Interview with Marc Bernier, WNDB-AM, Daytona, Fl.
Q: I've got to tell you, what America did in Iraq was nothing short of extraordinary. Fifty-five million people now are liberated as a result.
Wolfowitz: There's a little in Afghanistan as well. Put the two together it's 55 million I think.
Q: Are you surprised at the resistance still holding out this long or were you planning that?
Wolfowitz: The word resistance dignifies them. They're like the remnants of the Nazi party that we're still fighting in Germany. That's what this party was. We called it Ba'athist, it's an Arabic word, but they were basically a gang of thugs and murderers, rapists, torturers, who subjugated that country for 35 years and quite a few of them are afraid of what will happen to them in a new Iraq. Quite afraid. They're killers.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I'm not mistaken I read that even in the 1990s you went to the prior Administration, you went to President Clinton and you warned him that this stuff was out there. I think you and a couple of others wanted to get a sense from the White House as to if they were up to speed and what their plans might have been. Am I correct in what I read, that you were pretty well shut out? It was like yeah, but this won't go over well with the American people, and they kind of blew it off. Did that happen, sir?
Wolfowitz: I think there was a feeling generally that it was too heavy lifting. But I have to tell you, to be fair, I didn't see it as clearly and as strongly before September 11th. I mean I saw a country that was tortured, a country that I think deserved a lot more help from us. I said the same thing to the first President -- well, I didn't say it directly but I said to Dick Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense here that I thought we should have pushed a little harder there at the end of the last Gulf War.
This guy has always been a little bit worse than anyone could imagine. No one could imagine he would invade Kuwait, no one would imagine he would slaughter his people the way he did after that, no one could imagine that it would take 12 years of these horrendous sanctions in order to hang on to these weapons of mass destruction programs. But I'll tell you one other thing. No one could imagine that you'd find him in a hole, scraggly and surrendering. He came across as a coward and a weakling and that's a good thing.
Q: He was a bully, too.
Wolfowitz: Bullies are like that, aren't they? Kiss up and kick down I think is what they say.
Q: There you go.
I know a lot of people want to know, Mr. Secretary, where we are with Iran. Are we going to allow them to develop a nuclear weapon? Can we stop them? Should we?
Wolfowitz: I think partly because of the President's very firm action in Iraq and more generally the sense that this country is now very serious and you don't cross this country lightly, we made progress with Libya of a kind that I don't think would have been possible in the past, and we're making progress with Iran. It's not quite as dramatic but they've been caught doing things they weren't supposed to be doing and even some of their friends have been embarrassed by it.
But I think the real key to change in Iraq over the medium to long term is going to come from the Iranian people who are frankly fed up with the dictatorship they've been living under.
Q: It sounds like the Administration had released a statement within the last few days saying that the Iranians had not been very forthcoming, very honest, whatever language was to describe what appeared to be a less than honorable result, and it puts us in a situation of do we just leave them alone and watch them or do we try to encourage through legal means, get people involved and elect good leadership?
Wolfowitz: I think you try to build up the pressure on them, you try to get the countries that have been trading with them and providing them high technology like Russia to back off. I think we've had some real success at that. You try to make them face up to the fact that if they keep going down this road they're going to be more and more isolated.
I think one of the most important things we can do is to win in Iraq, to finish building a new and free Iraq right next door to Iran. That's going to set a powerful example for the Iranian people who are already demanding a better government from their leaders. If they see next door that their Arab brothers -- they're not Arab, they're Persian -- but right next door here are Shia, Muslim Arabs, who are living free, I think they're going to demand it themselves.
Q: We had the good fortune to talk to Bernard Carrick a few days ago and he was telling us about what his mission is. I look at a police mission, build a police force, and Secretary Rumsfeld told us just within the last hour that we will vet all those people to determine if they can build their own military in the next few months. They're already doing an army. The worry many Americans have, Mr. Secretary, is it's tough to trust a lot of folks. They look okay, but then you don't know if they're part of this other insurgency.
How do you screen these people to know you're really entrusting good people?
Wolfowitz: It can't be a perfect system, but I'll tell you, the Iraqis themselves will do a lot of the vetting for you. They've got the same problem and they know more about these people than we know. That doesn't mean there won't be a bad apple that gets through, more than one, but it's so much better to have Iraqis out there fighting for their country.
I'll give it in just very rough numbers, but there have been almost as many Iraqis killed fighting on our side, on their side for a free Iraq since June 1st as there have been Americans, and more and more it's becoming an Iraqi fight against Iraqis. That's the way it should be.
Q: Mr. Secretary are you worried about our relationship with South Korea souring at all because of this impeachment last week?
Wolfowitz: It's a democracy. I was the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs 20 years ago when it was a dictatorship. Dictatorships are tidier, but in the long run I think we're much better off with allies who are democratic. Even when they make changes that may be uncomfortable, in the long run it's a more stable kind of system and a better relationship.
Q: Mr. Secretary, President Putin reelected, 70 percent of the margin in Russia. It looks like he's going to be staying around for awhile. I guess they like the way their economy is moving. How do we deal with him? We've held him at arm's length, the President said he trusts him, but he's a tough one.
Wolfowitz: He is a tough cookie. The President knows him a lot better than I do. He comes from a hard system. He certainly got that 70 percent of the vote in ways that I hope, in the long run I hope Russia will have a more competitive political system, but I do think in this respect, I think our President deserves a lot of credit that he's turning more and more toward the West. HE wants Russia to be more like the rest of us. They're talented people and hopefully that will be where their future lies.
Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, do you feel we're at a point now where we're going to get a better handle on the problems with the delivery of oil from Iraq that was supposed to be able to come to this country and others? There were some insurgents that stopped it, it came out slower than we thought. Are we going to be moving at a quicker pace do you feel now?
Wolfowitz: We are moving at a quicker pace and of course you don't read about it when it picks up. You heard all those stories about oil production was way behind. It's way ahead now. It's at 2.5 million barrels a day which is pre-war levels. The potential is enormous. Once the country stabilizes and they can make decisions about investment there's a potential to greatly increase Iraq's oil production even beyond where it is.
Electricity, we had big shortages last summer, you read about them every day. Now we're back to pre-war levels and nobody write about electricity any more.
Q: China is saying now that their economy may be moving too fast and they're buying a lot of oil and products which is putting a squeeze on this country as well. How closely are we watching the Chinese situation and how greatly can their hot economy affect us?
Wolfowitz: They are, I've been hearing these things for more than ten years about China's economy's growing too fast. It's a better kind of problem to have than the other kind, I have to tell you that. But I think it's, we're all linked together in very important ways now and I think it's healthy. I think in the long run it strengthens our economy too to have strong trading partners.
Q: Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, it's a great honor to meet you. I know you came in from the rain. It's tough weather in Washington. Thanks for visiting with us.
Wolfowitz: It's a pleasure to be here.
Q: When you're in Florida we'll look for you, sir.
Wolfowitz: Okay, thank you.
Interview with Howard Arenstein, CBS Radio
Q: Mr. Secretary, it's been a year since the U.S. went into Iraq. The name of this broadcast is "What We Know Now." What do you know now that you didn't know one year ago?
Wolfowitz: Well, I think we know that it was possible to achieve a really miraculous victory with, I mean every person we lose is a tragedy but if someone had said we could liberate 25 million Iraqis without a catastrophe in the region, without the oil fields being destroyed, without Israel being dragged into the war, without Turkey intervening, without a humanitarian catastrophe and with American casualties measured in the hundreds, I think everyone would have said you're wildly optimistic. That doesn't mean the problems are over. We read about the problems every day but if you set yourself back a year and look at the things that we were warned about and predicted, to me what's amazing is how many things have gone right.
Q: But also it's been without finding those stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that you told everybody were there.
Wolfowitz: Sorry. We never said there were stockpiles. What we said was that after 12 years and 17 UN resolutions, 12 years of this regime defying the United Nations and at a very high price to his regime which suggests he had something to hide and we found some of what he was hiding, that it was time to come clean. There was the unanimous resolution of the Security Council that said it's time to come clean.
David Kay has been very clear that Saddam was lying in his declarations and deceiving the inspectors and I believe he said that if we had known in January of last year what Kay knows now, there would have been no question about going to war. We would have gone.
Q: A lot of people over this last year have been saying there was no plan for the day after. They went in, they didn't know how they were going to deal with all those people in there, the looting, everything else that's happening. We're still seeing people killed every day. Was there a plan and why are people still getting killed?
Wolfowitz: I don't know. They go from one cliché to the next. The first cliché was it's going to be a disaster, there are going to be massive humanitarian catastrophes, the oil fields are going to be in flame, friendly Arab governments are going to collapse. None of those things happened. Then they go to the next cliché which is there was no plan.
What's the proof? The proof supposedly is that these Saddam thugs, really the equivalent of the Gestapo in the old Nazi party terror mechanisms. I mean these are people who, some of whom their profession was rapist and in their professional credential it's listed because they were torturers, they were intimidators. They're still out there killing. No plan was going to eliminate that. It's still a war. What is I think impressive is there was a plan for restoring oil production. It's now back to pre-war levels. There was a plan for restoring electricity production, it's now back to pre-war levels. There was a plan, and this is the most important thing, to get Iraqis into the fight. There are now 200,000 Iraqis in the police force, in the army, in the civil defense corps, in the border guard who are fighting for their country. We've never done anything like that in Bosnia or Kosovo or Haiti or Somalia, you name any of the situations in the last 10 or 15 years where we had even 10,000 local people fighting on our side, much less 200,000, and I think that's the key to success.
Q: Some Americans are having their doubts. They're seeing people on the news every day. There's news that another soldier was killed, civilians are being killed this week in Iraq. Americans are having their doubts. What do you say to them about it?
Wolfowitz: I know some of the people who were killed. It is a tragic thing. I was in a hotel in Baghdad when we got hit with rockets and the guy on the floor right below me was killed and five Americans were wounded.
What was amazing to me when I went to the hospital to visit the four Americans and one Brit, four men, one woman -- it was kind of symbolic of the coalition. I went to the hospital and I thought at least one or two of them might be saying why did you get me here. The spirit was amazing.
The State Department secretary from Guatemala had just been there two months before. I said are you sorry you volunteered? She said no, this is really important work.
One man had a little bit of an accent, an Army colonel. I said where are you from? He said where was I born or where do I live? I said why don't you answer both? No, he said are you asking about my accent or are you asking me where I live? I said I hadn't noticed your accent but why don't you answer both? He said I live in Alexandria, Virginia but I was born in Beirut and grew up in Beirut. So I said how do you feel about building a new Middle East? He was in terrible pain but he gave me a smile and thumbs up.
You talk to most of our soldiers there, they believe in what they're doing. It's an incredibly important mission. It's going to make our country safer, it's going to make the world safer, and it's making 25 million Iraqis free for the first time in decades.
Q: Where do you see us a year from now? Do you see Iraq on a path to democracy?
Wolfowitz: I do. And the terrorists see it too. There was a remarkable letter that was captured being sent by one of the major terrorists in Iraq, this man Zarkawi. The very man that Secretary Powell talked about in his UN speech a year ago. He's one of the main killer in Iraq today. He sent a letter to one of his buddies in Afghanistan saying, "Things are really bad for us here. The Americans aren't leaving no matter how many of them we kill. Soon there's going to be a democracy and then we'll be suffocated. Our only hope is to" set off -- he doesn't say set off bombs, but to kill enough Shia that we can start a war between the Shia Arabs and the Sunni Arabs and have a civil war and bring chaos. That's what they're trying to do.
But just as 9/11 was a unifying event for our country, and the bombing in Bali brought Indonesians together and the bombs in Istanbul have brought Turks together, I think the main effect of these bombs in Iraq has been to bring Iraqis together. They're angry. A little bit of the anger is naturally going to go in all directions but the main anger goes at the people who deserve it which is the thugs from the old regime, the Saddam regime that are still fighting, and these foreign terrorists.
Q: What's going to be the effect of the bombings that we saw in Spain? We've seen a new government elected there already. Does this mean anything for you in terms of the United States, the elections here?
Wolfowitz: What I hope it doesn't mean -- This all happened very very quickly and the Spaniards are still unclear, the whole world is still unclear as to whether exactly it was al Qaida or maybe this Basque terrorist organization or who knows, maybe they were even cooperating together. It probably had some impact on the voting but no one's absolutely clear because the polls were moving to some extent before the vote.
I just hope when the dust settles in the cool light of day that the Spaniards, who after all have a long record of courage, this is the land of the bullfighters and the matadors, that they will recognize that it would be a terrible mistake to reward terrorism. The terrorists went after Spain -- I shouldn't say this, I mean assuming it's the al Qaida people, we read in their documents they believe that by targeting Spain they could break up the coalition.
It's interesting, by the way, some people say there's no coalition. The terrorists know there's a coalition. They're trying to break it up. I just hope the new government when it gets its feet on the ground will realize the worst thing they could do for Spain and for the world would be to reward terrorism.
Q: Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, thank you for joining us.
Wolfowitz: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
Interview with Dom Giordano, WPHT-AM, Philadelphia Pa.
Q: It is Dom time. I can use my normal voice here pretty much on the Big Talker 1210. We're just thrilled to be here at the Pentagon in the briefing room and we have with us Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Deputy Secretary, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Wolfowitz: It's a pleasure to be here.
Q: How does it feel, we were chatting about it before the show, to be this architect of everything that people that think something's gone wrong, pulling the strings, I can't count the number of people who have been watching you in the room. It's just masterful how you're pulling these strings. How does it feel to come to you in this position that you are that a Donald Rumsfeld, a George Bush, etc., they just wait for the code from you and then they act.
Wolfowitz: Right, and I'm supposed to be just waiting for some code from outside. It's all kind of ludicrous. [Laughter]
There's only one upside to it and it's a little unfair to the President, but a lot of people who, many Iraqis in particular who are convinced that we've done something remarkable give me a lot more credit than I deserve because of all those attacks. But the architect of this policy is George W. Bush and he is a real hero.
Q: A couple of areas of contention. People have even been calling in after Rumsfeld, which usually you do get quite a reaction. The planning after the war. Most people see this as a brilliant military success, but the gripe of opponents and some of the people that called me tonight is what were you guys thinking after the war, is what they call us at the Big Talker and say. Didn't you see X, Y and Z would happen?
Wolfowitz: It's funny. They go from one cliché to the next cliché. The cliché before the war was that everything was going to be a disaster, the Arab world would be in flames, none of the governments would be overthrown, Turkey would invade Northern Iraq, maybe Iran would invade Eastern Iraq, there would be massive destruction of oil fields, there would be starvation, large refugee flows, and weapons of mass destruction, remember, were going to be used maybe dragging Israel into the war. None of those things happened. Oh, and there was going to be massive street fighting in the cities and thousands of Americans killed.
Wolfowitz: If anyone had said before that our casualties, as painful as it is, would be measured in the hundreds, that there would be no torching of the oil fields, that we'd take the country down before there could be massive street fighting, there would be no refugee flows, and the long list of things that didn't happen, they would have said you're wildly optimistic. They just pass right over that and then they say oh my gosh, these Nazi-like thugs who tortured and raped and abused Iraq for 35 years are still fighting after the fall of the capitol.
Q: So is it fair to say you would see what's going on now as what would be expected, there's progress, but this was going to be a difficult situation?
Wolfowitz: Absolutely. And in fact I think things have moved -- considering particularly the fact that we are still at war and this criminal gang of Saddam is still fighting with some of their foreign terrorist friends, oil production is back to pre-war levels. When it was down, people commented. Now that it's back no one mentions it. Electricity is back to pre-war levels, now no one comments on it. The most spectacular -- Well, I'd say the two most important things is they have an interim constitution which is probably the most progressive in the Arab world, and they have some 200,000 Iraqis who were up there fighting with us and taking wounds and taking killed in action.
Q: On that constitution, do you feel as much as we can, it's no sure thing that we're not going to see an Islamic takeover here? I know that would be the religion. We're not going to see a throwback to that sort of thing. What kind of safeguards do you see in play with that?
Wolfowitz: Our goal is democracy, and democracy doesn't guarantee things, it opens things up for debate. Again, there was a three day debate about some final issues in the Constitution. I read people here wringing their hands, oh, my God, there's a three day delay, they're debating. I thought that's what democracy is about. The more remarkable thing is I think partly because they were so disgusted with these bombers they said okay, we have some big differences over this constitution, let's go ahead and sign it, we'll work them out.
Religion is one of the issues that they've got to work out, but I think, and look, it's an overwhelmingly Muslim society with an important but small Christian minority so they're going to have views on these issues that are probably quite different from ours. But what impresses me about so many Iraqis that I meet is number one, most of them consider themselves secular. Even women who may wear a scarf on their hair, are fighting for women's rights. Secondly, they've had enough of being abused for 35 years. They don't want it for themselves and they don't want to inflict it on others. And the third thing which is important is that a majority of them are women. Saddam killed off so many of the men, you have an even larger percentage of women that --
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld talked about women too and talked about the religion and problems with that. Why do you see that as really key, a critical element here, to women having equal rights in Iraq. Why should we care about that here in the United States?
Wolfowitz: It's a good question. If I can first, before I give you the reason give you a little illustration.
Wolfowitz: I was meeting with a group of members of Congress talking about Iraq, most of them had just come back from there, and one of them, a guy named Tom Osborne from Nebraska, --
Q: Football coach from Nebraska. Yeah.
Wolfowitz: -- an icon.
Q: Penn State beat them many times.
Wolfowitz: [Laughter] I met Joe Paterno just the other day with the President's father, by the way.
Q: You're impressed by Joe Paterno? Paul Wolfowitz, the master of the world? Come on. We're not believing that. This is all a plot.
Wolfowitz: I knew who Joe Paterno was. I have to confess I wasn't quite up with Tom Osborne, but people educated me. [Laughter] He said, I spent most of my career in an all-male environment, which is a nice way to say it, and he said but the future of Iraq is going to depend on women having their proper say. And Tom Osborne and Jennifer Dunn from the State of Washington formed a congressional caucus for Iraqi women. Why? Because it is important for our country that Iraq emerge from this terrible past of theirs as a country that respects individual rights and if they don't respect the rights of women then I think the rights of men are going to be in danger. I think women, because they have a greater sense of what's at risk for them, if they turn out and vote and organize as I hope they will do, I think they'll be a safeguard against that kind of backsliding.
Q: Fair to say though in your scheme, I mean you are one of the academic elite, you're somebody that served -- I've read the bio, it's just incredible. But you see Iraq, for a long time, as a goal. If we establish democracy in Iraq, Mr. Secretary, that this will go a long way towards changing the face of the Middle East, and I guess that's where some of the criticism comes into view, to say you've always wanted that and that's what was behind what we ultimately did.
Wolfowitz: Well, I guess we're on the radio so I should stay polite about this, but that's baloney. [Laughter]
It is true that I have believed for a very very long time, going back more than 20 years, that most people in the world want to be free and that in spite of cultural differences, that the cultural differences are frequently wildly exaggerated. I was in charge of East Asian Affairs for George Schultz when he was Secretary of State. I remember people saying the Koreans are incapable of democracy. They've never had democracy. In fact there were some people who once said Germans and Japanese were incapable of democracy.
Q: I grew up in Philadelphia and we say that now. [Laughter] We've been Democrat for 54 years so we have a similar mindset there.
Wolfowitz: There are different levels of democracy.
Wolfowitz: Chicago and Philadelphia -- [Laughter] -- different kind of standards.
And truly, I mean not every democracy's going to be like Switzerland. I set that up because it's a pretty high standard. We've reached a pretty high standard but it's taken us 200 years to get there and we're still imperfect.
But the point is what changed after September 11th was it became more than just something to support rhetorically which the Congress did, by the way, in 1998. It was more than something to support with money or even arms, which is something that I believed in doing in the 1990s and I was sorry that we didn't do it earlier.
It became a matter of the national security of the United States and something that was worth risking American lives for. That's what changed on September 11th. Before September 11th I would have never thought that, I mean if somebody had said before September 11th it's time to go to war in Afghanistan because these people are rotten, or in Iraq, I would have said look, it's time to help the Afghans, it's time to help the Iraqis, but they have to do the job themselves.
Q: Would it be fair to say though, when you're talking with the Secretary, you're talking with the President and others, looking about going into Iraq, there were a multitude of purposes and reasons to go there. Defense of the United States is imminent, but that these things were being discussed, they were in the forefront of your mind of what this would mean at that time also?
Wolfowitz: I guess I would maybe put it a little differently. I have served three tours in the Department of Defense and for whatever reason back in the 1970s I already noticed there was a problem with Iraq, that it was sort of too big for its britches, that it was a threat to its neighbors. And I talked about the possibility they might invade Kuwait some day. Even I didn't really believe they'd do it. Bang, they go and do it.
Each time Saddam Hussein surprised even me, but I would say that from 20 years of watching it pretty closely there were things I understood about the place. I understood the evil of the man, I understood the dangers of the regime, and I understood that most of his people hated him. That's important. I mean if we had gone to war against a whole country it would have been a different kind of war, it would have been a different set of considerations, it would have been morally a different act. We were going to war against a horrible regime that had probably had a million deaths on its record in different forms in the wars and in the tortures and in the murder chambers, in the mass graves. It was a war of liberation. We did it for our own security but in the process we were helping Iraqis.
Q: I am a big supporter of the idea we went to war because of a threat against the United States. We can use the word imminent or not imminent and all those types of things.
Wolfowitz: -- never used it.
Q: I know that. I know that --
Wolfowitz: -- used the word imminent in a sentence that said we can't wait until the threat is imminent.
Q: Exactly, and that's been sun around. But the fact that we haven't found the weapons of mass destruction. Are you still in the camp that that's still an open option out there? If so, the Secretary was pretty adamant about that tonight, that he's in the camp that that's still, he made public statements the other day around that. Have you given up hope? Is that a long shot now that we will find these weapons of mass destruction?
Wolfowitz: Look, I don't know what we'll find. I do know that this man, Saddam Hussein, went to enormous lengths to defy 17 UN Resolutions, paid an enormous price for his country and for his evil regime in lost revenues in order to keep real inspectors out.
Most importantly, when we got a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council it wasn't for the United States to go and find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It was for Saddam Hussein to come forward, come clean, tell everything he had and cooperate with the inspectors.
One thing David Kay has said absolutely clearly, is he did not come clean, he was lying, we found him lying, and he was obstructing inspections.
Q: I'll tell you why I'm asking you that, though. A lot of our listeners who are supportive of exactly the types of things we're talking about say though it's time to admit that whatever the intelligence gathering was off, or Saddam bluffed us due to his own psycho drama here, it's time to move past that strategically and say that and not hold out the weapons of mass destruction still as our rationale.
Wolfowitz: First of all, you have to take actions based on what you, the best knowledge you have before you act, not on what you learn afterwards. But I think the reason, for somebody to say we know now when Dr. Germ, this woman, Dr. Taha, is still not talking and when David Kay says I can't make her talk because we don't have the practices and methods of the old regime, and I can't give her amnesty for talking because she's probably guilty of some horrible experiments on human beings, that I can't amnesty her for it. So there she sits in detention, not telling us what she knows.
We know that they buried a MiG aircraft. I don't know why they buried a MiG aircraft, but we know they did. The hole that held Saddam Hussein could have held enormous quantities of anthrax. So how anyone thinks we know already, I think what you can say is that there are things we thought we would find easily that we haven't found.
Q: We have time for one more question, Mr. Secretary.
The Europeans, and their reaction tonight, saying they want to fight terrorism in a different way. I don't think it was just the Spaniards. I'm here but that's what I heard on our news. How disappointed are you in this or do you think this is par for the course of this spasm that we see moving away from truly fighting terrorism on the European front?
Wolfowitz: I hope when they say they're going to fight terrorism in a different way maybe they mean they'll stop releasing some of the killers that were involved in the Hamburg cell.
If you heard this man [Amazuti] got his conviction overturned on what I would call an extreme technicality. Interesting, I think it's too early to take the temperature, way too early. But there was an interesting editorial in Le Monde which has been attacking us brutally for the last 12 months saying that if it turns out that al Qaida was behind the Madrid bombings, this was a few days ago, then we have to rethink this whole thing because nothing they said can justify this kind of killing of innocents.
Now why they distinguish that from September 11th, I don't know, but it --
Q: How frustrating is it for you to deal with these folks. You seem like you'd be able to to me, just having this conversation with you, versus Secretary Rumsfeld who I can tell is staying away from that topic. It's difficult for him personally with the type of shenanigans and the stuff that we see. He --
Wolfowitz: We both --
Q: -- patriotic.
Wolfowitz: -- he also, believe that our alliance are incredibly important. We hear this nonsense about unilateralism. No one in this Administration believes the United States can or should go it alone. I think the difference is do you go with people who believe in what you believe in and share your values, or at least are prepared to take forceful action in the common objective? There were some Arab countries, for example, that were supportive in the liberation of Iraq who may not share all of our values in common but they were standup people. Or do you go with the kind of unanimous consensus that comes when everyone who has a potential veto on the Security Council is ready to go along?
The Clinton Administration had to act in Kosovo without a UN Security Council resolution because the Russians or the Chinese would have vetoed --
Q: -- done that, exactly.
Wolfowitz: And how many tens of thousands of people would have died as a result? Two hundred thousand people probably died in Bosnia waiting for the international community to act.
So it's better not to act alone but it's also sometimes necessary to act. You try to take with you as many people as you can.
We have, counting the United States in Iraq, 37 countries fighting in Iraq today on our side. I hope the Spanish stay with us. But if they do leave there are still 36 left. That's a big number in my book.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for joining us today. It's a pleasure to speak with you.
Wolfowitz: It's nice speaking with you.
Q: Thanks very much.
Wolfowitz: Thank you.
Interview with Eric Westernvelt and Juan Williams, NPR
Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, thank you so much for joining us.
Wolfowitz: It's nice to be here.
Q: A year after the start of the war in Iraq no weapons of mass destruction, a newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister said the war had been, his language, "a disaster". There was no reason for it. And he further said the arguments for it lacked credibility. The bottom line, he said, is that "you can't organize a war with 'lies'."
How do you respond as one of the policymakers who constructed the philosophical framework for the U.S. going into Iraq?
Wolfowitz: I guess I'd say that's pretty overheated language. No one was lying. People were saying what we believed was the best information we had from intelligence. I would say if anything we understated what we thought we knew, particularly on the linkages to terrorism.
Mr. Zarkawi whom Powell talked about in his UN presentation turns out to be in Iraq and doing major trouble and communicating with his buddies in Afghanistan.
What kind of mystifies me most of all, especially about a leader from the European left who traditionally I think understands the plight of oppressed people, it was not a disaster for 25 million Iraqis. I don't know who he's saying it was a disaster for. There were any number of disaster that were predicted. People predicted all kinds of friendly Arab governments would be overthrown, that hasn't happened. They predicted the oil fields of Iraq would be torched. That didn't happen. They predicted massive starvation and refugee flows. That didn't happen. They predicted Turkey would intervene in Northern Iraq. That didn't happen. They predicted Israel would be dragged into the war. That didn't happen.
If I can just take two more, they predicted massive street fighting in the cities of Baghdad and elsewhere. That didn't happen. And they predicted that our soldiers would get gassed and slimed and hit with weapons of mass destruction. That didn't happen either.
Now it was I think in part a truly brilliant military campaign that moved very quickly. I don't know what would have -- It's so hard to know what might have happened if they'd had more time to prepare some of the bad things they were able to do, but the most important thing to me is that 25 million Iraqis now have an opportunity to build a new free country.
I visited up in Northern Iraq I've been there a couple of times. The first time was in July with the 101st Air Assault Division in Mosul. This one colonel who commanded a brigade there said he tells his men that what they are doing in Iraq is as important as what their grandfathers did in Japan and Germany; what their fathers did in Korea and in the Cold War. And I think he's right. I would say it in terms that they were both fighting a totalitarian evil -- in this case it was terrorism and state support for terrorism. But they were also creating conditions for a talented people to build a new free society. And it's still early in the game to say how the Iraqis will come out at it, but I think they will be successful and when they are successful it will have the same kinds of broad positive effects that those successes in Japan, Korea and Germany have had.
Q: When he talks about organizing a war based on "lies" I think he's referring to using weapons of mass destruction as a justification for taking action. The United States has failed to find those weapons.
Wolfowitz: But the burden was on him, Saddam Hussein, to come forward and tell what he had and cooperate with inspectors. There were 17 UN Resolutions. 1441 was supposed to be the last and final resolution. It put the burden on him to say everything he had, to cooperate with the inspectors. David Kay has been categorical that he lied about at least the missiles and other things. It was a dishonest declaration. And he was obstructing the inspections. That was supposed to be it. To say what was the alternative, to go on for another 12 years as this failing policy of containment with American plans bombing Iraq every other day, Americans based in Saudi Arabia where we were a prime target for terrorism and a magnet for terrorism. Something had to be done to change a failed policy of 12 years and to begin turning the Middle East in a direction different from the one that brought us to 9/11.
Q: Dr. David Kay has also said that he doesn't believe there are any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and he believes that the focus should now turn to how U.S. intelligence services got it wrong on WMD in Iraq. Your thoughts on that.
Wolfowitz: Look, there's a lot to try to understand about what we knew and what we didn't know. I was on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission with Don Rumsfeld in 1998 and we examined why -- We predicted that the intelligence community was underestimating the ballistic missile threat from North Korea and Pakistan and a few others, and events in the subsequent year or two proved us right.
I remember back in 1990 when the first President Bush said we think Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons, and this core of -- not that he had nuclear weapons, that he was close to getting nuclear weapons I think was the statement. There was a chorus that arose that intelligence estimates don't support it, which I guess was technically true. But the President apparently knew more than the intelligence estimates because when we finally got into Iraq we found he had not one route to nuclear weapons but four. Very very far advanced.
So intelligence is not perfect and any one who thinks we have perfect intelligence doesn't understand limitations.
So it's important to try to understand, but I'll tell you, the most important thing in the intelligence world is to keep our focus on an enemy that is still out there. Madrid is a clear demonstration that despite a lot of success, even though they don't have a secure sanctuary in Afghanistan any more, they don't have a secure sanctuary in Iraq any more, many hundreds of them have been caught or killed, they're still out there, they're still dangerous, and I think that's where our intelligence effort needs to focus.
Q: What's the biggest lesson for U.S. intelligence post Iraq?
Wolfowitz: I'd say post the last two years is that we got too comfortable I think over the decades with our spectacular spy satellites and what we call technical intelligence. And didn't appreciate sufficiently how long it takes to develop a good HUMINT as they say in the trade, or spies as people would call it. It's a much tougher business.
Q: Is there any solid evidence at this point of a tie between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein? Another point that supporters of the war effort suggested was key before the war? And does it make a difference if those ties can't be proven concretely at this point?
Wolfowitz: I think there was solid evidence before. Let's be clear about what we're talking about. Some people say there's no proof that Saddam was involved in 9/11. That's not the issue. I think it's possible. We know there are a lot of things we still don't know.
What the intelligence community was quite emphatic about before the war was that there have been, I forget the quotes, high level contacts between Iraq and al Qaida, that senior level al Qaida terrorists like Zarkawi, had found sanctuary in Iraq, probably with the knowledge of the regime. That's something you can't prove for sure but I know the Jordanians asked to have Zarkawi extradited and he disappeared. We've seen more evidence, especially in recent months, of the very terrorist groups that Secretary Powell talked about in his UN speech being present in Iraq.
We've had some actual confirmation by Iraqi diplomats who arranged meetings between Iraqi intelligence officers and Usama bin Laden. We don't know what took place in those meetings but we know they happened.
I remember reading not so long ago somebody, some unnamed intelligence official saying there was complicity and support but nothing more. Well I would have thought complicity and support is the tie between Iraq and al Qaida.
Q: You said there's evidence Iraqi intelligence met with Usama bin Laden?
Q: When and where?
Wolfowitz: In the mid '90s in Sudan.
Q: What do you think happened, were exchanged in those meetings?
Wolfowitz: They didn't announce it to the world or tell us.
Q: What does your intelligence say?
Wolfowitz: We don't know. I mean a major point about intelligence is that you're trying to penetrate people who are doing a very damn good job of keeping secrets from you. You get a glimpse here and a glimpse there. I've sometimes said it's a little bit like having half the pieces of a quarter of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and trying to figure out what the picture looks like. So we don't know. But I don't think they were meeting to discuss cultural exchanges. I think that's probably a safe bet.
Q: Do you have any sense that those exchanges extended beyond that meeting in Sudan?
Wolfowitz: In Iraq? There was this whole list of al Qaida people in Northern Iraq which ostensibly was outside of Saddam's control but not beyond his reach.
I guess it's a question of at what level of activity do you start to get concerned? Here's a man who publishes open rewards for suicide bombers on the West Bank, who publicly justified the attacks of September 11th in the days immediately afterwards. On the anniversary of September 11th in his official press there are magazine covers that say September 11th was God's judgment. He has his intelligence agents meet with al Qaida terrorists. Al Qaida people go to Iraq. It's exactly the kind of thing where if something had happened that was clearly tied to Iraq people would have said why didn't you connect the dots?
On the one hand we're probing into 9/11 and saying why didn't people act on the basis of incomplete evidence? Then we turn around and say you don't have 100 percent proof.
I thought the lesson of September 11th is you can't wait for 100 percent proof in this era.
Q: That leads me to a question about preemption because people would say now that using Spain as an example, the United States is increasingly more isolated and forced to take more unilateral action against terrorists, and it may be the idea of preemption, going after someone before they have acted has been undermined by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction, by the argument over ties between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein.
Wolfowitz: I would say that what we did in Iraq was not preemption. It was enforcing the will of the United Nations after 12 years and 17 resolutions and had we not finally done something -- As far as I can tell the French, if we were waiting for the French to stop vetoing we would have waited another 12 years.
So I don't think it's preemption and it certainly wasn't unilateral. There are 35 countries with us in Iraq plus the Iraqis who are fighting for their own country. And it is a difficult business. Spain has lost some wonderful soldiers in the course of this fight. I'm not surprised that it's somewhat controversial. But I think they will make a big mistake if they think the terrorists will leave them alone if they simply draw back.
The terrorists understand what's at stake. If you read Mr. Zarkawi's letter and he says if democracy succeeds here in Iraq, we're finished.
Q: What's going on in Iran right now? Are they funneling terrorists into Iraq and do you have any evidence of it?
Wolfowitz: I'm not one to be too trusting of the Iranians but I think our biggest problems in Iraq right now are not coming from Iran, they're coming from a combination of the remnants of this Saddam Hussein regime, and it's hard to describe them in any terms other than Gestapo-like, Nazi-like. They're murderers, sadists, torturers. Some of them even had rapist in their official papers as a definition of their job description because rape was systematically used as a means of intimidating and humiliating enemies of the state.
These people are afraid that if we succeed they'll go to the gallows. They're numbered in the thousands, not in the hundreds of thousands, They're a small minority in the country but they're very deadly. Plus the foreign terrorists who I think are not mainly -- I don't know. They may get some aid and comfort in parts of Iran, but I think they're mainly from the sort of al Qaida network which is much more Arab than it is Iranian.
I think Iran's playing a different game. I think Iran is trying to build up its equities so that they can influence Iraq in the long run and I think they're more clever, actually. I think they realize that the way to have influence in a future Iraq is not by killing Iraqis, by buying people, by creating locuses of supporters, and they're a serious problem.
But I think also, to conclude here, I think a free Iraq is going to have a very positive influence on Iran and I think that's part of what they're afraid of.
Q: The U.S. closed 16 of the 19 border crossings from Iran into Iraq this week. Why was that done? Was it based on specific intelligence of a threat coming from Iran?
Wolfowitz: It's a concern that there's this huge pilgrimage called the [Arbaeen] that commemorates the 40 days after the anniversary of the death of Ali. It's a very holy day for Shia Muslims. And you get this huge flood of people coming for the pilgrimage to Najaf and Karbala. There's a fear that if there's no border control that terrorists might sneak in in that fashion.
I think ultimately what we need is better control on each side of the border, by the Syrians and Iranians in particular, on their borders, and inside Iraq by Iraqi police.
Q: You and President Bush said before the war that you believed that the ouster of Saddam Hussein would change the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and that clearly hasn't happened. The question is why not, and are you disappointed and concerned that rather than more action recently in terms of changing that dynamic?
Wolfowitz: I think it did a little bit for a little while back there when they had the meeting in Sharm al Sheik. I think we can prove cause and effect, but we got support and participation by Egypt and Saudi Arabia of a kind that we had not been able to get earlier.
It's come on the rocks because of this new major outbreak of terrorism which is a tragedy and no one could ever say that with them completely.
I do think when you look at Israel's overall strategic situation, they can afford to take risks that might have been more debatable in the past because the conventional military threat to Israel has virtually gone away now.
It doesn't affect the issue of terrorism, but I think ultimately it makes it easier to compromise on the big territorial issues. It's early to say. I think though that there is a readiness on the part of some of the important Arab countries to be supportive.
Q: Let's switch to Pakistan and the search for Usama bin Laden. Given that the United States now knows that Pakistan's top nuclear scientist was involved in the proliferation of nuclear secrets, does the U.S. response to Pakistan have to do with the fact that we need the Pakistanis to help us in the search for Usama bin Laden?
Wolfowitz: No. If you're implying are we sort of somehow going easy on the AQ Khan issue, I think in fact that issue's extremely important and what our strategy, and I think it's been fairly successful, has been to give President Musharraf the room he needs to get from AQ Khan the information that is in that man's head. A lot of it is still quite important. And I think it will help us to run down proliferators and get better information on what is going on in North Korea.
In general we have a situation in Pakistan where you have in President Musharraf someone who has taken some extremely bold steps, particularly in helping us in Afghanistan that have helped us enormously in the war on terror, and they're dangerous for him. He's just barely survived two assassination attempts probably done by al Qaida types late last fall. So I think the real test for us is we want to push him to do as much as he possibly can. We don't want to push him over the edge. We don't want to push him into actions that jeopardize his own survival.
Q: Will the U.S. get access to AQ Khan?
Wolfowitz: I think we're getting a lot of information through the Paks. I don't know that we'll have direct access.
Q: On South Korea do you think the ouster last weekend of the President will affect plans for restructuring U.S. forces in
South Korea? And do you think that change of government will affect the effort to restart six-party talks on North Korea?
Wolfowitz: Not in the, and it may have some short term impacts, but I would say that generally speaking in my experience one of the wonderful things about democratic governments is the country and the people are still there even if the leadership changes. Things more or less keep on a certain course. I think the reason we're able to restructure our forces in Korea is because that country has done so well compared to its northern neighbor.
I remember being in the department 20 years ago, I guess more like 25 year ago, we were terribly afraid of the great military colossus that was North Korea and how they could start a war and win a war with South Korea and how important it was to keep every last American troop there. Increasingly, I think it's probably the case now that North Korea's entire GNP is probably less than South Korea's defense budget.
We have the healthy ally even if the President's in a little bit of trouble.
Q: On Haiti, is the fact that the U.S. reported Jean Bertrand Aristide departing Haiti suggest a problem for the U.S. internationally, given that we proclaimed that we are advocates of democratic governments and Aristide was a democratically elected leader?
Wolfowitz: I'm going to get into State Department business here in a hurry and I need to be careful. But I think first I'll make a general point. I mean democracy is about more than elections. In fact I think the most important aspect of democracy I think if you, as we think of it as Americans, you can't unpackage it that well, but it's about human rights, it's about freedom, it's about equal justice under law, and I think when I say you can't unpackage it, representative government and elections are one of the major guarantees of that kind of liberty and human rights. But I think whatever electoral or popular support Aristide may have had, I think he was trampling on the rights of Haitians and his government became I think increasingly untenable.
But I don't think our policy was aimed at producing a particular result as much as we were prepared when he wanted to leave to facilitate his departure and to put together a force that could try to stabilize the situation in Haiti and open the way to a new constitutional process and that's what we'd like to see.
Q: There was no action by the U.S. to stop the Canadians or the French from sending their forces in to protect Aristide?
Wolfowitz: Not that I know of.
Q: Finally, if we have time can I ask an obscure question about Yemen? It's been reported today that Yemeni authorities have rearrested nine suspects in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 American sailors. Can you confirm that for us? And what do you think the level of cooperation is from Yemen in the war on terrorism?
Wolfowitz: I can't confirm it. I know there were some new arrests made and it seemed like a good sign. Cooperation with Yemen has been substantially better since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are some things we would like in terms of more aggressive detention of some of the terrorists that they hold and better access to some of them, but I would say overall it's a pretty decent performance.
None of us are perfect, let's be clear about that.
Q: Room for improvement though in Yemen?
Wolfowitz: I think so. But maybe this is a good sign.
Q: Thanks for your time.
Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, thanks very much for giving us this time.
Wolfowitz: Thank you. It's a pleasure.