Goldberg: Let me just make one announcement. There are going to be questions and we're going to have plenty of time to ask questions. We'd just like it if you could respect our First Amendment right to have this conversation and then we'll respect your First Amendment right to ask questions. [Applause and Heckling]
Let me first of all join Pam in welcoming you to the New Yorker Festival. I hope many of you have participated in other aspects of this festival. It really is a remarkable compilation of events. I would only point out, as has been noted, that this is the only cultural festival in New York City [inaudible]. Where on the same weekend you can see both Paul Wolfowitz and Bjor]. [Laughter]
Ordinarily I would say that, when introducing someone as well known and in the news as Paul Wolfowitz that our guest needs no introduction, but in knowing Paul Wolfowitz a little bit over the past couple of years -- [Heckling]
Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to stop, please. I'm going to have to ask you to stop. Thank you.
As I was saying, I think he needs a bit of a reintroduction. When you go over his resume you find some things that you sometimes don't expect to find.
Paul Wolfowitz is a native of New York. He's a graduate of Cornell University in 1965 with a BA in Mathematics. Routinely following the footsteps of his father who was a very famous statistician, a mathematician. Somewhere along the line, and we're going to explore this question a little bit, somewhere along the line he switched to political science and he received a PhD in Political Science in 1972 from the University of Chicago.
At Chicago he studied under, among others, Allan Bloom, especially Albert Wolstetter, and of course the suddenly and oddly famous Leo Straub about whom maybe we can talk a little bit.
He began his government service in the '70s at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to a Defense Department position, his first Defense Department position. In 1981 he became the, and this is another curious aspect of his resume, he became the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, beginning his career as a State Department diplomat.
In 1983 he became the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and in that job had his first experience in what has come to be known as regime change. He was the American official, more than any other American official, who was responsible for the peaceful removal of Ferdinand Marcos and the installation of Corazon Aquino to the presidency in the Philippines. [Applause]
After completing that job he was appointed by Ronald Reagan to be his Ambassador to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country. And there in Indonesia, in addition to becoming an advocate for American business interests he became an advocate for democratic dissenters in Indonesia, and according to the press [list] at the time infuriated Suharto, the strong man of Indonesia, by calling for greater openness and democracy. [Heckling]
Voice: [Inaudible] [Applause]
Goldberg: In the Administration of George H. W. Bush he took the number three job at the Pentagon in charge of policy and of course this is where his life became intertwined with Saddam Hussein's life in earnest. [Hecklers]
Voice: [Inaudible] [Applause and cheering]
Voice: Can I have your attention? While we are cognizant of everyone's First Amendment rights, if we keep having this discussion I will have no choice but to remove the persons trying to disrupt this event. That goes for every one of you who are attempting to disrupt this event. [Applause] This is the last time I'm going to say this.
Goldberg: Thank you.
After the conclusion, and we'll talk about that, the first Gulf War, after the conclusion of that Administration Dr. Wolfowitz became the Dean of the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins in Washington and two years ago, two and a half years ago, he was appointed to the number two job at the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary of Defense where he has become, I think it's fair to say, the most famous and controversial Deputy Secretary in the history of the Executive Branch. [Laughter]
He is also, for those of you who follow these things, the model for a [passing] character I guess you would say, in a Saul Bellow novel, and excellent Saul Bellow novel [Ravelstien], and I'm almost sure that makes him the only senior member of the Bush Administration to appear in a Saul Bellow novel. Although in thinking about this I thought that Saul Bellow could do something very interesting with Donald Rumsfeld.
Goldberg: Secretary Wolfowitz, thank you for joining us.
Wolfowitz: I'm glad to be here. Thank you. I must say it's good to be -- [Applause and Heckling]
This is what is wonderful about this country. It is. And what is finally wonderful is 50 million, roughly 50 million Afghans and Iraqis are finally able to speak this way -- [Hecklers]
I think most people, though, came here to listen and I think the people who don't allow people to listen are infringing on their civil liberties. [Applause]
Goldberg: Secretary Wolfowitz, let me start if I may with a broad question. We'll get to some specifics about Iraq in a moment, but let me start with a broad question for you.
Forty years ago as an undergraduate at Cornell you attended what I believe to be the only political rally you ever attended, the march on Washington. Forty years after the march on Washington you are widely considered to be -- [Heckling]
Wolfowitz: Keep going. They've made their statement.
Goldberg: You're a war criminal. Okay.
Goldberg: We got that.
Forty years after the march on Washington you are widely considered to be the influential architect of the invasion of Iraq. Take us from the march on Washington to the events of earlier this year, through your political development, from your transition from a Democrat to a Republican.
Wolfowitz: Don't I have to accept the premise of the question of the intellectual architect.
Wolfowitz: Clearly, I believe very strongly that what our country has done, what President Bush has done in liberating the Iraqi people is an important act that serves their interests, but most importantly one that is an important step -- [Heckling]
The fact is that September 11th really -- [Heckling]
Frankly, my own reading of history is that exactly this kind of tactic is what the Nazis did and what the totalitarians did in trying to stop people from listening and talking. [Applause and Heckling] I think the essence of democracy is free speech and open debate and you cannot have a debate when people try to shout you down. Anyway.
If you want to know about my own intellectual migration, you mentioned the 1964 march on Washington. I believed strongly at the time and I still do that the advance of civil rights in this country was incredibly important for our society. In fact I also think the advance of democracy in the world is incredibly important for the United States.
I kind of went through a period of focusing mostly in the late '60s and early '70s on the horror of nuclear war and what could be done to prevent it. But I think the more you look at international affairs the more you realize that preventing the holocaust of nuclear war, preventing conventional war, and advancing the cause of human freedom, really are things that go hand in hand. You can't really say well, the world can be peaceful as long as half the world is enslaved. It really doesn't work well that way.
I think we've made great progress in the last 20 or 30 years, not just with the end of communist totalitarianism but enormous progress -- You mentioned Marcos, I think. When I became Assistant Secretary of State in 1982 there was one democracy in all of East Asia. That was Japan. One might say in the Middle East today other than Israel, there's Turkey. Today, democracy is on the march in East Asia. It's come to the Philippines. It's come to Taiwan. It's come to South Korea. It's come to Indonesia. And, unfortunately in terrible circumstances, but it's come to Thailand. I think the optimists among us believe that over time, in an evolutionary way, it will come to China. That will be a huge thing.
I think the Middle East needs to make that same kind of progression, maybe over the same or similar period of time. We're not talking about a problem that's going to suddenly turn around in two weeks to five months. And Americans' impatience is really something that we've got to get under control, I think.
But the thing that really changed my perspective on Iraq, even though I'd studied it for a long time, was September 11th. It's worth mentioning since we're here at the New School, Bob Kerry when he was a Democratic Senator was one of the leaders in the Congress in passing in 1998 what was called the Iraq Liberation Act. It passed by an overwhelming majority. It was supported by the Clinton Administration. I think anyone with the slightest bit of moral sense understood what an evil man Saddam was and how much better off the world would be with him gone.
It was not until September 11th that I, or most other people I know, would have contemplated the overt action of American military force to accomplish that. But it is, in fact, part of the larger war on terrorism.
And here in New York I think people have a particular sense -- certainly we do in Washington -- but the whole country understands that terrorism is not just a manageable evil that you live with, which was kind of the policy of the last 20 years. Terrorism really is something too dangerous to continue living with.
Goldberg: Was that the policy, by the way of, of the Republican Administrations in which you worked?
Wolfowitz: I think more or less, yes. If you look at what President Reagan did when we caught the Libyans doing terrorism in what we call the discotheque in Berlin. We retaliated, we punished them after the fact. It was part of the framework that viewed terrorism as kind of a law enforcement proposition. When you catch criminals doing terrorist acts you put them in jail. If you catch countries doing it you retaliate. But it was believed that you could live with it on that scale and punishment would work.
And I think what is clear now is punishment after the fact is too dangerous. You need in a broader way to prevent. And prevent doesn't just mean killing and capturing terrorists. That's clearly a major part of the job. But it also means supporting moderate forces in the Muslim world particularly. And one of the things that fascinated me about Indonesia when I was there 15 years ago, and I kind of fell in love with the place partly for this reason is, in a world where there's so much religious intolerance, this is a country with more Muslims than any country in the world, where there was no state religion, where Christianity and Buddhism and Hinduism were equally respected. Where 40 million Muslims in an organization called [inaudible] were led by a man Abdul Rachman Walid who was an apostle of tolerance. There are real moderates in the Muslim world and in the Arab world and they need more support from us.
But I believe now that Saddam Hussein is gone, we're going to find a lot more of those people in Iraq. I think we're seeing them even today. I think the predictions that the Shia of Iraq once liberated would turn to the same kind of theocratic tyrants that we see in Iran so far --I'm going to knock on wood -- is very much disproved. The reaction of the Shia after this horrible bombing in Najaf is something that actually should give us a lot of encouragement and a sense that things can move forward.
Goldberg: Let me just put the question about WMD and terrorist connection aside for a moment.
We'll get to WMD and everybody will get their chance.
Are you a neo-conservative?
Wolfowitz: I don't like labels. I really believe that --
Goldberg: Well, what is a neo-conservative, first of all?
Wolfowitz: I think you have to ask somebody who likes labels.
There is a group of people who were very radical in their youth, some of them were Trotskyites in their youth who came over time to adopt views that are considered conservative and that's what's known as neo-conservatism. It's not infrequently, if you read the Middle Eastern press, it seems to be a euphemism for some kind of nefarious Zionist conspiracy. But I think that, in my view it's very important to approach these crucial issues not from a doctrinal point of view. I think almost every case I know is different. Indonesia is different from the Philippines. Iraq is different from Indonesia. I think there are certain principles that I believe are American principles -- both realism and idealism. I guess I'd like to call myself a democratic realist. I don't know if that makes me a neo-conservative or not.
Goldberg: Why did you leave the Democratic party?
Wolfowitz: I'm one of many people who feel the Democratic party left me. John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson, I believe would have been very strongly supportive of what President Bush is doing today. I think that -- [heckling] -- the victory in the Cold War, which was an incredible victory, it brought about the peaceful liberation of 200 million people from a totalitarian tyranny. It was a bipartisan project very much started by Democratic President Harry Truman. Very much carried forward by Democratic President John Kennedy. Very much championed in the Congress, sometimes against the instincts of some Republican Presidents by Henry Jackson. And if Barham Salih is a Scoop Jackson Kurd, I consider myself a Scoop Jackson Republican.
Goldberg: Let me go to, since things keep recurring in your answers, let me go to some of these questions about Iraq for the moment.
On terrorism, for instance. You've been criticized for fuzzing the difference, fuzzing the line between regional terrorism actors and global terrorism actors. Al Qaeda is clearly a global terrorist group with very shaky evidence proving that they had any connection to Iraq.
We all know that Iraq sponsored some terror groups -- Hammas, Islamic Jihad, some anti-Iranian groups -- but these were local actors.
Are you fuzzing the line between groups that pose a global threat or pose a particular threat to the American homeland rather than regional actors?
And I guess another way of asking this question, and the part two of this question is, have we inadvertently taken a country that was a theoretical terrorist threat and turned it into an actual terrorist threat?
Wolfowitz: I don't think I'm fuzzing the line. I think it's the terrorists that fuzz the lines. The lines between these groups are very blurry and they cross constantly. If you talk about Abu Musab al-Zarkawi for example, who is one of the principal terrorists that Secretary Powell mentioned in his UN Security Council speech -- a terrorist who definitely operated out of Northern Iraq; a terrorist who definitely was in Baghdad under the old regime; and I find it hard to believe that anybody there is there without the knowledge of the regime. He was, in fact, his specific location was identified to them by the Jordanians and the Iraqis did nothing about him. He is tied to the groups that were arrested in London and Paris for the planned attacks on subways.
I don't know if he's a card-carrying member of al Qaeda. In fact I don't think members of al Qaeda carry membership cards.
I think the lesson of September 11th is that this interlocking network of groups has the potential to do such enormous damage to us and, frankly, to civil liberties too, if you think about what the reaction could be to the kind of catastrophe they're working on. That we can no longer treat it the way we did for the last 20 years, as one of those unhappy but necessary evils of the world. I think you have to think of these groups as simply unacceptable. They need to be eradicated. State sponsorship of terrorism is something that has to go on the ash heap of history.
Goldberg: Wouldn't you say, though, that based on that standard Iran is a greater sponsor of terrorist groups than Iraq under Saddam Hussein?
Wolfowitz: We can get into debates about who is greater, who is lesser. There are also issues about how you deal with particular problems. But the fact is, in addition to everything else, Iraq was a country that had defied the international community for 12 years despite some 16 UN Security Council Resolutions; had basically declared war on the United States, continuingly, continued to fire on our airplanes, was a sponsor of terrorism, and by the way, did have contacts with al Qaeda. We don't know how clear they were, but it's a murky world where people try to hide these things. [heckling]
The President has said from the beginning, Secretary Powell has said, my boss Secretary Rumsfeld has said, dealing with this problem of terrorism is something that's going to take a long time.
I think there's a view that sort of everyone's had their view changed with September 11th. I think the sort of, maybe the optimist, but to me it's the ostrich attitude would like to say September 11th was bin Laden and a few dozen of his key associates. If we can just get bin Laden, get those people, we can go back to business as usual and go back to the status quo of the last 20 years. And I don't think the status quo of the lat 20 years is acceptable. I think it has to change in fundamental ways. Not just in Iraq, not just in Iran. It has to change in Saudi Arabia. It's starting to change. It has to change -- the Arab-Israeli issue has got to be moved towards settlement. But you need to work at these things strategically. You cannot solve all problems all at once.
Goldberg: Let's step back for a minute and I want you to answer this simple question. Why did we invade Iraq? [heckling]
Wolfowitz: People who refuse to understand then go to something like oil. If we wanted Iraq's oil all we had to do 12 years ago was to drop the containment policy, drop the sanctions, and we could have had the most privileged position in exploiting Iraq's oil resources of any country in the world. That is a complete canard line.
There were three reasons and they intersected. There was concern about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and what those could do if passed to terrorists. [heckling]. There was concern about Iraq's connections to terrorism, which by the way, not only to al Qaeda. Here's a man who openly exalted homicide bombers and paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. And not insignificantly, and to me very importantly, this was a man who was responsible for the death of roughly a million Muslims. Many of them in the Iran-Iraq War, but enormous numbers buried in mass graves. The one that I visited in Hilla, and many others have visited, contains more dead people, probably, than in Srebrenica, the horror that was memorialized yesterday. And it's one of dozens around the country.
I visited Abu Ghraib Prison where somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 people were executed. It's like an industrial-style execution chamber. And then there are just hundreds of stories of individual tragedies.
This recent, I think first, scientific poll taken in Iraq had, by the way, 70 percent of the population believing their lives would be better in five years. Fifty percent of the population had a relative or a friend who had been executed, killed by the old regime. It was a human rights nightmare and to me it is amazing to find that somehow the liberation of Iraq should have become labeled a conservative cause or an anti-Arab cause. It seems to me it is something that liberals particularly, people who believe in human rights particularly, should be supportive of. People who believe in a better future for the Arab people should be supportive of. And frankly, I know a lot of Arab Democrats and they uniformly believe we did the right thing.
Goldberg: Let me just take a quick detour on something I saw in the newspaper today and I want to ask you this because I know in the early and mid '90s you were writing as a private citizen pretty proliferously for the arming of the Bosnian Muslims -- to give them a fighting chance against the Serbs. I saw in the paper this morning a picture of President Clinton throwing soil on the mass grave in Srebrenica and I wonder what you thought about President Clinton's presence in Srebrenica commemorating the deaths in Srebrenica?
Wolfowitz: I think we all have a lot to answer for -- that action wasn't taken earlier. There was no -- I think, no justification for ignorance about what was going on there. By the way, I argued even when I was still in the government that we should give more support to the Bosnians. I think if we had, we wouldn't have had to send in American troops. We could have ended this thing much sooner.
Goldberg: Do you blame Clinton for massacres that took place?
Wolfowitz: Look, I think the whole international community, the U.S. government, other governments, could have acted earlier, should have acted earlier. And one of the reasons we didn't act earlier was, I think, an excessive fear of how difficult it would be. You paint somebody like Milosevic as 10 feet tall and you give him room to run. You paint Saddam Hussein as 10 feet tall, you give him room to run.
Goldberg: Let's talk about difficulty then for a minute because clearly in the minds of many people in this country the aftermath of the war in Iraq is not going nearly as well as the war actually went. You have American soldiers dying regularly. You have massive car bombings, seeming instability throughout the center of the country. You have costs that seem to be skyrocketing.
I mean, before the war you told Congress that you felt that the Iraqi reconstruction would be largely self-financed relatively soon after the war. President Bush two or three weeks ago went to the country and said we need to spend $20 billion to help rebuild Iraq.
So, deal with those in a series, if you want. Combat deaths continue; the Iraqi reconstruction is going to cost a tremendous amount of money; and the Iraqis seem fairly upset, many Iraqis at least, with the American occupation of Iraq.
Wolfowitz: Since you bring up that quote let me put it in context. It's very easy to pull something out of context and make it seem different.
Goldberg: I'm good at that.
Wolfowitz: Some of the Senators and Congressmen are good at it also.
I didn't say they could finance most of the reconstruction. I said they could contribute substantially and relatively soon. And I still think -- I guess relative is a relative term. This is a country that has a lot of oil resources. We're not taking them for ourselves, by the way, contrary to some of the shouts in the audience. We are dedicating them to Iraq's reconstruction.
I was before the Congress in May and a senior Senator vociferously said it would cost a billion dollars just to get Iraq back to a million barrels a day of production. We passed that mark in July with a lot less than a billion dollars of investment. We're almost to the two million barrel a day mark.
What I did say, and may I quote myself?
Wolfowitz: The context of it, I said Yogi Berra once observed that it's dangerous -- I said this to the Senate in the same hearing, that it's dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future. That piece of wise advice, I said, certainly applies to predictions about wars and their aftermaths. I am reluctant to predict anything about what the cost of a possible conflict in Iraq would be or what the possible cost of reconstructing and stabilizing that country afterward might be.
No one could predict the cost. Most predictions, by the way, of costs, were way in excess of what we've encountered. I mean we expected -- people warned it might drag Israel into a war. It might drag Turkey into a war. It might lead to massive American casualties, massive street fighting in Baghdad, ethnic conflict between Kurds and Arabs in the north, ethnic conflict between Shia and Suni. By the way, massive destruction of Iraq's oil fields which was clearly planned by Saddam Hussein.
One of the reasons we're not seeing some of these terrible costs -- lets be fair about it -- is I think, a brilliant military plan that managed to achieve an extraordinary degree of surprise because we came sooner than he expected us and in ways they didn't expect us.
But, no one that I know of would ever say that war is cheap or easy. I think maybe Americans have gotten used to things like Kosovo where there were no American casualties. The stakes here are enormous. Yes, there are some Ba'athists who want to kill Americans because they believe, just as we left Beirut when Americans were killed and we left Somalia when Americans were killed, we'll leave Iraq and will give it back to Saddam Hussein. Frankly, there are a disturbing number of Iraqis who are terrified of Saddam coming back who aren't quite convinced that we will stay.
But I go back to these polls. I mean, the first scientific poll taken in Iraq makes it very clear what I observed firsthand and others have observed firsthand. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are grateful to be liberated.
Does that mean they don't want their electricity turned on? Of course it doesn't. But we made great progress there. I think within -- sometime in the next month -- we'll get back to pre-war levels of electricity and then we'll move on. Ninety-eight percent of Iraq's towns and all the major cities now have elected town councils. That was never heard of before.
We've got the universities back and running before the end of the school year back in July so that students were able to graduate. I think 90-95 percent of the kindergarten through 12th grade schools are operating.
We have some 60,000 -- this is one of the most important pieces of progress that's been made and it's very essential because the answer to security in Iraq isn't more American troops. The answer is fewer American troops and more Iraqis defending themselves.
We had zero Iraqis fighting with us -- well, a few dozens the day the war ended. We now have 60,000 -- 40,000 in the police, 20,000 in other services -- and they're taking casualties. They are fighting for their country.
Goldberg: I have to note this and I think this audience might be surprised to learn this, but you're being criticized from the right now for going wobbly, for what one writer in the Weekly Standard called "pushing premature Iraqification" and trying to cut your losses and get out and turn it over to people who aren't ready.
This brings to mind the argument you had long distance with General Shinseki before the war about the number of troops needed to maintain the peace in post-war Iraq. He said several hundred thousand, you said around a hundred thousand. It seems like --
Wolfowitz: I didn't put a number. I said that that number looked to me wildly off the mark, and so far we've never gone much above half that number.
The real problem I had with General Shinseki's comments was number one -- I couldn't say this publicly -- they were distinctly at variance with General Franks, who was the combatant commander who was actually -- The Chief of Staff of the Army doesn't make judgments about war plans. It's the guy who puts the plan together. That was General Franks.
And secondly, I thought this projection of several hundred thousand American troops for years into the future is exactly the image that will be very damaging to us.
We want to get out of an occupation role. We do want to put power into the hands of the Iraqis and those people you're identifying from the right who think the answer to this problem is more American troops, I think they just don't get it.
It's interesting, when we've been in several quagmires since the war on terrorism began. The first one was, it's hard to remember, but we were bogged down outside Mazar-e-Sharif I think it was in November of 2001. And I had quite an extensive discussion with General Franks to the effect of, don't you need more troops? He said, I don't want more troops. If I'm still "bogged down" in February we can look at that question. But the last thing I want to do is to go into Afghanistan the way the Soviets did and become an occupation army and become the enemy. And Iraq is a different -- I'm not trying to say the two things are the same. But we have 60,000 Iraqis fighting for their country with us, and in another six months that number should be substantially higher. They can do things our people can't do because they speak the language, they know the cities they're policing. American kids shouldn't be out there speaking English trying to manage law and order issues in Baghdad or in Tikrit.
Goldberg: What is your definition of a quagmire?
Wolfowitz: Oh, I don't know. It's a situation from which there's no exit I suppose you could say. I think we have a strategy with an end game. It consists of political progress toward Iraqi sovereignty and we've made some major steps in that direction. It doesn't happen overnight.
Let's stop and think for a minute. This is a country that suffered from 35 years of sadistic rule, one of the most brutal tyrannies in the world. Far worse than anything in Eastern Europe. It is a country that suffered from 35 years of putting its resources into palaces and WMD programs and tanks and artillery. In the southern part of the country since 1991 Saddam has deliberately punished the people by not building hospitals, not building schools, not repairing power plants. So there's 35 years of abuse and neglect to be repaired.
Eastern Europe has made extraordinary progress since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It didn't happen overnight. It's not going to happen in Iraq overnight. Measured against any realistic standard, the progress that's been made in five months I think is extraordinary. [Applause]
Goldberg: Let me ask you this --
Wolfowitz: By the way, I know now the next time I go before the Senate they're going to say you say, the progress has been extraordinary. They will chop out the first part. I'm saying measured against any reasonable standard. Measured against where we want to be 12 months from now, of course not. We've got to keep moving.
Goldberg: You and others in the Administration have changed messages it seems recently. There have been articles to that effect in the Washington Post and the New York Times. Before the war you talked about WMD as a principal reason for going into Iraq. Now your message seems to be democracy, human rights, forcing a cultural change in the Arab world that leads to greater openness.
Let me ask this in two parts. The first part is, where are the WMD?
Wolfowitz: Let me take the other part of the question -- [Laughter] I'll get to the -- as best I can with WMD, I'll get to it -- but I can't accept the premise that we've shifted our ground. I read it all the time.
We have said over and over again -- I have said it, Secretary Powell's said it to the UN Security Council, the President said it, the President said it in the General Assembly-- that there are these three reasons. And I've said them before, I'll repeat them shorthand. It's WMD; it's terrorism; and it's the abuse of the Iraqi people. The three things work together. And actually I would say overarching all of it was 12 years of flouting the will of the United Nations and the international community.
What happened when the President went to the UN in September of last year was basically the UN said we'll give you a resolution but only on WMD. You have to drop human rights, you have to drop terrorism, we'll give them one last chance to come clean on WMD and if they do, we'll wipe the slate clean of all the previous material breaches. That is what UN Resolution 1441 basically said.
It also said, by the way, that it's not our job or the inspectors' job to find WMD. It's Iraq's responsibility to disclose it and to give the inspectors free reign without intimidating scientists, without attaching wires to their bodies when they come in for interviews, without moving stuff around and hiding it. I think Secretary Powell made an absolutely powerful case to the UN in February that Iraq had violated the terms of 1441 very explicitly. That doesn't mean that we weren't concerned about other issues. In fact, as I say, the terrorism connection is at the heart of the thing.
Again, I'm sort of amazed when I hear a Foreign Minister of an allied country in effect saying after the war, "If you'd only told us it was for human rights we would have supported you." Well, excuse me. It was about human rights all along and I'm amazed that people avoided it. It was part of the issue.
As far as WMD goes, all I can tell you is this. I have rarely seen the intelligence community as unanimous on the basic conclusions that Saddam had chemical weapons, had biological weapons, was working on nuclear weapons. There were little debates around the margin that people focus on too much now I think, but that was really the uniform --
Goldberg: Did the CIA simply mess up?
Wolfowitz: First of all, being wrong in this business is not the same thing as messing up. You're dealing -- With North Korea and with Iraq you're dealing with what they call a hard target. And just to be clear about what is a "hard target" in the intelligence business: It is a country where if people are believed to have revealed secrets that they're not supposed to have talked about, they don't just lose their jobs. In fact they don't just go to jail. In fact they're not just executed. Their children are tortured. Their children are executed. There are things worse than death in a country like Iraq. And people don't talk. So it's very hard for intelligence to penetrate.
Before the last Gulf War, before the war in 1991, we had grossly underestimated Iraq's nuclear program in particular. And when we got in there we found it was much more extensive than we had believed.
I don't think we could have been that wrong. If Saddam really had no program he certainly paid an enormous price to continue defying the UN. But it's still the case today that people that are talking to us about where WMD might be get assassinated. It's not a free environment yet for people to tell us what they know.
Goldberg: Let me talk about that human rights issue one second. John Burns of the New York Times who to my mind is probably the greatest living foreign correspondent, recently said, "For some reason or another Mr. Bush chose to make his principal case on weapons of mass destruction which is still an open case. This war could have been justified any time on the basis of human rights alone."
I think there are a lot of people who supported the war on the basis of human rights who were upset because it seems now -- [Heckling]
Ma'am, that's a good question for the question and answer period. [Heckling] [Applause] [Heckling]
With that Burns comment in mind, I know there are a lot of people across the country who say to themselves, people of good will, who say you know what? Saddam Hussein was a monster. He committed genocide against the Kurds. He tortured children. He did all of these things. But there are a lot of countries in the world run by evil dictators. Why do we focus on Iraq and not any of the other dozen or two dozen countries that pose human rights problems?
Wolfowitz: It's not the only country where we've tried to remove evil dictators. We worked on it in Serbia. We were eventually successful. We just got Charles Taylor out of Liberia. I'm very proud, as mentioned earlier, we helped to get Ferdinand Marcos out of the Philippines. Each one of these situations is different. Some of them call for more outside intervention, others for less. I do think that Saddam Hussein is almost in a class by himself in terms of the number of people he murdered, the sadism and brutality of the regime. It's just truly monstrous. I think people who don't bother reading the first minimum account about what life was like in Iraq and go screaming slogans, I think are missing the point here.
There was something uniquely horrible about it. I think John Burns is right. But I'd say two things. First of all, you can't have it both ways. You can't say, let's go to the UN and work on an international consensus, and when the international consensus says forget about the human rights issues -- because frankly there are a few countries in the UN who would be uncomfortable with that position -- focus on WMD, and we focus on WMD for that reason and people say why didn't you mention the other things? We kept mentioning the other things.
But the other point is, it is connected. It's the three issues connected together and seen in the light of September 11th and what terrorism means to the world now. We might have seen it before September 11th. It took September 11th to wake us up.
I supported very strongly in the 1990s the Iraq Liberation Act for the removal of Saddam Hussein. The Clinton Administration supported it. Senator Kerry, the distinguished President of this school and many other Democratic Senators supported it. It was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.
Everyone said, let's get rid of this man. But most of us said, let the Iraqis do it. Arm the Iraqis. Help them. Help them to do it for themselves.
After September 11th there was an urgency to do it that required something I wouldn't have contemplated before, which was the largescale use of American troops.
Goldberg: Given some of the difficulties, and you have to agree that it's not a difficulty-free occupation.
Wolfowitz: For sure.
Goldberg: Why not containment? Why not continue containment of Saddam Hussein?
Wolfowitz: By the way, you said occupation. I mean, unfortunately we're there under occupation rules. But the sooner we can move it to an Iraqi government and we're in support of it, that is the mission. That's basically what we're doing.
Containment was a very very costly strategy. It cost us billions of dollars. Estimates are around $30 billion. It cost us American lives. We lost American lives in Khobar Towers. They wouldn't have been there. In fact we no longer need American troops in Saudi Arabia. They were there containing Iraq. The sailors that were killed on the USS Cole were there containing Iraq.
But in some ways the real price is much higher than that. The real price was giving Osama bin Laden his principal talking point. If you go back and read his notorious Fatwa from 1998, where he called for the first time for killing Americans, his big complaint is that we have American troops on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, and we're bombing Iraq. That was his big recruiting device, his big claim against us.
And finally, containment did nothing for the Iraqi people. I visited a village of Marsh Arabs when I was in Iraq in July. The Marsh Arabs are an ancient civilization, an ancient culture. Estimates are there were maybe half a million Marsh Arabs in 1991. Saddam began a systematic campaign to wipe them out by drying up the environment in which they lived. He turned southern Iraq, an area the size of New Jersey that had been a relatively lush swampland, into a barren desert in order to wipe these people out. Their numbers are reduced below 200,000. That's what containment did for them. In another 12 years of containment there would be no Marsh Arabs. There would be many fewer Kurds. There would be many fewer Iraqi democrats. For those people, liberation came barely in time.
Goldberg: Let me ask you one final question before we go to some questions from the audience. Bernard Lewis, who has quite a following in the Administration, argues that strength is what matters in the Arab world, that hatred of the U.S. is not the operative emotion Defense Department planners should be worried about, it's contempt for the U.S.
We've spoken a little bit about some of the writers in your reading from the Arab world. Talk about, just for a couple of minutes, your vision of what the Arab world could become. Particularly something I'm interested in is trying to understand the chances for democracy in Iraq. I mean, you don't have to be Fareed Zakaria right now to wonder if Iraq is truly ready for democracy as you see it. Talk about that, and then we'll wrap it up and go to some questions.
Wolfowitz: Bernard Lewis is an extraordinary human being, an extraordinary historian. I've learned an enormous amount from him. I got him to visit Indonesia when I was there and it was fascinating to sit in on the conversations between him and very learned Indonesian Muslims. I hesitate in any way to suggest I have a different view. But I have a somewhat different view, I think. Not that I don't think -- he's absolutely right. It is very important that people understand our strengths, but that is not the only thing. I kind of like what the Marines told me -- their slogan when I visited them in the Shia holy city of Karbala. They want the people to understand you have no better friend and no worse enemy than a Marine. We will discriminate between those people who make trouble for us, who really will get it, and those people who don't, who will get all kinds of generous treatment. I think that is the essence of the strategy.
When I hear people say the Arabs are incapable of democracy; Islam is incapable of democracy; I am reminded of hearing exactly the same things 20 years ago, that the South Koreans are incapable of democracy. They've never had it in their history. Confucian culture exalts authoritarianism. They can't do it. There are so many countries that have overcome history in this respect and I think it's because of the fundamental human desire for freedom, and the self-government that guarantees freedom.
Does democracy mean that overnight countries are going to achieve what it took us two centuries and the British four centuries and we've very far from perfect? Of course not. But the Rumanians are so much better off today with an imperfect democracy than they were under the totalitarianism of Ceaucescu. And I feel absolutely certain the Iraqis will be better off, much better off five years from now than they were under that brutal, sadistic, abusive regime. To me it's almost beyond argument.
Goldberg: Thank you. Thanks very much. [Applause]
What we're going to do is take some questions. There are microphone stands. Really, don't be shy. Line up. [Laughter] Don't be abashed, he's here to take your questions.
I want to ask only two things. One is that you keep your questions short; and two is that you keep your questions questions. [Applause]
Q: Hello. I was just wondering, now that the anglo-American establishment has decided, that was the neo-cons out of the Bush Administration, I was wondering who was going to go first? Is it Cheney or you? [Laughter] And by the way, I'm with Lindon LaRouche. And I'd like to give you this amazing children's statement which I'd like you to sign as (question stopped)
Goldberg: Let me go to this microphone.
Q: As an Iranian-American I have a question. As you well know the recent uprising of Iranian students and liberals was very easily subdued by the Islamic Republic of Iran. How do you think that invasion of the United States in Iraq is helping the spread of democracy in the region? Particularly as you well know all of these zealous Muslims became very very much more strong in Pakistan and Turkey and around the world. [Applause]
Wolfowitz: I think it's going to take time, but I think in fact I think frankly that one of the things that terrifies the clerics who are oppressing the Iranian people is the prospect that the Iraqi people will have a democracy that Iranians can aspire to. And it's particularly threatening because Iraq is so heavily Shia. And in fact not just heavily Shia, but the authoritative schools of Shia Islam are arguably the ones based in Najaf and Karbala, the two holy cities of Shia Islam.
I go back to what I think I alluded to earlier. I think the maturity and restraint with which the Shia reacted to the most unimaginably horrible crime, to assassinate this major Shia leader with a car bomb right in front of the holiest mosque of the Shia, and killing 150 or more innocent people along with him, that they behaved with such maturity and such restraint I think is real cause for optimism.
Look, this is not going to happen in a day, but it certainly seems to me that Iraq can be a positive example for the Iranian people, and the more...
If I can digress for a second, my sense is that one of the things that happened in East Asia was, the more the Chinese rulers could not say, we can never make it, the deck is stacked against us, o, culturally we're not attuned to democracy -- as Singapore, as Hong Kong, as Taiwan, as South Korea began to improve, there was enormous pressure on China to improve. As those countries, some of them, have now become democratic, there's enormous pressure inside China. It's not moved as far as I would like to see. But I think a similar kind of pressure can build up in dictatorships of various kinds in the Muslim world when people demonstrate there's no reason why Arabs and Muslims can't have the same kind of societies that we enjoy in the West.
Goldberg: I was in Iran in February of this year and I met some of the leaders of the Student Democratic Underground and they told me one of the very popular jokes in Iran during the American invasion of Afghanistan was that they would want to go to the roofs in Tehran and hold up signs to the U.S. bombers saying "Drop the bombs here first."
So there was a strong feeling in the democratic underground that they wanted more vociferous U.S. action against the Mullahs. Can we expect to see that? Or --
Wolfowitz: I think change in Iran is going to have to come politically more than militarily. Iraq was a special case. A case of a country that had invaded its neighbors, defied the UN. Circumstances are different in each place, and I think that's why you need a strategic view, and a long-term view, and a view that doesn't recognize that these problems are not going to be all solved the same way and all solved at once.
Q: Hi. My question is you have right now, Bush this week called for, he went away from what Cheney said this weekend on Meet the Press against the fact that Saddam, there's no connection with al Qaeda and the terrorists. It's obvious that the liberal imperialists are now going again to a neo-cons, it's good to see that Blair is about to be ousted too. So obviously your regime now is starting to be, it's not looking so good, and it's what Lyndon LaRouche's been saying all along-- [Heckling]
We need reasons. We need to think of reasons. And those people who are not emotional can't be reasonable about the fascists. The question is, are you going to plan another terrorist attack to solidify your control --
Goldberg: Sir, thank you. Can we have a question? Thank you.
Q: Mr. Wolfowitz, as a key architect of the Project for a New American Century you co-authored a document calling for a new American empire around the world that would use nuclear weapons, invade countries that never threatened the U.S. and keep down potential rivals to American economic and military power. Do you think your project empires are worth a thousand innocent Iraqi and American lives?
Wolfowitz: I notice you read the question that was handed out.
Q: I wrote those questions that were handed out.
Wolfowitz: I was not a key architect of that project. I was listed on some of their things.
There's an attempt to tie a whole lot of things that are going on now, back to a document that was drafted by my staff when I was in the first Bush Administration, that people portray as somehow a project for American empire. What it really was was an argument in the wake of the Berlin Wall that the United States should not withdraw from the world. That the alliances, particularly the NATO Alliance and the alliances with Japan and Korea that had been absolutely crucial during the Cold War, remained crucial after the Cold War. When that report got -- actually the draft was leaked before it even got to my office -- but the basic thrust of it produced hysteria in all corners and yet it basically became American policy under the Clinton Administration. And Pat Buchanan has never forgiven the Democrats for adopting the policy of continuing to embrace NATO, continuing to embrace the U.S.-Japan alliance, continuing to embrace the U.S.-Korean alliance.
The U.S. has an important role to play in the world. It is not an imperial role. But believe me, if we were to follow the "come home America" and withdraw into our borders, two things would happen. The rest of the world would go crazy and we would be much more vulnerable and less safe.
Goldberg: What do you mean, the rest of the world would go crazy?
Wolfowitz: They need us. [Heckling]
Wait, wait, wait. Let's take one example. The Muslims. The United States has put young American men and women into harm's way basically to protect people who happen to be Muslims in Kuwait in 1991, in Somalia in 1992, in Northern Iraq in 1991, in Bosnia in 1995, in Kosovo in 1999, in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq this year. That's seven times in the last roughly ten years that we have basically helped large Muslim populations. The slaughter would still be going on in Iraq if Saddam Hussein was still there, and it would still be going on in Bosnia if Milosevic were still there.
We are important to the security of the world. We are important, I think, to the protection of democracy and freedom in the world. Does that mean we're trying to impose our ideas on other people? I don't think that opening space for democracy and freedom is imposing your ideas. It is -- if you want to say democracy is an American idea -- then I guess you can say that. But I think democracy is a universal idea. And I think letting people rule themselves happens to be something that serves Americans and America's interests. But it doesn't mean that we're imposing our interests on other people. There is a possibility of commonality of interest, that in the old imperial system didn't exist.
Goldberg: I was covering a rally in Washington, a pro-Israel rally I guess it was a year ago or so where you were speaking on behalf of the Administration and you were boo'd for talking about the human rights of Palestinians.
Tell us what your position is on the roadmap on Palestinian statehood and how you think -- We were told before the war that --
Q: You preempted my question.
Goldberg: Sorry. Am I doing okay?
Q: All things considered, yes.
Goldberg: I'll take that as a compliment, I guess. And filter that in. But I'm curious to know, one of the benefits of the Iraq war was supposed to be real progress on the peace front leading to a Palestinian state by 2005 I believe, according to the roadmap.
I was just there, I just got back two days ago and saw Arafat on Wednesday. Things are not going well at all in that arena. I wanted to get your views very quickly on the two parts of that question. One, your own views, and why this after-effect hasn't seemed to happen yet.
Did that cover it?
Q: More or less. I have a few things to add.
Wolfowitz: I think, first of all it's very important to our country and our position in the Muslim world as a whole and particularly the Arab world, to get a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I think, by the way, the incident you refer to, all I said was that we need to recognize that innocent Palestinians are dying as well. I was boo'd for that. I think it's a measure of the passions on both sides that people can want to deny the suffering of innocent people and it's unfortunate. But I think the solution has been clear for a long time, and that is as the President has said, and basically as they came awfully close to agreeing back under President Clinton at Tabah, two states living side by side -- Palestine and Israel. I think the key to getting there is to make it clear to the Israelis that the deal is really on the table.
I'm a great admirer of Anwar Sadat. I think he is a man of enormous courage who by his courage absolutely transformed the Israeli attitude toward giving up the Sinai. I think whatever one thinks of Sharon, whatever his positions actually are, I know that if their Palestinian leadership can come forward and say convincingly you can have peace if you give us our state within what are generally understood boundaries, that the overwhelming majority of Israelis would force whoever is the Prime Minister to accept a deal like that. That's a virtue of democracy. Even if it's fragmented, popular will can express itself. That is also why this Administration has put such an effort into trying to reform Palestinian institutions, so that they can truly reflect the will of the Palestinian people.
I think we made some progress in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad. I don't know if it was coincidental or connected. But certainly the Sharm-el-Sheik meeting, certainly we mobilized Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a way that had not been done before. But the terrorism of the last couple of months has been a huge setback. We've just got to get back on course.
I think -- someone asked me after the fall of Baghdad, okay, who's next on your personal hit list, as though I'd say North Korea or Iran. The answer to me is, the two most important things now in what has got to be a long term campaign, the two most important things are getting Iraq right, building a democratic Iraq, and getting the Palestinian-Israeli issue right. They're big jobs.
Q: My question is actually in regard to the American soldiers who are now in harm's way, as you said, in Iraq. Military families, thousands of them have actually organized a group called "Bring The Troops Home Now". They're arguing that you haven't made the case for the war; that we haven't seen the weapons of mass destruction; that basically you haven't justified sending these American kids into harm's way. Not to mention the deaths of the thousands of Iraqis.
Meanwhile, those soldiers' families at home are on foodstamps. What do you have to say to those families?
Wolfowitz: At least she memorized the question instead of reading it. [Laughter]
Sorry, I'm just a robot.
The issue of American casualties is something that you can't help but feel it acutely personally. War is a terrible thing and any life lost in war is terrible. I've made many visits to Bethesda and Walter Reed and met soldiers with absolutely horrible wounds. It's a gruesome business. We've got to win it. We're not going to help the people who have suffered those wounds, or the people who died in combat, by turning Iraq back over to the Ba'athists who are so eager to bring back the torture chambers and maybe even bring back Saddam Hussein. They died for a noble cause. They died to make this country safer. Iraq will be much worse and we will be in much more danger if they come home. It's an understandable sentiment.
The soldiers aren't convinced of that,
Q: The families are committed to that.
Goldberg: How do you know that?
Q: They're organizing.
Wolfowitz: Look, you're never going to have unanimity on something as controversial and difficult as this. But what strikes everyone who visits the troops out there is their confidence in their mission, their high morale. And frankly, not infrequently, questions like "Don't folks back home get it?." That doesn't mean everyone agrees. This is a democracy and this is a controversial subject.
Q: Thank you, Secretary. Now I'm sort of confused but I will try to make up something.
I wanted to ask you at the risk of presumption why you think that Iraq lends itself to democracy more than other Arab states, excepting the natural reasons which would be a complete redistribution of power which the Saudis helped and so forth? And also about the presumption that every Arab state wants democracy and how you would see in the future how the -- Because I certainly agree with you, again at the risk of presumption, that the United States does have a role in the world to say the least.
Mr. Goldberg, just to, if you'll forgive me, if I may piggyback on your question, the Arab world does see the Palestine and Israel problem as the greatest problem in the world which was expressed most articulately by the King of Jordan this week. So I'd ask how the United States would respond to that, that yes, we went into Iraq for reasons that you have stated. But how long we're going to continue to sideline what Europe and the Arab world see as the preeminent issue of creating the state of Palestine.
Wolfowitz: No one is arguing for sidelining that issue and I've said it, I'll say it again, how important it is. But it is not the only --
Q: I'm not suggesting that --
Wolfowitz: Can I please answer? You had a long time to ask the question.
Q: Yes, I did.
Wolfowitz: My impression from talking to quite a large number of Arabs is that while they care about the Arab-Israeli issue and they care deeply, if they live under a dictatorship, and unfortunately most of them do, that is the principal political complaint they have. And very often the complaint is you, the United States, either helped bring the dictatorship into power, or you support it today. I don't think Iraq is the only Arab country that is capable of democracy. You cited King Abdullah of Jordan. He's made some very bold statements that are just reported in the Washington Post today about the importance of democracy in Jordan. And he acknowledged that they have a long way to go, but that it is very important to move forward. And that what's happening in Iraq is part of that forward movement.
Morocco is a country which has made some very promising strides in the direction of greater liberalization.
We use democracy as a shorthand. Let's be clear. It's not just about elections. It's elections as part of a larger system that guarantees human rights and the rule of law. Without that, elections themselves are meaningless.
But Morocco is making strides. Bahrain, is making strides. It won't happen overnight, and I personally believe that in many cases it would be a lot better for countries to evolve to democracy than to try to move too fast all at once. I think it's a tragedy, actually, in Indonesia that Suharto didn't start taking steps 15 years ago to move his country toward democracy so that when it finally came, it came in a kind of revolutionary tidal wave.
Goldberg: What happens if they move to democracy and then elect Islamists?
Wolfowitz: Look, 50 percent of the Arab world are women. Most of those women do not want to live in a theocratic state. The other 50 percent are men. I know a lot of them. I don't think they want to live in a theocratic state. And the real question is instead of all the what if's, if the situation changes, it will get so much worse -- how much worse can it be than what it's been for the last 20 years? We've had a status quo in the Middle East that has produced thousands of young Arabs who were committed to this fanatical version of Islam. I think it needs to change and we need to encourage those people.
I come back to my Indonesian friends. That is a country with an enormous potential to be a leader of moderate forces in the Muslim world. We need to support people like that. We need to support the Turks who, talk about Islamists. There's some fear that the new government in Turkey will be Islamist. There are lots of ways to have religion. We have, as some would say, a very extreme version of separation of church and state. A lot of European countries have some official status of christianity. It doesn't turn them into theocratic tyrannies.
Goldberg: We're going to take one last question.
Q: Hi, Mr. Wolfowitz. While you were talking about the Bush Administration's concern for the human rights of Iraqis I was reminded of something that British Lieutenant General Stanley Moore said in 1917 when the British took Baghdad. "Our armies do not come as conquerors or enemies but as liberators." Part of the history lesson is that three years later the British gassed and killed 10,000 Iraqis who rose up against the British occupation. According to the estimates of journalist Robert Fitz who has been in Baghdad during the war and now, during what you might call the after-war, he estimates that as many as a thousand Iraqis die each week.
In the context of this, how do you justify the claim that this war, this occupation, have anything to do with concern for Iraqi human rights? [Applause]
Wolfowitz: Just read any account of how horrible the old regime was, the kinds of atrocities that it committed, a million people killed over 35 years. You can do the statistics at how many that is per day. General Moore did not liberate Iraq from a tyrant like Saddam Hussein. Maybe the British stayed too long.
We want, as soon as possible, to have Iraqis in charge of their own country and their own future. We want the security mission in Iraq to be performed by Iraqis. We want government in Iraq to be performed by Iraqis. We want the oil resources of Iraq -- [Heckling] -- to go to Iraq's development. And that will advance our interests -- [Heckling] - and the Iraqi people. [Heckling]
Goldberg: Let me -- [Heckling] -- If you don't mind. Ma'am, please. [Heckling]
We've taken the last question.
What I'm going to do now is I want to first of all thank Dr. Wolfowitz for coming. [Applause and Boos]
I have to say that on behalf of the New Yorker, I have to say that Dr. Wolfowitz is, I think, quite brave for coming too-- [Applause] -- knowing that there would be severe critics in the audience, and I appreciate his commitment to trying to answer the questions that critics of the war, critics of this Administration have. I so thank you for that. [Heckling]
I just want to add, and I want to ask him just to give us one minute of a closing thought if you could. But I would simply recommend to some people who haven't been to Iraq and who want to understand something about Iraq under Saddam Hussein to go on-line and buy a book called "Genocide in Kurdistan" that was published by Human Rights Watch. Read that and try to learn a little bit about what happened just in Kurdistan. I think you might find that actually kind of useful.
Dr. Wolfowitz, let me just close by asking you to give us some closing thoughts on the war, the aftermath, and where we're going to be this time next year. [Heckling]
Wolfowitz: I think the point you make is the fundamental strategic advantage we have in Iraq. Iraqis do not want to go back to the past, even though some people in this audience might like to send them there. [Heckling] I'm sorry, that's the consequence of what you're arguing for. That is exactly why the Ba'athists are out there killing Americans to try to get us to leave, so that they can come back. The level of paranoia, it's hard to believe it, but I encountered a City Councilman in Najaf who said are you just holding Saddam Hussein so you can bring him back when you leave? There are Iraqis who fear we might do that. We're not going to do that. We're going to give them their country back and they will be better off for it. We will be better off for it.
But let's remember this. This is the most fundamental thing to me. September 11th was a wakeup call. New York got it, we got it in Washington, the whole country got it. We cannot go back to business as usual. We cannot think that this problem of Islamic extremist-based terrorism is going to leave us alone. We've got to deal with it. It's a two-front war. It's a war against the terrorists themselves, but it's also got to be a war, as the President said, to build a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror. It means working on the Arab-Israeli problem. It means encouraging democracies like Turkey and Indonesia. And it means helping the Iraqi people win the war and build a democracy in their country.
Goldberg: Thank you very much.
[Applause and Boos]