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Regional Media Interviews with Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
November 04, 2003

(Interview with Todd Wallace, KXAS-TV, Dallas)

Q: Waiting for the go. All right we’re going to start now, sir, if you’re ready.

Wolfowitz: Ready to go.

Q: Okay. Joining U.S. now is Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Dr. Wolfowitz thanks for joining U.S. this afternoon.

Wolfowitz: It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Q: With the death toll rising and the attacks against our troops increasingly more sophisticated, in your opinion, how is the war going thus far?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think there are a lot of pieces of it. There’s been enormous progress in the reconstruction effort in Iraq and restoring electricity and putting new currency into effect, getting schools and hospitals opened, getting a central bank established and getting the first pieces of an Iraqi self-government in place. There’s also been huge progress in getting Iraqis on the front lines fighting with us, so as these terrorists and their former regime loyalists come out to try to do terrible damage, there are more and more Iraqis fighting against them.

Q: Speaking of those loyalists, is President Bush correct when has been saying that the violence demonstrated against our troops there is more desperate attempt on their part, or is it a part of a campaign that is actually increasing in strength and also gaining supporters?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think its important to recognize that it doesn’t take very many people to kill hundreds. We saw it here in the United States, not just on September 11th, but take Oklahoma City, two individuals killed 150, it doesn’t take more than a few thousand remnants of the secret police of Saddam’s era and the Fedayeen Saddam and these other killers and torturers who are still on the loose to do a lot of damage. And that seems to be one of the main sources of trouble.

Q: The President has also said that we will be in this war as long as needed and not a day longer. At this point, is there any end in sight?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think it’s very important to realize that there is a huge growth of Iraqi security forces, some roughly hundred thousand today, now in the police in the Civil Defense Corps and the New Iraqi Army and the border guards and in something called the Facilities Protection Service. These Iraqis are fighting and dying for their country in now increasing numbers, and they’re successfully stopping a lot of terrorist attacks and they’re helping our troops on the front lines. So, our goal is to accelerate the handover responsibility to Iraqis in the security field and eventually in government as well.

Q: Okay. Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, we do appreciate you joining U.S. this afternoon.

Wolfowitz: Thank you, thanks for the opportunity.

Q: Thank you very much.

(Interview with Russ Spencer, WAGA-TV, Atlanta.)

Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, you know that there were four explosions again today in Iraq. You were in the Al-Rasheed Hotel a couple of weekends ago and experienced a blast there yourself. How worried are you that these constant guerilla attacks are going to undermine the effort to establish democracy in Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Well, that’s what they’re aimed at doing, but there are thousands -- tens of thousands of Iraqis now -- who are fighting with U.S. for a free and democratic Iraq. We know from our own experience in this country, not just September 11th, but take Oklahoma City. Two individuals can kill 150 people with a bomb. So, that’s how these characters operate, and I think the great bulk of them appear to be remnants of the old regime Fedayeen Saddam, former secret police types who think that if they kill enough of us, we’ll run away and they’ll be able to bring back kind of the old tyranny or a new one. But the Iraqi people in increasing numbers are standing and fighting with us, and I think that’s what’s the most important development.

Q: David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who was traveling with you in Iraq, writes that he can’t argue with getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but he writes, "Hussein never posed a sort of imminent danger to America that Administration rhetoric implied, and Mr. Wolfowitz must share the blame for exaggerating that threat." Is that fair criticism?

Wolfowitz: Well, first of all, we never said "imminent", this is a word that keeps popping up as though in a post-September 11th era you could know when an attack was imminent. We had no idea, even in August, that that attack was eminent, and yet it was in August of 2001 it was completely organized and all the hijackers were in this country by April. So, I think the lesson of September 11th is you can’t wait until the last minute -- you’ve got deal with terrorists and terrorist states in a much more systematic way, and that’s what the President has been talking about when he says it’s going to be a long hard struggle against terrorism. But no longer is Saddam Hussein in a position to exploit terrorism from Iraq. That is a huge victory.

Q: And yet, is seems that there was a clear implication on the part of the Administration that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Wolfowitz: It wasn’t the Administration -- it was the unanimous view of the intelligence community under the Clinton Administration, under this Administration, that Saddam Hussein had anthrax and botulism and chemical weapons and we’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened to those things and they may be hiding in a basement somewhere in Baghdad. But the point is, presidents have to make these judgments not based on what you discover after the war is over, but based on what you know going in. And based on what he knew going in, Saddam Hussein and his regime and his support for terrorism, and I believe continued alliance with terrorists, presented a threat to this country.

Q: You were a professor before becoming the number 2 man at the Pentagon. Do you think it’s possible that perhaps you are a little idealistic about the possibilities of democracy in Iraq?

Wolfowitz: No, you know, that’s an easy charge to make. We’re in this war because Saddam Hussein and his export of terrorism and his export of violence into the Middle East threatened our country. Now that we’re there, we’re there to help the Iraqi people build a better future, and I believe they can do it. There was a lot of skepticism after the Soviet Union collapsed about what the people of Eastern Europe would be able to do. They haven’t achieve perfection, they’re a long way from what we would consider our standards here in the United States after 200 years, but the people of Poland and Lithuania and Czech Republic and even the Russians, in many ways, are making progress. I think the Iraqis can do the same -- that’s not starry-eyed idealism.

Q: You’ve heard the democratic charge that at least some of the motive for going into Iraq was to help the Vice President’s friend at Halliburton to help Israel.

Wolfowitz: What a piece of nonsense. I mean, the Vice President has nothing to do with those contracts, and moreover, has nothing any longer to do with Halliburton. The reason you end up with big companies doing this work is because they’re very few companies in the world that can repair oil fields on a large scale or can stand up electricity on a large scale. You know the same people that say what you just quoted then turn around and complain why the electricity isn’t running yet. Well, just a few weeks ago, we got electricity back to the pre-war level, and I wish I’d seen a few stories that noted what an achievement in less than 6 months to get electricity back where it was before all the looting and all the destruction.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have a sense of whether Saddam Hussein is behind the scenes pulling the strings as far these guerilla attacks are concerned right now?

Wolfowitz: I think an important point to emphasize, and I think the American people get this, is that terrorists do not advertise how they operate. They do not advertise their secret means of communications and we’re dealing now with a remnants of a terrorist regime and they’re terrorist allies and we have only a murky picture of how they work. We’re pretty sure that, if not Saddam Hussein, then at least some of his senior killers and torturers involved in orchestrating these attacks.

Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

(Interview with Guy Gordon, WXYZ-TV, Detroit.)

Q: Mr. Wolfowitz, you are both credited and in some circles blamed as the architect of the American plan in Iraq and certainly the Democratic Presidential contenders have attacked you harshly. How do you respond to their claims that there is no post-war plan, and if there is one, it’s failing?

Wolfowitz: Now, there’s been an enormous amount of planning -- we wouldn’t have accomplished what we’ve accomplished in the last six months if there hadn’t been a plan. We’ve stood up a central bank in record time, we’ve put out a new currency, we got electricity back to pre-war levels, we got universities and schools operating. I could give you a long list on the civilian side, of very important accomplishments, but the one that U.S. here in the Pentagon as most important is we now have roughly 100,000 Iraqis fighting for their country along side our troops and this unmatched in any recent experience, and this is a much tougher one. So we wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t done a lot planning before.

Q: Well, let’s talk about the Iraqis that are acting as a security forces for you. The Iraqi governing council today apparently sent a message to President Bush asking for greater responsibility and a larger role in defending and securing the country suggesting that they can do a better job. Can they?

Wolfowitz: Well, there’s no question that Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi policemen, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps can do a lot of things that our troops don’t do as well. They’re not as well-trained as our troops, they’re not as well-equipped as our troops, but on the other hand, they know the neighborhood, they speak the language, they can read the countryside and see if something’s not the way it ought to be. So having U.S. working together is a huge step forward.

Q: Is it, though, a little bit embarrassing for them to imply, especially in a letter of condolence to the President over the Chinook helicopter crash, that they can do a better job?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think it’s a good thing that Iraqis want to step forward and take responsibility for their own country. Our goal, as Ambassador Bremer recently said, is to accelerate the hand-over responsibility and authority to Iraqis. So on that point, I think we’re in agreement, and it’s much better to have them pushing to do more than sitting back asking the U.S. to do it for them.

Q: How quickly can we get them better equipped and better trained to do the job?

Wolfowitz: A lot faster, now that Congress has passed the President’s request for $87 billion dollars. $20 billion dollars of that is going to go to helping the Iraqis get on their own feet and of that $20 billion, one of the largest single pieces, $5 billion dollars, is to train and equip police and Civil Defense Corps and New Iraqi Army. And we’re going to be able to move out much faster now that we have the funds to do it with.

Q: I know that will come as a relief to those who have loved ones with the troops over there because the quicker they can take control, the quicker we can leave.

Final question. Spain today joined the Netherlands and Bulgaria in withdrawing their diplomatic personnel from Baghdad because of security concerns that they have, like concerns about the attack. Is that a vote of no confidence, or is that significant?

Wolfowitz: No, it’s a vote of sense, at least for the moment. Their missions there are feeling a bit insecure, but we need to judge this not by what happens on a particular day or small changes, but where the trend is in the longer term. And to put these two things together, you’re absolutely right that, I think, families of our wonderful soldiers and who are putting their lives on the line every day there in Iraq will take comfort, should take comfort, from the fact that more and more Iraqis are fighting for their country. One of the things they can do is guard embassies, and we’ll see more of that in coming months.

Q: All right Mr. Wolfowitz, thank you very much for joining us. We look forward to talking with you further this week.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

(Interview with Jerome Gray, KHOU-TV, Houston.)

Q: Let’s start off talking to the Deputy of Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz about the most recent attacks in Iraq.

Let’s first get your reaction to what has just happened, including this yet another American soldier dying there.

Wolfowitz: As the President said, these Americans are heroes. They’re fighting for their country and helping the Iraqis to fight for theirs. But the important thing to emphasize is that more and more Iraqis are stepping forward to defend their country. There’s some hundred thousand now in the police and the New Iraqi Army and the Civil Defense Corps and other branches of Iraqi services, and those are the big numbers. It doesn’t take very many people to plant a bomb and, unfortunately, we’re dealing with those kinds of evildoers, but more and more Iraqis are stepping forward, and in some cases dying, but always fighting for their country.

Q: Dr. Wolfowitz, you and others of the Administration have said that we do not need to send more troops into Iraq, yet at the same time, you’re trying to get other countries to send troops into Iraq. Let’s talk about that and why is that?

Wolfowitz: Well, we don’t need more foreign troops -- American or other. The total that, in fact, of international troops, is one that we can see coming down gradually. What we need more of are Iraqi forces of various kinds and we’re getting more of them. Iraqi forces can do things that no foreigner, whether American or any other country, can do. They know the language, they know the people, and they know the neighborhoods. People give them information much more readily than they give it to us. So, our biggest emphasis is on standing up Iraqi forces. But, yes, we welcome the help that’s been provided now by some 30 countries, some 23,000 troops now serving with U.S. and others; South Korea, notably, with a decision coming up in it’s parliament next month, willing to step forward and help.

Q: Of course, the other big question. What can be done at this point to try and prevent more of these attacks?

Wolfowitz: There’s a certain amount we know in this country. It only took 2 criminals -- Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols -- to kill 150 people in Oklahoma City, and, unfortunately, it does not take very many people to plant one of these bombs. And it takes a lot of people to be able to provide security and that is what we’re doing. You never have perfect security, but you’ll never get it entirely by sitting on defense. You’ve got to go on offense, and that’s what we’re doing internationally and that’s what we’re doing in Iraq.

Q: In hindsight, do you worry though that perhaps in the pre-war planning stages we didn’t do enough to think about how to deal with the post-war Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Oh, I think we did a lot of planning. That’s why we’re in the situation now where electricity is back at pre-war levels, where some hundred thousand Iraqis are serving with us, where there’s a new currency. You could have done any of that and I could give you a much longer list if we had time without a lot of planning. The important thing, though, is Saddam Hussein is no longer controlling that country and butchering his people and exporting terrorism and violence and instability to the rest of the Middle East and the rest of the world -- that’s a big step forward.

Q: Now what about, though, in terms of what many have said is a deteriorating security situation in Iraq in light of all these attacks. Some average of 35 or so attacks a week or day?

Wolfowitz: You are dealing with people like the Fedayeen Saddam, these particularly evil thugs who were Uday’s personal creation, or the former secret police, the special security organization, or the former Iraq intelligence service in Al Kabarat. There are some hundreds or maybe a few thousand of these people out there who believe that if they kill enough Americans, we’ll leave and they can take the country back again. It’s a fantasy that Saddam Hussein entertained before the Gulf War in 1991 -- he could take casualties and we couldn’t and we’d give up. We’re not the giving up kind, we didn’t give up after September 11th; were not going to give up in Iraq. And there are now hundreds of thousands of Iraqis ready to fight with us. They’re not prepared to give up and turn that country back to what it was before.

Q: Now let me ask you, do you worry, though, that the aggressive military actions in the Middle East may indeed be creating or helping to create more terrorists than we can deal with?

Wolfowitz: It seems to me that we notice quite a few terrorists before this liberation of Iraq. These people weren’t created by our actions. They’ve been out there, they didn’t need inspiration based on our actions -- they’ve been out there. I think that we can succeed and we will succeed in helping the Iraqi people stand up what will be, in many respects, the first free and democratic country in the Arab world. It’s going to set a positive example for the rest of the region, an example the terrorists are frankly afraid of; that’s one of the main reasons why they’re fighting U.S. so hard.

Q: All right. Deputy of Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for joining us.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

(Interview with Don Porter, KING-TV, Seattle.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, this morning, mortar rounds falling into the American compound in Baghdad, hand-held missiles shooting down the Chinook helicopter, killing 16 Americans on Sunday. 23 American dead since the 1st of November -- only 4 days -- are we back to hot combat in Iraq and, more importantly, are we losing?

Wolfowitz: Well, we’ve been at war in Iraq for sometime, major combat ended back in May, but that didn’t mean combat ended and it didn’t mean that Saddam Hussein and his killers don’t entertain the idea that if they can kill enough Americans, we’ll leave and they can take that country back into the darkness from which it recently emerged. But I believe we are winning, we’re winning in the progress that’s been made, enormous progress on restoring electricity, getting independent courts for the first time, getting a new currency established, getting schools and universities operating. But also importantly, in the security field specifically, we now have roughly 100,000 Iraqis fighting along side U.S. for the future of their country, and that’s a huge gain.

Q: Why not more U.S. troops, sir? I mean, you’re training up a lot of young Iraqis to go up against what amounts to veteran Saddam thugs, murders and torturers, described by David Brooks in the New York Times today as the scum of the earth and their terrorists flotsam and jetsam friends. I mean, doesn’t that just mean Americans will be targets for the time it takes to train up the New Iraqi forces?

Wolfowitz: No, it means that Iraqis are the ones best suited to do this and that scum that you correctly described are not people who stand and fight they hit and run and the Iraqis along side U.S. are quite capable of standing and fighting against them. One attack on the police station in Baghdad in last Monday was a suicide bomber was stopped by two brave Iraqi policemen who stood their ground and shot him out and many other attacks have been stopped short of their full target by Iraqis defending their country, defending the Baghdad Hotel earlier, the Red Cross Building -- less damage than might have taken place otherwise.

Q: Sir, this is Ramadan a lot of U.S. remember 35 years or so back to Tet, and if you got a chance to look at an editorial cartoon I sent along, is that a good analogy or a cheap shot?

Wolfowitz: I think it’s just -- it’s an analogy that doesn’t work at all. I mean, one of our big problems in Vietnam was obviously that we didn’t have most of the people on our side. In the case of Iraq, we have the overwhelming preponderance of Iraqis on our side, but it doesn’t take very many to do this kind of damage. We saw in this country, not just September 11th where 19 people killed 3,000 in New York and another 150 here in the Pentagon, but think about Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two lone criminals who blew up 150 people in Oklahoma City. Those are the ratios we’re dealing with, but the important point is, we have hundreds of thousands, millions of Iraqis on our side, and we’re dealing, I believe, with the remnant butchers of a butcher regime and some of their terrorist allies. We’ll win.

Q: Very briefly in the seconds we have left. We saw Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the Iraq war become target Paul Wolfowitz at the Al-Rasheed nine days ago. Did you experience any personal epiphany coming under fire?

Wolfowitz: No, it wasn’t particularly me. I was just one of many targets in that country, brave Americans who are out there every day civilians as well as military risking their lives, Iraqis who are risking their lives. And we know that these murders target things where they think they’ll do success where they can set the country backward. They’re not going to succeed.

Q: Mr. Secretary I thank you very much for your time.

Wolfowitz: Thank you good to be with you.

(Interview with Deborah Bowden, WTVT-TV, Tampa.)

Q: First of all, let me ask you about today’s violence. An American soldier killed on a roadside bombing, mortars lobbed at the U.S. headquarters in the area in Baghdad. Is this a message from the Saddam loyalists that they are organized and they’re not going to give up on this?

Wolfowitz: Well, I do think this kind of violence is what they believe will somehow bring the country back to the darkness from which it’s emerged and it doesn’t take very many people to do that kind of damage. I mean, remember, it only took 19 here on September 11th to kill 3,000 in New York and 150 here at the Pentagon. On a more ordinary level, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, just two individuals, killed 150 people in Oklahoma City, so it doesn’t take too many of these murders from the old regime to make a lot of trouble. But the real story is that we have now roughly 100,000 Iraqis, and the number grows every day, who are fighting for their country along side us, and the police, and in the Army, and in the Civil Defense Corps. Fighting, and in some cases dying, there’s more than 80 Iraqis who’ve died for their country since June 1st. That’s the important thing -- the numbers are on our side, not on theirs.

Q: And we also have lost several of our own men and women.

Wolfowitz: Quite a few, and they’re heroes. They’re heroes, and the ones that have been wounded and the ones who put their lives on the line every day are heroes, and this country owes them a huge debt of thanks and owes their family a huge debt of thanks.

Q: As they are remembered, so many are now wondering, what is our exit strategy? Is it time to bring our men and women home? What would you say to those families and those average Americans who are now very concerned about everyone’s safety over there?

Wolfowitz: I think the important thing now is to win, and the key to winning is accelerating the transfer of responsibility to Iraqis, both in the government field and in the security field, and that is happening every day, if anything, in an accelerated pace. But the troops who are on the line -- I’ve talked to a lot of them -- understand why they’re there, they understand what it’s about, they understand why it’s important to win. And the worst thing we can do to the memory of those who’ve fallen is to give up now. I don’t believe any of the soldiers out there want to see U.S. do that.

Q: How long do you foresee U.S. being there in Iraq and in what capacity? Are we talking months, years?

Wolfowitz: This is a war, and wars are very difficult things to predict. What we can predict is that many more Iraqis are -- as I mentioned, 100,000 now -- are in the field with us, when it was zero six months ago -- less than 6 months ago -- and those numbers are going to grow, probably roughly double over the course of the next 12 months. And I think that’s going to make a huge difference, not only in the number American troops that are needed, but that the number that have to be literally on the front lines. The Iraqis are capable of doing a lot of this work themselves if we give them the support and the backup.

Q: And over the long haul, what about international support?

Wolfowitz: We’re getting more. We have some 30 nations contributing now, two multinational divisions in the south, with some 23,000 troops. The South Koreans are now going to have a debate in their assembly about the possibility of sending a Korean division; we very much welcome that. We’re looking for more international contributions, but…that’s important, but the most important things are the Iraqis who are standing and fighting.

Q: And tell me about the security situation there from your own perspective. You having been there, even coming under attack during your last visit. How would you describe the situation there from your own perspective?

Wolfowitz: Well, it’s dangerous, because there are some pretty evil people out there who want to take the country backwards, and it doesn’t take large numbers of them to do the kind of attack that we were subjected to at the Al-Rasheed Hotel. We could go Sunday. One of the things that so impressed me in the aftermath of that attack is the bravery and the courage of the Americans and international partners -- military and civilians who’d been targets of that attack. My visit in the hospital with an American colonel and three Americans civilians and one British civilian, all of them seriously wounded and all of them with a great spirit and sense of importance of the mission they were performing. They’re real heroes.

Q: Well, thank you Deputy Secretary, we are getting the big wrap, so it’s been wonderful talking with you.

Wolfowitz: Good to talk to you.

Q: All right, take care.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.