Voice: We had an excellent briefing session, a lot of members from the House, many members who have been to Iraq and lots of in-depth questions for Mr. Armitage and for Mr. Wolfowitz. The Secretary spent a lot of time talking to members, especially about personnel questions and questions with respect to troop rotations and the security aspects of the operation.
So we’ll take a couple of questions for the Secretary and for Secretary Armitage and move on. And I’ll do a vote.
Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, considering conditions now in Iraq, is it still safe for members of Congress to visit Iraq (Inaudible.)? (Inaudible.) I’m sure a lot of them might be going over during the holiday recess, but because of the (Inaudible.)? Is it safe for them to go?
Wolfowitz: We just talked about this. General Abizaid who very much welcomes congressional delegations, in fact we thanked the members this afternoon for the large number of them who have been out there. It’s very valuable. It helps to contribute to better policy back here and it’s very good for the troops.
We’d like to see them. We believe we can provide adequately for their safety as long as we try to keep the size of the delegations somewhat smaller than in the past.
Voice: And let me just say in the Armed Services Committee we have several CODELs [Congressional Delegations] leaving, continuing to go, and a large majority of the Armed Services Committee, and this is probably true on the Senate side also, have gone to Iraq. So I think it’s been most helpful to the members. We intend to continue making these pilgrimages.
Wolfowitz: And I plan to go back.
Wolfowitz: I believe I’ll let you commit Syrian Policy.
Voice: Currently the [Share in] Accountability Act which the Congress is voting on is a serious matter that the Administration has supported. Secretary Powell traveled to Damascus in May and made it very clear to President Assad and his colleagues that they had come to a fork in the road and they had to do what you do when you come to a fork in the road, you had to take it. They didn’t choose to take the right one.
Now you’re speculating about future military action which is not something that any Administration wishes to do as a hypothetical. But I think it is a serious matter, which way the Syrians are going to see themselves in the future of the Middle East. Are they going to take part in the new Middle East that the President spoke so eloquently about in his National Endowment Democracy speech? Or are they going to go in another direction and be left behind?
That’s the situation there. They have to make up their minds.
Q: In light of what happened today in Turkey, does this kind of thing, the bombings and civilians being killed, does that sort of deter our allies from wanting to be aligned with us in this war?
Wolfowitz: I think our allies are aligned with us because they understand that it’s an attack on all freedom-loving countries. September 11th was not just an attack on the United States, it was an attack on the whole world. So was the bombing in Bali, so were the attacks in Istanbul, so were the attacks in Saudi Arabia.
We’re dealing with a worldwide network of terrorists who believe in killing innocent people as a way of attacking freedom, and they’re not going to succeed.
Q: (Inaudible.) recent operations in Iraq?
Wolfowitz: We’ve been having a great deal of success based on good intelligence provided by Iraqis that’s leading us to bomb makers, leading us to thugs of the former regime, members of their special security organization, members of the Fedayeen Saddam. The people who murdered and tortured in Iraq for 35 years and continue to kill because they would like to bring back the old regime.
We’re making progress. Obviously there’s a serious enemy out there. But we have more and more Iraqis on our side.
Voice: Thanks a lot, folks.