the middle night, what is the military incident that worries you the most? What is the military event that scares you the most?

Wolfowitz: There's no question that the most dangerous thing in this whole scenario is the fact that we're dealing with a dictator who had weapons of mass terror, who continues to hold on to them at great cost to his country and to his own regime. And that's the scariest part of it.

But the fact is, that is a danger that only grows the longer we wait, and the misery and suffering of the Iraqi people grows along with it.

We have an opportunity now, we have more than 40 countries with us, including some Arab countries that are quite concerned about this thing dragging out as Saddam dribbles out one thing after another. It's really time to face reality; the reality is that Saddam Hussein has failed to comply with the U.N. Resolution 1441.

Q: Yesterday, you got kind of taken to the woodshed by some members of Congress who really went after you saying, you've told the president how much you expect it to cost, but you won't tell them. And --

Wolfowitz: Well, first of all, we haven't told the president. We've told the president the very wide range of different ways of figuring out costs. As Secretary Rumsfeld said, if it lasts six days, it's one cost; if it lasts six months, it's something else. If we have to occupy Iraq for years, as some people are foolishly suggesting, it's one cost. If, in fact, as the Iraqi Americans in Dearborn are saying, we're going to be greeted as liberators, it's a very different and much lower cost. We won't really know the cost; that's an unfortunate fact.

But what people need to think -- have in mind, there's an enormous cost to waiting; there's an enormous cost for the last 12 years of containment, and it's not just money costs that we've paid, we -- this policy of trying to contain Iraq instead of dealing decisively and getting rid of these weapons of mass destruction has very big political costs throughout the Middle East.

Q: I have to get a quick comment from you, because the Spanish prime minister, our friend, the Spanish prime minister, has said we need more Powell and less Rumsfeld. Shouldn't Defense secretaries speak less? Is it time to muzzle your boss?

Wolfowitz: There's an interesting debate in Europe. We need diplomats; we also need people who speak bluntly and tell the truth. And if you notice, there were a very large number of countries, particularly the newly liberated countries of Central and Eastern Europe, who basically came out and said -- gave us a cheer and said we don't want to be dictated to by the French; we care about the future of the Iraqi people; we know what it's like to live under tyranny; and bless the Americans for leading a coalition to try to liberate people.

Q: All right, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, thanks again for joining us this morning.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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