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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with KIRO-TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
March 23, 2003

(Interview with Brigette Langmade, KIRO-TV (CBS), Seattle, Wash.)

Q: I'm going to, as I said, ask you probably many of the same questions from this morning so bear with us with the repetition.

The first thing I want to ask you, of course, is about the American POWs. What's being done to verify the validity of the tape and the identity of those on the tape?

Wolfowitz: What we know is some of our people are missing and we don't know exactly where they are. Our first responsibility is to make sure that we notify the next of kin. We are going to do everything we can to find out where they are.

I think it's very important for the Iraqis who are holding our people to understand clearly the obligations they're under, under the Geneva Convention, to treat these people humanely, not to humiliate them. And they ought to understand that we are going to be in a position when that regime goes -- and it's on its way out -- to enforce the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

We observe them ourselves. We have hundreds of Iraqi prisoners that are being treated well. They're being fed. I would imagine they're actually relieved no longer to be under command of the brutal army that they used to work for.

Q: Can you explain for the folks back home what happens at the military level when it becomes apparent that soldiers are missing, that they have been taken prisoner? How do you swing into action? What's being done to find them?

Wolfowitz: Everything is being done that we can to find them, but also everything is being done to bring about as rapid an end to this regime as possible because when we control the country we will definitely find them and we'll find anyone who has mistreated them.

Q: I want to talk of course about Saddam Hussein. What do we know about his whereabouts and if he's been injured or even killed in the conflict?

Wolfowitz: We don't know for sure. It is possible that he's dead. It's possible that he's wounded. It's possible in one way or another that he's not in control. We don't know any of those possibilities.

We do see some signs that their command and control structure isn't working in the normal ways, but there's a lot about that structure that we can't observe.

What is clear, and I think increasingly clear to more and more people in the Iraqi military, is that this regime is on its way out and that it's not a regime that's worth fighting and dying for. It never has been. And pretty soon it won't be a regime that can make them fight and die for it. So I think the sooner that message is clear to everyone in the Iraqi military, the sooner this war can be over.

Q: We've seen a rapid progression in the opening days obviously and we're hearing now some reports that we're within 100 miles of Baghdad, that ground forces are less than a day's march away.

Can you describe how that progress is changing? Is it decreasing as they meet more resistance? And is there a chance, or do you anticipate they're going to meet even greater and possibly the greatest resistance once they actually reach Baghdad?

Wolfowitz: This is a war. Wars are not predictable and certainly no one should assume from some of the relatively rapid progress of early days that that's going to continue that way.

We know that some of the most committed of Saddam's forces are in the Baghdad area. We would expect to encounter more resistance when we meet those people. But let me repeat. There's no question what the outcome's going to be, and most of them could spare themselves a great deal of pain and misery also, if they would do the honorable thing -- and the honorable thing now is not to fight for this doomed and criminal regime, but to stop.

Q: We hear here at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, in homes and in coffee shops across the country how so much concern and so many thoughts are with the troops. As they approach Baghdad there's a lot of talk of the possible encountering of chemical weapons. How well are our troops prepared to protect themselves in that event? What kind of training have they had to protect themselves? And how likely is that possibility?

Wolfowitz: We don't know how likely it is. We have to go on the possibility that it's there and as a result they're as well trained as we know how to train them, as well prepared as we know how to prepare them. And we are trying in the strategy and the plan that General Franks has developed, to try if at all possible to avoid exposure to those kinds of situations. It's built into the plan, it's built into the strategy, but it's still certainly a possibility. It's one of the things that we've been most concerned about from the beginning.

Q: I'll wrap up early just by asking you about the grenade incident. Are you worried, some have said that the motive for this was resentment. Are you worried that resentment is lingering in the ranks? Are you worried that we may see other incidents like this or that this incident may cause others like it?

Wolfowitz: We know very little about the -- in fact we know nothing that I know of yet about the motivation of the person who did this. It's a tragic thing. It's tragic that lives were lost. It's tragic that people were hurt. It's tragic that it was done by one of their comrades. But what I can tell you also is that the morale of that division seems to still be sky-high. The first brigade of that division is already deep inside Iraq. What is impressive, rather than focusing on this one unfortunate individual about whom we know little, is the thousands of young Americans who are out there who are defending their country thousands of miles from home, who have extraordinary skill, extraordinary bravery, extraordinary humanity. It does this country proud and that's what we think most about.

Q: Speaking of pride, I want to ask my second last question. This will be my last question. What do you want to say to the friends and families, obviously the parents, of those young men and women? When might they see them again? What do we know about the future?

Wolfowitz: One thing we know about the future is that for certain we're going to win this war and this horrible regime is going to cease to be a threat to the United States and to its own people.

We wouldn't be in this, we wouldn't be exposing their sons and daughters to the risks they're exposed to if it weren't to protect this country from even greater risks. They can be very proud that their children, their sons and daughters and their loved ones are the ones who are taking on this risk for this country and this country owes them a great debt of gratitude.

Q: Fantastic. Thank you for your time. I so appreciate it.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.