Tuesday, December 3, 2002
(Interview with Today Programme Radio Four)
James Naughtie: The weapons' inspectors are inside one of Saddam Hussein's Presidential compounds in Baghdad this morning. An important inspection because it's meant to show that they can go anywhere and it's pressure at an important moment because at the weekend we reach the first deadline imposed on Iraq by the UN, the moment at which Saddam is expected to make a full declaration of weapons he holds.
And simultaneously the Americans are applying pressure, working hard on potential allies in preparation for military action if Baghdad resists. The White House believes that the chances of voluntary disarmament are slim so it's preparing for war and to that end Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defence Secretary, one of the Administration's leading hawks, is in Europe to try to persuade allies to help. In particular he's going to Turkey today to try to get agreement for the use of some military bases there by American forces.
But Mr Wolfowitz's mission is diplomatic. The Administration appears to be trying to avoid war mongering rhetoric. I spoke to him at the American Embassy in London and put to him this question, did he believe that war was now all but inevitable.
Wolfowitz: What President Bush has made clear is that and I, with great support from, from your Prime Minister, is that our goal is to achieve the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction peacefully if possible, voluntarily if possible, if, by force if necessary. And I believe until we've exhausted every peaceful means one certainly can't say the use, can not say that the use of force is inevitable.
But there's a paradox here which people need to understand. Our only hope of getting this problem resolved peacefully is to convince Saddam Hussein that it really is a brand new ball game and that if he doesn't cooperate in a way that he has never cooperated before that it will mean the end of his regime.
Naughtie: But everything you've said about him and his regime indicates that you don't believe he'll do it.
Wolfowitz: No I don't believe he will do it with anything less than a credible threat that if, that the alternative to doing it is going to be his demise and the demise of his regime. But we don't know what he will, how he will react faced with that kind of threat.
There is a fair amount of evidence that this man is a survivor and will do what it takes to survive, but unfortunately there's also an enormous amount of evidence over the last eleven years that says that if he's faced with anything less than that, even huge economic penalties, he's prepared to, to bear in order to continue hanging on to these weapons.
Naughtie: But if he doesn't believe it now when will he believe it?
Wolfowitz: Well this is the moment of truth. I mean this is, this as I said here in London I think this is the final chapter of the effort, the eleven year effort to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Naughtie: You say it's the final chapter, the moment of truth. On December the 8th Iraq has to say whether it has weapons of mass destruction or not under resolution fourteen forty one. Its position so far is that it doesn't. You believe that that's a lie. If Iraq's position does not change on December the 8th, what does the United States do?
Wolfowitz: Well there's no question, if they continue claiming that they don't have these weapons when we have multiple indications that they do then clearly their attitude has not changed.
Naughtie: Is that a material breach of the resolution on December the 8th? If that's their position.
Wolfowitz: No I think we get in to legal issues here. I'm not a lawyer and we're talking about the gravest kinds of decisions that in our system only the President can make, only your Prime Minister can make and we're not going to make them on our own either. I mean we're under no illusions that this is something the United States will tackle unilaterally. We intend one way or another to do it with as many coalition partners as we have, can find. So we're going to be talking to a lot of people. If it turns out on December 8th he's lying then we have a collective problem we have to come up with a collective response.
Naughtie: A collective problem and a collective response. No unilateral response?
Wolfowitz: We've never talked about doing this unilaterally. There are different ways in which one can put together a coalition and obviously the bigger the coalition the better. But it's also important in putting that coalition together it's important for people, the sort of laggards I might say, to understand that, that the rest of us are really determined.
Naughtie: You used the word laggards. I mean let's take France, let's take Germany, both Governments grave doubts about the policy that's come from Washington. Do you accept the proprietary of their doubts and the deep feelings that lie behind them?
Wolfowitz: I think it's, it's always important to take the views of your allies seriously. NATO's a remarkable alliance. You take allies seriously when they're part of an alliance like that. Doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say and their perspective may be a little bit different from ours.
We suffered three thousand dead on September 11th and the lesson to us and I think it really ought to be the lesson to everybody, is that if we had known before what it means to lose three thousand people in a single day I imagine we would have contemplated doing some of the things in Afghanistan that we later did. Of course no one could imagine anything that horrible.
Well we've been put on notice of what it would mean to lose thirty thousand or three hundred thousand or God forbid three million Americans in a single day and we can't wait until that's actually happened.
We know in Iraq we have a hostile dictator who every day proclaims his hostility to us, who has chemical and biological weapons and is building nuclear ones and if we don't get rid of those weapons some day he might put them in the hands of terrorists.
Naughtie: What do you say to those in this country who would agree with you that the Iraqi regime is not attractive, even that it's very bad, even that its human rights' record by common consent is appalling, but that it is not an imminent threat justifies a military action which will cost lives for our Service men and women and yours and theirs and their civilians. And they say to you why do you believe it is a threat now that must be coped with.
Wolfowitz: First of all let me make it clear that no one in our Government takes lightly the prospect of a war and we care I would say particularly deeply about what happens to our Service men and women who are going to, whose lives are going to be at risk. We also care what's going to happen to civilians. Inevitably some innocent people die. A war is something you try to avoid. The reason that we are prepared to confront that possibility is because the risk of inaction is judged to be so great.
Naughtie: And that is a threat that comes from Iraq in your judgement, not just the loose network of Al-Qaeda supporters?
Wolfowitz: What President Bush talked about in his State of the Union message which got this label, earned the label of axis of evil is to underscore there is a certain problem that comes from this dangerous connection between terrorists and states that support terrorism and have weapons of mass destruction. Because that's where the real, not that terrorists might not get these weapons on their own, that's something we have to worry about also, but the greatest danger of their acquiring these weapons comes from states and each one of those three countries he mentioned in that speech is different.
Our policy toward each one is different, but Iraq is quite unique not only in the level of hostility that it's expressed toward us but also in eleven years of defying sixteen UN Security Council resolutions. This is the seventeenth and they have to comply with this one.
Naughtie: You want British help in any operation that is planned. Is one of the options an Army of occupation in Iraq after the removal of the regime?
Wolfowitz: If it comes to the use of force our goal as in Afghanistan is not occupation, it's liberation and I think we saw very clearly in Afghanistan when the Taliban went and women took off their burqas and girls went to school for the first time and the famine that was threatening four million people in North disappeared that we were greeted as liberators.
The same principle applies in Iraq, although in very, very different circumstances. But I think we will be greeted as liberators. You mentioned that Saddam might even be called appalling. I would say with the possible exception of the regime in North Korea there is not a more horrible dictatorship in the way it treats its own people. And those people will be I believe genuinely grateful to be free from his tyrannic, tyranny.
Naughtie: Do you think the Islamic world would regard American troops fighting a war on Iraqi soil against the regime, what ever some of the other countries think about Saddam as a war of liberation? Or would some of them think that it was to use that unfortunate word that was used early in this matter, a crusade against Islam.
Wolfowitz: Well it's definitely not a crusade, in fact, you gave me an opportunity let, I'll answer your question, but first let me point out to all of your listeners. It's worth remembering that six times now in the last eleven years American Armed Forces have gone to the aid of overwhelmingly Muslim populations.
We liberated the Kuwaitis, we ended ethnic cleansing and genocide for first the Bosnians who were Muslims and the Kosovars who were Muslims. We ended a famine that was threatening to kill two hundred thousand Somali Muslims. We went in to Northern Iraq and rescued Kurdish Muslims from the grip of Saddam Hussein and we removed the Taliban and helped some twenty million Afghan Muslims.
We didn't do it because these people were Muslims, but in fact we were assisting Muslim people. We're not at war with Islam at all. President Bush and all of his Administration have made clear the enormous respect we have for Islam as a religion. It's a particular effort to hijack that religion that is the problem.
And to answer your question directly, yes I'm sure there will be people who will say that we are attacking a Muslim country and they will make propaganda out of it. But I think what will be decisive in the end is how it comes out and I think when it comes out that the Iraqi people will not be saying why did you do it, but rather why didn't you do it sooner that a lot of that criticism will go away.
Naughtie: After December the 8th if the United States believes quite quickly that some form of military action has to be undertaken, but much of Europe, perhaps even the Government here in London says wait, let's give the UN more time how importantly will that weigh in the balance in Washington?
Wolfowitz: You know we're talking very hypothetically, you're assuming it'll come to a ...
Naughtie: Of course.
Wolfowitz: ... certain conclusion and I, I don't know what conclusion we'll come to. I suspect that we'll get a picture that is ambiguous and that it will take some time to clarify even what we think and in the process of clarifying what we think we're going to be very much influenced by what our friends and allies think and this is not to flatter you or your listeners, but there's no ally whose opinion counts more in Washington than the United Kingdom. It's there are many reasons for it but that is a fact and we will be paying very close attention to how our British colleagues evaluate it.
Naughtie: Except that when you go to Turkey what you're going to be saying is we need your help with bases. And when the President rang the Danish Prime Minister about Turkey's application to get in to the EU the message was pretty clear. We want you to help Turkey because we need them.
Wolfowitz: Turkey is at a unique point in its relationship with Europe and even if the Iraq issue weren't on the table at all it would be very important to be focused on Turkey. The next two weeks could be decisive.
If it works out well we could have a resolution of the long festering Cyprus problem and we could have Turkey believing that if it means very high standards and the standards have to be very high that eventually it will be allowed in to the European Union.
Naughtie: Paul Wolfowitz thank you very much.