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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview With SCTV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
November 05, 2002

(Interview with Arief Studitomo, SCTV Indonesia)

Q: Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, thank you so much for this great, great opportunity. Let me begin by asking you about one of the most frequent statements made by President Bush, join us or against us. Do you think that we all must have the same or similar understanding or interpretation about what international terrorism is? How do you respond to this?

Wolfowitz: I would think that all decent people in the world would agree that the deliberate murder of innocent people is immoral, no matter what words, what ideology is used to invoke some rationalization of it. And I believe it's very clear from everything I've seen about polling data in Indonesia that the Indonesian people were totally horrified at the attack on the World Trade Center. And I, from everything I read, they were equally horrified by the attacks in Bali. In fact, it's quite clear that whoever mounted those attacks in Bali wasn't only out to kill Australians and other foreigners who were in Bali that evening. They were clearly out to damage Indonesia, to damage the Indonesian economy, to damage Indonesian democracy, and to create a wedge between one of the most important populations in the Muslim world and the Western democratic nations, who are the true friends of Indonesia.

Q: But, however, you must have been aware about the resistance of American policy is quite visible here. Some people even theorize that United States government is connected to the Bali tragedy. How do you respond to this accusation?

Wolfowitz: Look, that is just totally an unbelievable fantasy. I can't imagine that anybody rational actually believes that. The evidence is so clear that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organizations that are connected to them have been behind a whole series of horrible attacks on innocent people. And they claim credit for it. And, in fact, if you go to some of their Web sites, they're boasting about the attack in Bali. It's just inconceivable that this was done by the United States, and I can't imagine anybody informed or educated believing that.

What disturbs me also is this notion that somehow the United States is at war with Muslims or at war with Islam. In the 1990's, five different times the U.S. military went to the aid of Muslim people. First to the people of Kuwait, who had been conquered by a vicious dictator and were being horribly abused. Then to the aid of the predominantly Kurdish population in northern Iraq, who are overwhelmingly Muslim. Then to the aid of the Bosnians in former Yugoslavia, who were Muslim. Then to the aid of the Kosovo Albanians in Serbia, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, I think entirely Muslim. And also to the aid of the starving people of Somalia, who are all Muslim. No one ever said we were fighting for Islam when we did that, but we happened to be defending Muslim populations.

It's the terrorists who are the real enemy of Islam, and it's their very perverted, extreme, distorted version of the religion that they're trying not only to use as a justification for killing Americans and killing Westerners, but also the justification for subjugating Muslims, the way the Taliban subjugated Muslims in Afghanistan.

Q: Okay, Let's go to, let's focus to Bali again. Can you give some specific reasons or give us some reasons to think about why we have to believe, why we must believe that Al Qaeda and Jama Islamiya are the ones behind the Bali tragedy? Can you give some more specific reasons?

Wolfowitz: We don't yet know, I think, precisely who did the Bali bombing. And I think that's the responsibility for the Indonesian police and Indonesian security services. And you'd have to ask them for their precise understanding. It is, I think, very noteworthy that you can read now on Al Qaeda Web sites elaborate justifications and glorifications of the killings in Bali and linked to the killings in Kuwait and the bombing of the tanker in Yemen and the killings in Indonesia. They boast about all of these as one thing and consider it entirely justified.

It also fits their pattern. Their pattern is not only to kill Westerners, but to drive wedges between the West and the Muslim world. The issue isn't to prove who was behind it; the issue is to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening again in the future. And I believe that one way you go about doing that is to capture or eliminate the people who actively plan to conduct these kind of attacks, who boast about these kinds of attacks, who justify these kinds of attacks.

Q: And since the name of Al Qaeda and Jama Islamiya is frequently mentioned in many terrorism acts, I was wondering if you can share [with] us one illustration about the presence and the existence of both organizations, especially in Southeast Asia?

Wolfowitz: I think the real challenge facing Indonesia today is how to manage a successful transition to a democratic government after 50 years of one form of authoritarian rule or another. And Indonesia is trying to do this in very difficult circumstances because of the economic collapse in 1997 and 1998, which the country has still not yet recovered from.

And it seems to me clear that terrorism is another obstacle to building democracy, placed deliberately by the terrorists - I'm not sure why, but I think it's not too hard to come up with what their theory is. Their theory probably is that if they can increase the level of misery and desperation in this country with such a huge Muslim population, they hope to gain more recruits for their rather evil cause.

But this is an Indonesian problem. Yes, it's an American problem also. We make no secret of that. But I think if Indonesians keep asking what is it the Americans want, you're missing the point. The real issue is what are Indonesians going to do to save their country, to save their democracy, which it seems to me is one of the most potentially promising political developments in East Asia at the start of this century. But it's clear that Indonesian democracy is one of the targets of the terrorists.

Q: But we still want to have your illustration or we are still expecting your information about how you illustrate, or how you explain about the presence or existence of Jama Islamiya and Al Qaeda, their presence in Southeast Asia. Can you do that? Can you share that kind of information? Because we know vaguely about their presence here, especially in Southeast Asia.

Wolfowitz: I think one of the challenges for any democracy, and Indonesia is clearly now a democracy, and that's a wonderful development, clearly a challenge for Indonesia, a challenge for the United States is how do you deal with terrorists at the same time that you protect the freedoms and the civil liberties that go with being a democracy. And it is a challenge, because terrorists use the freedom of open societies, the freedom that democracies afford them, to hide.

One of the important things - I think your question keeps saying tell us where the terrorists are. Well, I think you need to start by understanding that terrorists don't go out there with big advertising signs proclaiming where they are. They're people who hide. They hid in Hamburg; they hid in the United States. They're hiding all over the world, and I believe they're hiding in Indonesia. And it takes very careful police work, preferably, I think more successfully police work with international cooperation to track these people down. But then it also takes a careful but strict application of the law so that you don't allow people to abuse freedom of speech to begin to support violence. I think that's where the line gets crossed.

There is a great deal of cooperation today between Indonesia's law enforcement officials and those of other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Malaysia and the Philippines, I believe, very close cooperation with law enforcement officials here in the United States. But no one should be under the illusion that it's easy to find these people. They make it very hard to find them.

Q: Success to combat, in combating the war against terrorism is also in the hand of public perception. Public perception here in Indonesia is something that we all have to consider very, very seriously. Without extra support, without extra information about the presence, their presence in Southeast Asia, it will be, I will think it will be hard to win this war. Can you share just a bit of information about the constellation of terror that [maybe] involve Al Qaeda and Jama Islamiya, especially here in Southeast Asia?

Wolfowitz: Well, I think you have two kinds of evidence. You have evidence that has been supplied by people who have been detained in Singapore and the Philippines, and Malaysia, and you can go to those governments. I believe they've been pretty open with your government about what they've learned from these people. There's at least one detainee who is under our control who has been made available to Indonesian law enforcement people. But the other evidence you have is things like this horrible bombing in Bali. And if you're going to keep waiting for more proof of who did it before you say that it's a serious problem, it seems to me you're making a terrible mistake.

We don't know exactly who did the Bali bombing. And we've got to be careful before we jump to conclusions about who exactly was involved. But if that's not evidence that there are some very murderous terrorists at work in Indonesia, who are operating in a way that seems to me quite different from any of the smaller-scale acts of terrorism or violence that Indonesia experienced previously, that there's something new going on here, and that it's a threat to Indonesia, I think Indonesians are making a terrible mistake. We're in this together. We need to be in it together to try to get to the bottom of who's behind it. But to deny that something quite terrible and quite new happened in Bali, and that there's a new phenomenon in the world today, I think is just completely denying reality.

Q: As a former U.S. Ambassador here in Indonesia who is quite familiar about our democratic situation and the domestic political constellation, I believe you recognize some or several challenges which are faced by Indonesian authorities or leaders when they have to interpret what international terrorism is. How do you assess this thing and what will happen to Indonesia when we approach a time or we arrive in a time when we have [a] different conception or different interpretations about what international terrorism is?

Wolfowitz: If Indonesians don't face this problem of terrorism squarely in the face and deal with it, the people who are going to suffer the most are going to be Indonesians. Already, I believe, it's causing a great deal of damage to the Indonesian economy because foreigners are afraid to visit the country. I think it must have been one of the purposes of the terrorists to damage the Indonesian economy.

I feel as though the United States is always put in the position of having to defend itself and explain itself. It ought to be the other way around. When we went to war in Afghanistan to deal with the terrorist problem that threatened the United States, the fact is we were also fighting on behalf of millions of Afghan Muslims who were being oppressed by one of the worst dictatorships in the world. And when the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, you had the incredible demonstrations all over the country of girls finally being able to go to school again, of women getting rid of those horrible burkas that were used to oppress women, of people in general now being able to feed themselves, because they didn't have a government that was deliberately starving large parts of the population.

Those were all Muslim people that we helped to liberate in Afghanistan. The United States, I believe, over many years and in particular in the last ten years, has regularly gone to the aid of oppressed Muslim populations. I don't think we've got something to defend in our record. But I come back to where we start from. It is Indonesia that is the target of the terrorists. It's Indonesians who have got to decide what they're going to do about terrorism. But if Indonesians don't do something to stop terrorism in Indonesia, it's going to have really terrible consequences for democracy in that wonderful, important country which I love so much. But it's not something Americans can do for you.

Q: Do you think that our government, the present administration is friendly enough to handle the situation, especially about combating international terrorism?

Wolfowitz: I certainly believe that the government of Indonesia understands the problem. I think perhaps what the government of Indonesia needs most, and I think some of the questions you've been asking me demonstrates, is more support and understanding from the Indonesian people of what they're facing.

This is not a struggle that's going to be won by the United States. It's not going to be a struggle that's going to be won by American pressure on your government. It's only a struggle that can be won if the Indonesian people come together in a unified way, in ways which we've seen them do marvelously in the past.

I remember being in Indonesia in 1999 for the elections and being so impressed at the peaceful spirit with which 100 million or more Indonesians went to the polls, and the way in which in overwhelming numbers Indonesians rejected those voices that were calling for extremism and for splitting Indonesia along religious or ethnic lines. I think it's a great challenge to democracy in the country. I think it's a great challenge to the unity of the country. But I think it's a challenge that Indonesians are capable of rising to and I hope they will.

Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, thank you so much for this opportunity.

Wolfowitz: Thank you. Good to be back, so to speak.

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