Wolfowitz: Disarming Saddam Would Be 'Second Front' of War on Terrorism
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2003 Capturing al Qaeda terrorists and disarming Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are both part of the war against global terrorism, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said here today.
The March 1 capture of alleged terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan was a huge loss to al Qaeda, Wolfowitz remarked to Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary members at a downtown conference.
Yet, the war will be a long struggle, he said. "It's not just about one man or one terrorist network," he insisted. "It's about intersecting networks of terrorists -- and the support that they get from terrorist states."
Mohammed's capture and the apprehension of other key terrorists in recent months shows "clearly that the effort we have mobilized at the same time to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass terror has not distracted us from the hunt for al Qaeda," Wolfowitz stated.
In fact, disarming Iraq and hunting down al Qaeda terrorists "are not two separate issues," the deputy secretary emphasized.
"Disarming Saddam's weapons of mass terror is a second front in the war on terrorism," he declared.
U.S. and coalition intelligence officials know al Qaeda is planning additional attacks even more terrible than the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, Wolfowitz said. And, he continued, the terrorists are seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Such weapons in terrorists' hands "present us with a threat that could be orders of magnitude worse than Sept. 11" and produce tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties, he said.
The United Nations has sought to disarm Hussein for 12 years now, he said, noting that even today, "There's been no real compliance by Iraq and no genuine cooperation. Instead, we've had delay, dishonesty and deception." Hussein continues to play hide-and-seek with the U.N. weapons inspectors, who are "chasing mobile biological labs that were designed to be hidden," Wolfowitz said.
The inspectors also have been denied full and free access to Iraqi scientists who know where the weapons are, but whom Hussein has threatened with death if they cooperate with the United Nations, he continued.
Interviews between the scientists and U.N. weapons inspectors have been held in hotels, which could easily be "bugged" by Iraqi intelligence agents, Wolfowitz pointed out. Under those circumstances, the scientists had every reason to suspect that the slightest misstep on their part would be picked up and reported to Hussein's minions, he said.
Hussein is a cruel despot who rules by fear and who has been known to order the cutting off of ears and tongues of people who've disobeyed him or have spoken out against the regime, he remarked.
"These are not the actions of a regime that is actively cooperating with the requirement that it disclose all of its weapons of mass destruction," Wolfowitz declared. "More important, these are not the actions of a regime that has any legitimate claim to be ruling the Iraqi people."
If military force becomes necessary to disarm Hussein, then "it won't be a war against Iraq; it will be a war to liberate Iraq," Wolfowitz said.