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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview on ABC “Good Morning America”

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
September 11, 2003 7:05 AM EDT
Gibson:  This new tape does remind everyone that the biggest target in the war on terrorism is still very much at large.  Joining us now from the Pentagon is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.  And Mr. Secretary, it’s good to have you with us.

 

            Wolfowitz::  Good to be with you -- (inaudible) --  day.

 

            Gibson:  The president just the other night was saying Iraq was the central front in the war on terror, but this new tape shows that Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenant continue to function.  Are we -- are we focused on the wrong place?

 

            Wolfowitz:  Well, as a matter of fact, if you listen to that tape, he believes that Iraq is the central battle too, but don’t focus on any one thing too much.  I think your analyst is correct in saying that even the circumstances in which that tape are constructed suggest that he’s -- they’re having difficulty.  The CIA analysis I heard the other day said that they’re reeling from the blows that have been struck against them, and they’re very substantial.  But let’s not underestimate the magnitude of the problem.  The people have spent decades building up this kind of capability.  It’s going to take time to dismantle it.

 

            Gibson:  But we have put our resources into Iraq, which, as far as we know, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, while the men who are responsible are still at large.

 

            Wolfowitz:  Well, we know it had a great deal to do with terrorism in general and with al Qaeda in particular, and we know a great many of Bin Laden’s key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq.

 

            But could I shift for a minute, because I think really today is a day -- we’ve got 364 other days to debate the policy, but let’s remember this is a day no American, I think, will ever forget.  Certainly those of us who were in the Pentagon will remember it.  The people in New York will remember it.  But the people of this country remember it.  And it’s a day to remember the heroes that died on that day.  They were the first heroes on the war on terrorism, and there are heroes on the front lines in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and elsewhere around the world.  This is a worldwide fight.  It’s not just military.  It’s law enforcement.  It’s our diplomats who risk their lives every day.  It’s our intelligence agencies.  But we have made enormous progress.  The CIA report recently, that I think I mentioned, said that al Qaeda is reeling from the blows that have been stuck against it.  So, we need to be hopeful.  We need to be confident.  We need to recognize it’s going to be a long struggle.

 

            Gibson:  Well indeed, this is a day of looking forward as well as back to some extent, and we will do that through the morning, but I do want to talk some about policy, because -- because the critics look at Iraq, Mr. Secretary, and they say to the extent that it is a front in the war on terror, it is the war itself that made it such, and that the war is proving to be a recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

 

            Wolfowitz:  No, I’m sorry.  I mean, Saddam Hussein was an advocate of terrorism, a financier of terrorism, a harborer  of terrorists before -- the things that we told you about before that George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee, the things that Secretary Powell told the U.N. Security Council.  Secretary Powell spoke about this man Zarqawi, who was in Iraq, clearly sheltered by Baghdad.  Everything we’ve learned since then only deepens our understanding.  The one bomber still at-large from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was sheltered in Iraq for 10 years, and we’ve learned more about him.  The ties were there.  There’s no question that getting rid of that threat has been a great advance, but also importantly, Iraq has a chance now, instead of being a constant destabilizing force in that key part of the world, to eventually -- not overnight, it takes time -- eventually become a positive force for stability, and that’s what we’re struggling to achieve.

 

            Gibson:  Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your being with us.  Remembrances today at the Pentagon, which I know of which you will be a part, and I appreciate you taking some time on what is a very special morning to join us.  I appreciate it.

 

            Wolfowitz:  Good to be with you.  Thank you.

 

            Gibson:  Thank you very much.  You take care.

 

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