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Deputy Assistant Secretary Whitman Interview with Al Jazeera

Presenters: Bryan Whitman, DASD PA (Media Operations)
April 22, 2003
(Interview with Hafiz al Mirazi, Al Jazeera.)
 

            Q:  Let’s begin where Newt said that this debate in Washington that the State Department and Pentagon are on some sort of collision course some people suspect that Gingrich since he is a member of the Defense Policy Board that answers to the Pentagon might be saying what a lot of people at the Pentagon want to say but can’t.  What would you say to that Bryan?

 

            Whitman:  Well I haven’t heard comments of Newt Gingrich today but I would tell you that the inference that the State Department and the Defense Department aren’t working closely together is just false.  We have a very good relationship and we work through some very complex issues and those issues require a free discussion of ideas as we look for solutions for things that we are working on so, I think there’s much too much focus this perceived difference.  We have a very good working relationship.

 

            Q:  Mr. Whitman, if I could ask you as well.  With of course the headaches caused by the newspapers like the Washington Post, they talked about problems between the Washington Post and between the State Department and Pentagon and then the New York Times before that had spoken about military plans of the Pentagon that were discussed at a high level sources or officials and plans to install four permanent bases in Iraq.  Of course you have seen the reports and that would at least allow it to get, or to lower it’s profile in Saudi Arabia and other places if they have all of that in Iraq and of course the Secretary of Defense was really rejecting that outright yesterday.  So, is that because you don’t want any military bases in Iraq or just not now?

 

            Whitman:  Well I think that you have to start at the beginning there where we talked about the force presence in the future.  The United States and the coalition partners went into Iraq with a very specific mission and we have been clear about that from the beginning.  And some of the key elements of that were to remove the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, discover the weapons of mass destruction that exist and destroy those.  To determine and rid Iraq of the terrorists that’s operating out of that country.  And so there are some very clear defined goals that we have, all leading to creating the environment and the opportunity for a new Iraq government.  A government that is representative of all the people and the diversity that Iraq has, that doesn’t threaten its neighbors, that doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction and where people can live in freedom and enjoy the wealth that Iraq actually has.

 

            Q:  In talking about the freedom, what is your comment on the demonstrations in Karbala for some Shi’ite religious occasions and some of the banners that were lifted there by U.S. media and down with Israel, down with America?

 

            Whitman:  Well freedom of expression and freedom of speech is something that all free countries cherish.  And this is something that just a few weeks ago the Iraqi people would not have been able to do.  So insofar as it doesn’t disrupt public safety, I think that it’s wonderful that Iraqis have the opportunity to express themselves freely, to demonstrate peacefully, because this is all part of what occurs in a democracy and this is all the activities that must take place as they start the dialogue and the discussion as to what type of future the people of Iraqi want for Iraq.

 

            Q:  And Bryan if I could ask you as well about today’s debate on Hans Blix’s position who is at the U.N., he was saying whose responsible for disarming Iraq.  If there are any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or at least the search for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Hans Blix said we don’t doubt the inspectors working with the U.S. and British forces but why can’t some of them be kind of independent from that and independent from that and the U.N. inspectors can go back which the U.S. depended on before.  Why can’t they go back now and do their own searching?

 

            Whitman:  We have a number of, a very robust number of people that are dedicated to searching out and looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  We have to remember that this was a regime that lived under an inspection apparatus that hid and dispersed these weapon of mass destruction and made sure that only a very few people knew about the whereabouts so this is a process that is going to take some time and it takes very qualified people which the coalition has in the country right now and it’s going to take some time because these weapons are not something that Saddam Hussein put in a place where they would be easily found either.  And I think in the end, it will be the Iraqi people and the people that worked on these programs or have knowledge of these programs that will come forward and let coalition forces know that this is where weapons of mass destruction exist, this is where there is documentation about what the regime was up to.  So I think that once we have had sometime to work through that, you will see that over time that the true nature of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs will come to light.

 

            Q:  Mr. Whitman also, perhaps one more question.  After, we will have on our show later on Scott Ritter who was Chief U.N. Inspector beforehand and of course you probably know his position on the search and the looks of something that might not exist in Iraq.  Now with all this time that has passed and total U.S. domination in Iraq, doesn’t that allow the skeptics to say, and all this talk before about tons of biological agents and chemical agents and the mobile laboratories and germ labs here and there and, all that talk, none of it is there so far.  Doesn’t it creates a lot skepticism that, these weapons, how come the proof of the pudding is that he didn’t even use those when he was in his dying days.  So what do you think of that argument?

 

            Whitman:  Well I think that there will always be skeptics.  This is not just a U.S. effort.  This is a number of coalition countries are in Iraq that are pursuing and creating the conditions to be able to pursue weapons of mass destruction programs.  There will be little doubt in the days ahead exactly what the Saddam Hussein regime was up to and we would like to have all the answers today.  There is a tremendous appetite to know the full breadth and depth of Saddam Hussein’s weapon of mass destruction program but it will take time.  Like I said earlier, these are things that have been very well hidden, very much dispersed throughout the country and developed and kept in secrecy with only a few people knowing about these program and it will take us some time but in the end, I think that the world community will come to know the full extent of what exactly what Saddam Hussein was up to.

 

            Q:  Thank you.

 

Whitman:  Thank you.

 

Q:  Mr. Bryan Whitman that was joining us from the Defense Department, deputy director of the Communications Office there.