Wolfowitz Discusses Iraq in Series of Radio Interviews
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2004 In the week that marks the one-year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz commented on various aspects of the operation in a series of radio interviews March 16.
In an interview with Eric Westervelt and Juan Williams on National Public Radio, Wolfowitz wondered why some people ask in hindsight why the United States didn't do more with incomplete intelligence information before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, yet criticize U.S. action in Iraq on the grounds that pre-war intelligence lacked certainty.
"I thought the lesson of Sept. 11 is you can't wait for 100 percent proof in this era," Wolfowitz said. Still, he said, he would not classify the war in Iraq as one of pre-emption. "It was enforcing the will of the United Nations after 12 years and 17 resolutions," he said.
Wolfowitz told Howard Arenstein on CBS radio that while weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found in post-war Iraq, former chief weapons inspector David Kay said his team's findings show Saddam Hussein's regime may have been more dangerous than it was believed to have been. "I believe he said that if we had known in January of last year what Kay knows now, there would have been no question about going to war," Wolfowitz said. "We would have gone."
Though some violence has continued since the end of major combat operations, the deputy defense secretary told Dom Giordano of Philadelphia's WPHT-AM that if the facts of post-war Iraq had been predicted before the war, the assessment would have been viewed as "wildly optimistic."
"The clich before the war was that everything was going to be a disaster," he said. "The Arab world would be in flames; none of the governments would be overthrown; Turkey would invade northern Iraq; maybe Iran would invade eastern Iraq; there would be massive destruction of oil fields; (and) there would be starvation (and) large refugee flows.
"And weapons of mass destruction, remember, were going to be used, maybe dragging Israel into the war," he continued. "None of those things happened.
"If anyone had said before that our casualties, as painful as it is, would be measured in the hundreds," he said, "that there would be no torching of the oil fields, that we'd take the country down before there could be massive street fighting, there would be no refugee flows, and the long list of things that didn't happen, they would have said you're wildly optimistic. They just pass right over that, and then they say, 'Oh my gosh, these Nazi-like thugs who tortured and raped and abused Iraq for 35 years are still fighting after the fall of the capital.'"
In an interview with Marc Bernier on WNDB-AM in Daytona, Fla., Wolfowitz said the term "resistance" isn't appropriate in describing the people who are seeking to derail the emergence of a free, democratic Iraq.
"The word 'resistance' dignifies them," he said. The Baathists, he continued, were "basically a gang of thugs and murderers, rapists (and) torturers who subjugated that country for 35 years, and quite a few of them are afraid of what will happen to them in a new Iraq. Quite afraid. They're killers."
Wolfowitz said in his interview with Arenstein that he sees Iraq on a path to democracy. "And the terrorists see it too," he added. He paraphrased the words of terrorist Musab Abu al-Zarqawi who he called "one of the main killers in Iraq today" in an intercepted letter intended for al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
"Things are really bad for us here," Wolfowitz said was Zarqawi's message in the letter. "The Americans aren't leaving no matter how many of them we kill. Soon there's going to be a democracy, and then we'll be suffocated." Wolfowitz also noted that Zarqawi's letter said the terrorists' only hope lies in killing Shiia Arabs in the hope of starting a war between them and the Sunnis, bringing about chaos.
Though the intent of recent bombings in Iraq seems to be preventing democracy from taking root, Wolfowitz told Arenstein, he believes the violence against Iraqis has been counterproductive for the terrorists.
"I think the main effect of these bombs in Iraq has been to bring Iraqis together," he said. "They're angry. A little bit of the anger is naturally going to go in all directions. But the main anger goes at the people who deserve it, which is the thugs from the old regime, the Saddam regime, that are still fighting, and these foreign terrorists."
The deadly train bombing in Madrid on March 11 may have influenced elections in that country, Wolfowitz said, but he remains hopeful that the newly elected socialist government will reconsider its promise to withdraw from Iraq.
"I just hope when the dust settles in the cool light of day that the Spaniards, who after all have a long record of courage, will recognize that it would be a terrible mistake to reward terrorism," Wolfowitz said. "I just hope the new government, when it gets its feet on the ground, will realize the worst thing they could do for Spain and for the world would be to reward terrorism."
The deputy defense secretary told his NPR interviewers he agrees with a 101st Airborne Division brigade commander, who told Wolfowitz during a visit to Mosul in July that his soldiers' work in Iraq is as important as what their grandfathers did in Japan and Germany, and what their fathers did in Korea and in the Cold War.
"I would say it in terms that they were both fighting a totalitarian evil -- in this case it was terrorism and state support for terrorism -- they were also creating conditions for a talented people to build a new free society," Wolfowitz said. "And it's still early in the game to say how the Iraqis will come out of it, but I think they will be successful. And when they are successful it will have the same kinds of broad, positive effects that those successes in Japan, Korea and Germany have had."