Saddam's Regime 'Is on Its Way Out,' Wolfowitz Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2003 Dictator Saddam Hussein's 20-plus-year hold on the Iraqi people is drawing to a close, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said today.
"One thing is certain, and that is that this regime is on its way out - it's ended," Wolfowitz told NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.
The deputy secretary and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided Russert an update on Operation Iraqi Freedom. These two defense officials also appeared on several other Sunday news shows.
After just over two weeks' of fighting in Iraq, the United States and its coalition partners "have made a lot of progress" during a difficult war, Wolfowitz pointed out.
Yet, some big dangers may still lie ahead, he cautioned.
"We continue to be concerned about [Hussein's] possible use of chemical or biological weapons" against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, Wolfowitz said. The dictator's troops, he noted, have sometimes taken desperate measures, such as suicidal attacks, in confronting allied forces.
"We've seen the brutality of this regime," the deputy secretary observed, pointing to Saddam's willingness to put young Iraqi soldiers into hopeless situations.
"It's a disgrace, actually," he continued, "and the sooner the Iraqi people understand that there's no reason any longer to fear this regime and its leader -- no reason to fight for it -- the better it will be."
U.S. and coalition troops now have their hands full fighting Hussein's hold out forces, the deputy secretary noted. After the regime has been defeated, he asserted, "we'll have time to look for those weapons of mass destruction."
There's no doubt that WMDs are hidden somewhere in Iraq, Wolfowitz declared, noting that the intelligence community is convinced of it.
Hussein's elite forces gathered in and around Baghdad have taken a beating from U.S and coalition strikes, Pace said.
Of Saddam's six Republican Guard divisions, "two are ... totally destroyed," the general pointed out.
The remaining four Republican Guard divisions, Pace continued, have lost about half of their tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers.
However, a wounded enemy is still dangerous, he cautioned.
It's too early to tell if the decimated Republican Guard units will continue to fight, Pace remarked, noting that U.S. and coalition forces would keep up the pressure.
"We would much prefer that the soldiers in the Iraqi army would surrender and take the opportunity to be a part of Iraq's future instead of Iraq's past," the general emphasized.
Recent operations have proven "we can drive anywhere in Baghdad we'd like," Pace noted. However, he added, the U.S. military still doesn't have a troop presence throughout the city.
Pace said he isn't concerned about the possibility that Egyptian, Sudanese or Syrian adventurers may come to Iraq to fight for Saddam's regime.
"Militarily, it's not significant at all," the general asserted. "If they join the fight, they will die."
Russert queried Wolfowitz on his reaction to recent video images raising questions on whether it was Saddam or someone looking like him rallying people in Baghdad's streets. The deputy defense secretary reiterated that the regime's time is past, whether the dictator is alive or not.
"This evil, brutal man is on his way out," Wolfowitz emphasized. "And the sooner the Iraqi people can be convinced of that the sooner they will stop fighting for a hopeless and ignoble cause."
And "there isn't going to be any deal with this regime," the deputy defense secretary emphasized.
As Hussein's forces are driven out, more and more Iraqis have "come forward to give us information," Wolfowitz remarked.
The Free Iraqi Forces are making important contributions in Iraq, he added, by performing interpreter duty alongside U.S. civil affairs units. These forces are volunteer Iraqi expatriates who have been trained by the United States in Hungary to work as liaisons between U.S.-coalition forces and the Iraqi public.
After Saddam's regime and its structures of terror are dismantled, then work can begin to reconstruct the country, Wolfowitz pointed out.
"The goal is to move as rapidly as possible after the regime is gone to a government that genuinely represents the Iraqi people," Wolfowitz explained. U.S. and coalition officials have spoken with Iraqi officials inside and outside the country, he noted, about forming an interim administrative authority to serve as a bridge to the new Iraqi government.
However, Iraqis first need to be convinced that Hussein is truly leaving power - for good, the deputy secretary said. That will occur when the Iraqi people no longer fear Hussein's regime.
And the days of that regime of fear are definitely numbered, Wolfowitz concluded.