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Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz Regional Media Interviews

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
October 29, 2003

Katarina Bandini, NBC, WHDH, Boston


            Q:  Sir, I wonder if you could describe briefly for us what it was like for you in that hotel when the rocket hit.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, it was brief.  You don't have a lot of time to think.  You hear these noises outside and you realize something's going on out in front, and your main focus is on getting your people to the other side of the building where it would be safer, and then when that settles down, to make sure our folks are okay and get them downstairs.


            Then we made sure that our doctor, we had a doctor traveling with us, went and treated one of the more seriously wounded.


            But the really important thing for us at that point, once we were sure that the proper people were in charge of dealing with the aftermath, that we went about our business.  We had a lot of important work to do there and it was important to make it clear that this kind of threat and intimidation is not going to derail success in Iraq.


            I must say, the most inspirational thing for me was visiting the five seriously wounded in the hospital.  I didn't quite expect what I encountered, which was one after another who believed in the mission - symbolically, it was a complete mixture.  One British civilian, three American civilians, one American military.  All of them feeling proud of what they'd done.  I didn't hear a single one expressing regrets at having been there at that time, and some of them extremely proud.


            Q:  Sir, what does that say about the state of our security when they can target the places where our top officials are staying?


            Wolfowitz:  Well, just stop and think about it for a minute.  What does it say about the state of our security when -- our security, the United States -- when Timothy McVey and Terry Nichols, two lone individuals, can blow up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City and kill 150 people?


            We are dealing with terrorists and, unfortunately, it doesn't take very many terrorists to create a lot of trouble.  It takes a lot of people working together to stop those folks and that's what we're getting in increasing numbers -- Iraqis stepping forward to help us.  In these latest attacks, the Iraqi police have been on the front line stopping quite a few of them, some of them getting killed.


            In fact, if you take together the Iraqi police and the other Iraqi security forces that are now in the field with us, it's grown from zero on June 1st to almost pushing 90,000 now; and almost 100 of them have been killed -- the second largest casualty level among the Coalition.


            It's going to take the combined effort of Coalition forces, Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi people, but it is absolutely crucial that these people be defeated.


            Q:  When do you think -- is there a window of opportunity when you must stop this before you lose any ability to control it?


            Wolfowitz:  It's a very good question.  A lot of people say there was a window of opportunity and it would close at six months.  We made it past six months without it closing.


            I do think it's important to make haste as much as you can in an intelligent way.  But remember that 35 years of damage can't be repaired overnight.


            There's a lot of concern this summer, for example, about electricity.  Saddam Hussein had absolutely devastated the electricity infrastructure of his country in a variety of ways and we were having trouble during the summer.  The electricity is now back to pre-war levels and moving higher and I think it's making a big difference among the people, a sense that hope is returning.


            Having Iraqis back in the security forces and taking care of their own security and fighting for their country, I think, is a sense that hope is returning.  I believe we're making progress. I think the Iraqi people see a lot of progress. 


            These terrorist attacks are designed to send the opposite message.  Obviously, that's what they want to do.  They want to scare and intimidate.  In fact, a lot of them are from the old regime whose only way of rule was fear and intimidation.  They simply can't be allowed to win and they won't be. Our side is winning.


            Q:  I know you say there's progress, but you're obviously frustrated.  Polls are showing eroding support for the war in Iraq, and now the number of dead soldiers in the aftermath is higher than during the war.


            How are you going to turn around public opinion and get the job done?


            Wolfowitz:  Well, think about how many people were killed in this country on September 11th alone -- more than 3,000.  And think of what terrorists might be able to do in the future with much more deadly weapons than we saw on September 11th.


            If somebody had told us that we'd be at this stage and building a new and free Iraq with as relatively low casualty levels as we have, people would have said, well, that's a rosy scenario, that's wildly optimistic.


            It is a war.  It is difficult.  The American soldiers and Marines and all of our services who are on the front line -- civilians as well, by the way, there were three American civilians seriously wounded in that attack -- are heroes and they deserve our support.


            But this is a war and people should be under no illusions about it.


            Q:  Our viewers want to know when do you think our troops will be coming home?


            Wolfowitz:  I'd like to know that too. 


            Q:  [Laughter]


            Wolfowitz:  The worst thing you can do is to tell the whole world we're out of here on a certain date, just wait us out.  What I can tell you is that the rate of building up Iraqi forces is impressive.  Already, as I say, we've gone from zero on June 1st to, the last number I saw, I wouldn't swear by it precisely, is 86,000, including the police and the Civil Defense Corps and the new Iraqi army and the border guards.  Those are Iraqis who are prepared to fight and die for their country, and some of them are unfortunately dying.  They're heroes.  There are 86,000 of them now.  If you take any comparable point six months into Bosnia or Kosovo, we hadn't even started on this.


            A year from now, I would suspect that number could easily be doubled, and the goal ultimately is to have Iraqis taking control of their own country.  This was a war of liberation.  We want the occupation to end as soon as it possibly can.


            Q:  All right, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, I want to thank you so much for being with us.


            Wolfowitz:  Thanks for hosting us.


Allen Krishevski, WLS, ABC, Chicago


            Q:  My first question for you is, why are you doing this?  Why are you making yourself available?  We've had, of course, a number of guests all week long, but the purpose of the availabilities to the local media around the country.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, we think that local anchors like you have a rapport with their audience that is unique and it's a way, I think, of connecting to the questions that concern the American people and not just the media centers back here on the East Coast.


            Q:  Is there any sense, perhaps, that the message as you would see it is not getting out clearly through the national networks and there's a need to go to the local --


            Wolfowitz:  Is this the interview?  I'm sorry.


            Q:  This is the interview, yes.  You are on camera, yes.


            Wolfowitz:  Okay, it was not clear to me.  Let's start over again.


            Q:  Sure.  I appreciate that.  I'll ask you the question again.


            As to the purpose of the availabilities to the local media rather than going through the national press pool there in Washington.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, we go through, there is plenty of work with the national press, but I think there's a sense that local anchors like you have an understanding of the local audience which is different in different areas and knows what's really on their minds, so I think it's important to communicate in every way we possibly can.


            Q:  Any belief on the part of the Administration or yourself that perhaps the message wasn't getting out as clearly as you had hoped it would?


            Wolfowitz:  You can always improve the clarity of the message.  There's no question that during the war when we had embedded reporters out there right on the front lines that the American public got a first-hand feeling for what was going on -- that's very hard to reproduce today.


            I was just in Iraq for three days. I took quite a few reporters with me, including some TV reporters.  They saw scenes, for example, in Kirkuk where we were literally mobbed by crowds of grateful people -- Kurds and Arabs and Turks.  A very lively mixture, completely spontaneous.  You could not have faked that one.


            They'd never seen it before, the reporters who were with us.


            So, it's a hard story to tell.  It's a complicated story.  It's a big country with a lot of variety in it, but it's not just about bombings, which sometimes are the thing that grab the headlines.


            Q:  Unfortunately, that is the case, even most recently this week.


            I do need to ask you regarding your personal experience there in Baghdad, and I'll ask you just directly, what are your thoughts on the fact that the Al Rashid Hotel had been left vulnerable to such an attack?


            Wolfowitz:  There's no way you're going to have perfect vulnerability.  We didn't have it in Oklahoma City, we didn't have it at the World Trade Center.  I think the message is throughout the world we're going to win this war mostly by going on offense, by finding and killing and capturing the terrorists, and also by eliminating the swamps in which they breed.  That is where it's so important to understand that working with the Iraqi people to build a future freedom for that country which the overwhelming number of Iraqis crave.  I don't know how to measure it exactly, but I would guess 95 percent of them at least hate this violence, hate the old regime, desperately want to have a free country, and what the terrorists are doing and criminal remnants of Saddam's ruthless regime are doing is to try to target progress and to set it back.  They are not going to win, believe me.


            Q:  I know that you've made great efforts to recruit Iraqis for security forces for the new Iraqi army.  My question for you is, at what point do you hope to, so to speak, tip the scales in your favor, in the Coalition favor and the Provisional Authority's favor, so that you feel that the Iraqis themselves are in control and they can get a handle on weeding out the minority, as you put it?


            Wolfowitz:  They are getting a handle on it.  They're doing some impressive work.  Just I believe on Monday the police station that we visited in Baghdad on Sunday was attacked by a suicide bomber, I think a foreign Arab, and stopped by the policeman, and he wasn't even able to pull the cord on his ugly device.  So they are out there fighting.  The numbers have gone from zero on June 1st to more than 80,000 today and they keep growing constantly.  It's not a record we've been able to build anywhere else that I know of in the last ten years.  It's kind of unique.  But Iraq is full of people, Iraqis, who are prepared to fight for a free Iraq in the future and fight alongside us.  At some point it will tip.  I can't tell you when.


            Q:  Is there some kind of measurement that you're looking for though? And it may not be something you can easily quantify, I realize that, but where you look forward to the future and say, “Now I think we're getting a handle on this.”


            Wolfowitz:  I think what we're really looking for, and sooner rather than later, is to be able to transfer full responsibility for Iraq to a sovereign government that has a constitution, that represents the Iraqi people, that is in charge of their own security.  Maybe with some help and backup from us, but is basically an Iraq that's standing on its own feet.  We want to move as rapidly as we possibly can.  One of the purposes of my trip was to look at ways to accelerate it.  But that's the standard of success.


            It's never going to be perfect stability.  We don't even have it in our country.  Look at the damage one terrorist or one sniper can do here.  But the point is to have Iraqis feeling that they are in charge, that they can manage their affairs, and that they have the security forces and the government that can do it.


            Q:  If I can just have you address, perhaps, I’m imagining, frustration with the fact that you have people, an enemy here, who is willing to blow itself up and anyone else who's around them, to thwart everything you try to accomplish, and of course we had a deputy mayor in Baghdad just assassinated yesterday.


            Wolfowitz:  Of course he was not assassinated by somebody who was willing to stand and fight.  People who attacked the Rashid hotel are not willing to stand and fight.  They hit and run, and it's Iraqis who are standing and fighting like the police chief whom I met in July and met again this weekend who was wounded in the leg and one of his people was critically hurt back in August when they took down a cell of two or three former regime loyalists, as we call them.  Really former regime gangsters.  That was a gangster regime and they're on the run.


            There are suicide terrorists among them, and if we didn't know it before, we certainly learned on September 11th that there is a disturbing number of suicide terrorists around the world who like killing Americans, like killing moderate Muslims, and we have to fight them.  Nobody should think that fight will be over quickly, either in Iraq or around the world.


            Q:  It certainly has escalated over the past week.  Do you have any thoughts, concerns, regarding the International Red Cross?  Is it staying?  Is it scaling back?  Doctors Without Borders are removing their non-Iraqi staff.  Just the concerns, perhaps, over aid groups not being willing to stay for the long haul if you have this continuing.


            Wolfowitz:  It's very important for the international community to be able to be there, for NGOs to be able to be there, and it's very clear that what the terrorists want to do is to scare them away.


            Our job working with our Iraqi partners and with our other international partners is to create the condition so that they can come back.


            But I would point out, too, that in large parts of the country it is quite stable and I believe that the NGOs are staying up north and in the south.  I don't know the numbers in Baghdad, but I believe stability will be restored and they will return.


            There are so many people in the world community that want to see the Iraqi people succeed.  Some 70 countries came together in Madrid, organized by Secretary of State Powell in a pledging conference just last week that produced billions of dollars in pledges of assistance to a free Iraq.


            This is a difficult struggle, but it is very important to win it and the whole world, I believe, wants to see the Iraqi people win it.  They will.


            Q:  And I believe we're out of time.  Thank you so much for your time.  We're so grateful for your willingness to talk to us.


            Wolfowitz:  Thank you.  Enjoyed it.


Len Cannon, WNYW, New York


            Q:  Mr. Wolfowitz, thanks for being with us today.


            Wolfowitz:  Thanks for having us.


            Q:  You narrowly escaped being injured or perhaps even killed from a rocket attack in Baghdad over the weekend.  Does that make you --


            Voice:  Cut.


            Q:  Mr. Wolfowitz, thanks for being with us today.


            Wolfowitz:  It's good to be with you.


            Q:   You narrowly escaped being injured or perhaps even killed from a rocket attack in Baghdad over the weekend. Does that incident make you in any way rethink U.S. strategy in Iraq?  At least in terms of security?


            Wolfowitz:  No, of course not.  There are brave Americans and Iraqis and many other countries participating, risking their lives every day, not only with soldiers, but with civilians.  This is a war against the last remnants of a really evil regime and some of their foreign terrorist allies and it's a war we have to win and we will win.


            Q:  You must feel something, though, after having been one floor above where an American colonel was, in fact, killed, you must feel something a little deeper about this after that.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, I suppose, of course, the real thing that comes through is a real sense of the commitment that our people and their allies have.  I visited five of the more seriously injured in the hospital -- four were Americans, one was a British civilian.  Of the Americans, three were civilians.  It's really heroic -- their attitude, their upbeat spirit.  It was a Sunday morning and one of their comrades at the Civil Administration had been killed, and yet people were hard at work. I can't tell you enough about the great spirit of both the soldiers on the front lines and the civilians supporting them, and the Iraqis most of all, because they are stepping forward and fighting for their country.


            These terrorists hit and run.  The Iraqis and our people are standing and fighting.


            Q:  Speaking of the Iraqis, I know the Administration wants to put more of an Iraqi face on security.  How long is that going to take?


            Wolfowitz:  We're not talking about an Iraqi face, we're talking about Iraqis fighting and dying, but more importantly killing and capturing terrorists and the remnants of the Saddam regime.


            We've gone from zero on June 1st, I think it's pretty impressive, to some 80,000 to 90,000 today in the police force, in the Civil Defense Force, in the new army.  Those numbers are going to keep going up.  The Iraqis are eager to fight for their country, we saw quite a few of them.  Even in Saddam's old hometown of Tikrit they're training new Iraqi Civil Defense people who have enormous pride.


            Q:  So, you have about 85,000 Iraqis trained right now.  How many is it going to take before you can take some American troops out of there?


            Wolfowitz:  It will depend on conditions. We're prepared to sustain our presence as we need it.  We're prepared, obviously, to take opportunities to draw it down if we're not as badly needed.  The key is, in fact, going to be to get more Iraqis equipped and trained.  They help us enormously.  Even though we may be in many ways superior as a conventional force, when you talk about going into a village and trying to get intelligence about a handful of terrorists who may be hiding in a house somewhere, there's no substitute for people who know the area, who speak the language, and who communicate effectively.  So it's going to be combined operations.  They're our allies, we're their allies.


            Q:  It doesn't seem to matter to the terrorists whether Iraqis are in charge of security or not.  There have been attacks on Iraqi police stations, the U.N., the Red Cross, it's indiscriminate.  Is it going to make a difference when the Iraqis actually are more in control?


            Wolfowitz:  I think, in fact, what you're seeing in these attacks on the police stations is the terrorists and the Ba'athists, as the President said, they want to spread fear and chaos.  They want to intimidate the population.  Again, as the President pointed out, this was the goal of September 11th, was to break the will of the United States.  I think they miscalculated.  They think they can break the will of the Iraqi people and the brave policemen and others who are fighting against them.  I think they're miscalculating.  We have to make sure with the support we give them, with the support the Congress has just voted -- both the House and the Senate with supporting the President's request for the supplemental appropriation, I think we're sending our message to the terrorists that our will will be sustained and they are losers, they will lose, we're winning.


            Q:  Why don't we have better intelligence on preventing these suicide attacks?  They seem to come up almost every day.


            Wolfowitz:  Well there's a lot of intelligence.  A lot of them are prevented.  You're dealing with a society that has some thousands, it's not millions or even hundreds of thousands, but thousands of vicious sadists who are left over from the old regime who think that if they terrorize Iraqis and scare away Americans that they can bring back Saddam Hussein and his evil dictatorship.


            Small numbers, a few thousand, can make a great deal of trouble until they're cleaned up.  You saw what much smaller numbers did here in the United States on September 11th, or two snipers did here in the Washington, D.C. area.  It takes a lot of people on the good side to control handfuls of people who are prepared to engage in terrorist tactics.  But the balance is in our favor.


            The Iraqi people overwhelmingly appreciate their liberation, support what we're doing; indeed, they want to get on with doing the job themselves and faster and that's what we need to help them with.


            Q:  Why is it that we can't get other countries, say allies in the region such as Qatar, Kuwait, or the United Arab Emirates, to put troops in Iraq so there's not so much pressure on American soldiers?


            Wolfowitz:  We have got a lot of foreign troops. We've got some 23,000 international troops in charge of roughly the southern third of the country.  One is a multinational division under British command.  Another is a multinational division under Polish command that has a mixture of Poles and Spaniards and even some people from Latin America.


            You know, it's inspirational to talk to the Latin Americans who say, “We're so grateful that you helped us achieve freedom and democracy, now we want to help these people.”  Or the Polish general who's able to talk to Iraqis when they say, “We don't have electricity, we don't have jobs”, and the Pole says, “Look, we're more than ten years since we got rid of the Soviets and we still have 18 percent unemployment.”


            Q:  The overwhelming number of the force, a large major percentage is still American troops.  Why can't we get a greater percentage, say 20-30 percent, from other countries to come in?


            Wolfowitz:  We're getting people from other countries, but the most important thing is getting more Iraqis.  Those numbers are huge and they're growing and they're growing fast.  That's ultimately where we want to leave this is to have Iraq in the hands of Iraqis, not to replace one group of foreigners with another group of foreigners.


            Q:  Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, thanks for joining us and we're glad to see that you survived that attack.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, I'm glad too.  Thank you.


John Kessler, KPIX, CBS, San Francisco


            Q:  Welcome to the den of the lion here.  The majority of people in the Bay area probably do not agree with the Bush policy and what's going on in Iraq.


            Number one the problem people have is the moving target, the stated reasons why we went in there.  No weapons of mass destruction found, no chemical weapons found.  If it was to remove Saddam Hussein and free the people from his regime, we've done that.  Why can't we leave now?


            Wolfowitz:  Well, we haven't finished that job.  The major part of the attacks that are taking place now on Iraqis and on Americans and on other Coalition forces are coming from remnants of that criminal gang and possibly, we don't know, possibly Saddam Hussein himself playing a significant role. 


            It only takes a few thousands of people, and there are plenty of thousands from that ugly, vicious regime left, to cause a great deal of trouble.  But our goal, in fact, is to give Iraq back to the Iraqi people who have been abused for 35 years in the most vicious way by one of the worst dictatorships in the world.


            Q:  If that's the reason, if there are only a few thousands of these people and our commanders say we don't need any more troops, what is it we have to depend on?  Intelligence?  Then don't we run into a problem, because a lot of the intelligence leading up to this war was incorrect or built up.


            Wolfowitz:  That's a much bigger debate.  Intelligence, especially the way we have to do it, trying to read a very very closed society from satellite photographs is always going to be imperfect.


            The key to winning this war now is going to be a very different kind of intelligence.  It's the kind of intelligence that Iraqi police and Iraqi Security Forces are going to be best at collecting, and that is, in my view, the key to success.


            We've gone from no Iraqis fighting on our side on June 1st to now some 80,000 to 90,000 in the police force and the Civil Defense Force and the new army and other forces who are literally putting their lives on the line, and almost 100 of them have been killed.  Almost as many Americans fighting these criminal remnants of the old regime and their terrorist allies.  They're courageous about it, they believe in a future of freedom for their country and they deserve our support.


            I think whatever people think about how we got here, there ought to be some real agreement, and there is a lot of agreement in the Congress.  Congress has supported the President's request for additional funds to support the Iraqi people. The whole world is going to be better.  The United States is going to be safer when Iraqis are running their country in conditions of freedom and stability.  They deserve it and we will be better off for it.


            Q:  You were one of the first to advocate going into Iraq and trying to clean this up over there.  You just recently returned from a trip there.  You can't be pleased about the way things are going.  Just today, the Red Cross says we're pulling back some of our people.  Doctors Without Borders says we're pulling back some of our people.  How do you feel about the way things have gone after --


            Wolfowitz:  I don't measure the progress by one day's events. First of all, I think from a historical measure there's been an incredible achievement.  People don't want to talk about this for some reason, but stop and think.  Saddam Hussein was responsible for the deaths in different ways of some million Iraqis.  He practically wiped out a whole civilization, the Marsh Arabs.  He did a pretty good job at decimating the Kurdish population and the Shi’a population.  He abused his own Suni people.


            That regime is gone.  That mass murder has stopped.  The Marsh Arabs, there's still a remnant that survived and may be able to regenerate that civilization.  That is a huge achievement for which Americans gave their lives, and astonishingly few Americans, but they are heroes.


            Now, our next achievement has got to be to finish that war and win the peace and make Iraq a source of hope and stability in the region instead of the source of instability that it's been for particularly the last 12 years.


            Q:  Absolutely.  No disagreement there at all.  But when you have international aid organizations saying look, it's just too dangerous there for us to keep our people there.  How do we go about achieving what we need to achieve there?


            Wolfowitz:  That's a good question, and it is a war zone right now.  I was in a hotel that was attacked on Sunday.  I know what it's like.  But the answer is, in fact, that you get Iraqis security forces in the field so that they can control their own country.


            Remember --


            Q:  And when can we do that?


            Wolfowitz:  We're doing it at an incredible rate.  We went from no Iraqis fighting with us on June 1st to between 80,000 and 90,000 today.  The police, many of whom have been killed -- These are not just people who stand around and do nothing.  They're people who stand and fight as opposed to the terrorists who hit and run.  We have people in the Civil Defense Force.  We have people in the new army. It's gone from zero to more than 80,000 in just six months.  We haven't done that anywhere else in the world -- Bosnia, Kosovo, any of the places I know of, but those numbers will continue to grow.  At some point the Iraqis will be in the forefront taking the main burden of their own security.


            Q:  Okay.  That brings up my last question here.  That is you said at some point.  Is there a way we can gauge when that point will come?  The American people really want to know, when do American lives stop being lost?  When do we stop spending American money there?  When can we say that, okay, this --


            Wolfowitz:  Let's put this in a larger context.  I mean when are we going to stop having to worry about another World Trade Center attack?  When are we going to have to stop worrying about terrorists attacking us in the United States or attacking our embassies abroad?


            We have been under attack for a long time.  We are at risk and Iraq is only one of the places.  The soldiers who were out there on the front line, those brave young men and women who are out risking their lives every day, they understand the mission.  They would a lot rather be killing terrorists in Baghdad and in Tikrit than on the streets of New York or San Francisco.  That's what this is about.  It needs to be understood in that context.


            I would like nothing more than to see the end of American casualties in Iraq, and I do believe that the basic answer to that is going to be to build up Iraqi security forces as fast as we possibly can.  And part of my visit was to look at how we could accelerate that process.  But I can't predict to you when there's going to be an end, and I certainly can't predict to you at this point when we will finally win what the President has said will be a long struggle against international terrorist networks and the governments that support them.


            Fortunately, one of those governments that supported them, the government of Saddam Hussein, can't do it any more.


            Q:  All right.  Deputy Secretary, thank you very much.  We appreciate your time.


            Wolfowitz:  Thank you very much.


John Morris, WPVI, Philadelphia, ABC


            Q:  All right, Mr. Wolfowitz, let's begin.


            I first just wanted to thank you for taking the time out to do this today.  The first thing I'd like to ask you is to tell me about, you have now come as close as possible to the violence in Iraq.  Tell me about what happened this week, what it was like for you.


            Wolfowitz:  Well, the violence as you're alluding to, there was a rocket attack on the hotel I was staying in.  Unfortunately one American soldier was killed and some five, not just Americans, one Brit, were seriously wounded.  But it was all over sort of before you could think about it.  Then we checked into the wounded and checked on the situation, and went about our business.


            Our business there was to assess the situation in Iraq and to figure out if there are any ways in which we can apply resources better back here to accelerate the process of putting Iraqis in charge of their own future, in charge of their own security.


            But let me sort of put this in an important context.  The President has pointed out, we now have in the Madrid Donors Conference 70 countries came together and pledged billions of dollars of support for Iraq.  Both houses of Congress have now passed a version of the President's request for supplemental funds.  And one of the big applications of that supplemental funding is going to be to increase the Iraqi security forces, which are already above 80,000, to very substantially larger numbers so that Iraqis who want to, and there are tens of thousands who want to, can fight for their own freedom, fight for their own country, risk their lives for the future of freedom for Iraq.


            Q:  Do you get the sense, it appears, at least from our end, that Iraqi civilians who are not involved in this violence against Americans, and I realize that that is the vast majority, do they blame an American presence there for this violence?  Or are they understanding that this is some of the, I guess the growing pains they must go through now to get to a truly free nation?


            Wolfowitz:  I think the only impatience I sense from many many conversations with Iraqis was, in the famous words of, I think it was the British in World War II, "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job."  They're eager to fight, they're eager to defend their own country.  They realize they could not have gotten rid of this criminal regime of Saddam Hussein's, and it really was a gang of sadists abusing a country for 35 years, without American troops and the sacrifice of American soldiers.


            But what I encountered on the streets of Kirkuk and in the training camp in Tikrit and meeting with the brave men and women who are on the local municipal councils in Baghdad, and I say brave men and women because these terrorists assassinate people who step forward and support Iraqi self government.


            What they were all saying is, we want to be responsible for our own affairs and that's our goal too.  Our goal is to equip them as quickly as we can to, not only in the security area, but in the areas of government and economy as well.


            Q:  Tell me more, if you would, about what you see when you walk through the streets of Iraq.  The image here is Americans under fire, but I spoke to Ambassador Bremer yesterday, who said that the streetlights in many of the cities is a completely different, these are cities coming back to life.  Describe that for me if you would.


            Wolfowitz:  First of all you can't generalize because each part of Iraq is different.  But for example we visited Kirkuk which is a city of I believe nearly 1.5 million people.  It's a mixture of Suni Arabs, Sunni Kurds, Turks and Christians.  Mostly Arabs and Kurds.  We walked down the main streets there. We were mobbed by people who were cheering, saying, “Thank you America, down with Saddam Hussein.”  One money-changer couldn't wait to tear up one of those old bills that had Saddam Hussein's face on it just for my benefit.


            And one of the things that impressed me, frankly surprised even me and I think I know a lot about that country, is that here you had Arab crowds and Kurdish crowds side by side and quite peaceful.


            So that's Kirkuk.


            In Baghdad the streets are bustling.  Restaurants are open late at night.  In fact the restaurant owners came to our commander recently and said, “Please, at least extend the curfew because we have so much business we can't deal with it in the opening hours.”


            And every time we make a step forward the terrorists or the former regime gangsters say ah, we've got to do something to set it back.  I think that's partly why we're seeing this spate of attacks right now.  They sense progress and as the President said yesterday, what the old regime gangsters are trying to do is create fear and chaos.  What the terrorists are trying to do is to break American will the way they tried to break American will on September 11th. 


            They're not going to succeed.  They didn't succeed then, they're not going to succeed now.


            Q:  You talk about the morale of the soldiers overseas.  Do you think the White House needs to do a more aggressive job back here to make sure that the will of the American people on this side of the ocean doesn't get broken as well?


            Wolfowitz:  I think everybody should do a better job of that.  It's very important.  Look, there's plenty of room to argue long into the future about the intelligence we had before the war and how imminent the threat was.  Frankly, I never thought the issue was imminence.  We can get into those debates.


            The important thing right now is we are fighting a war against terrorists and gangster elements of a gangster dictator and we have to win that.  I think the whole world understands we have to win that.  When we do win it, not only are the Iraqi people going to be vastly better off, and the whole Middle East will be better off, but we as a country will be safer and more secure as a result.


            Q:  Mr. Wolfowitz, thank you very much for your time.  I appreciate it.  Best of luck in what you're doing.


            Wolfowitz:  Thank you, John.

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