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Georgetown Iden Lecture: "Winning the Battle of Ideas: Another Front in the War on Terror"
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Washington, DC, Thursday, October 30, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, as you may have noticed in the news, there was indeed some added excitement during my latest trip to Iraq, and I do want to give you a full report. But, first, let me turn to my friend, Bob Galluci.

Bob and I have spent most of our adult lives in government service and academe. We both worked at the State Department; we both taught at Johns Hopkins; but, probably most important of all, we were both born in Brooklyn back in the time when there was still an Ebbets Field and still a Brooklyn Dodgers.

I’m now in my third tour at the Pentagon. When Don Rumsfeld welcomed me back for my third tour, he said, "We’re going to keep bringing you back until you get it right." I was tempted to ask Don about the significance of his coming back for his second tour. Well, let’s just say, you’ll learn about dealing with your superiors. Our Walsh School students will no doubt see that that would not have been diplomatic. Or wise. Unless, of course, you subscribe to Brooklyn-style diplomacy, which teaches that a diplomat is someone who signals before cutting across three lanes of traffic.

Another quick lesson in diplomacy, came courtesy of another boss of mine, Secretary of State George Shultz. I was able to accompany him on his first official trip to Asia in 1983. I’d been confirmed in my own job barely two months. So, of course, I was eager to impress. But, at our first dinner in Japan, I encountered a challenge that was beyond my powers. Like everyone else in the party, I was exhausted by jet lag.

Secretary Shultz gave the requisite toast, which he himself has described in his memoirs as "straightforward, if bland." Somehow I nodded off, and quite dramatically, apparently, my chin hit my chest. The Secretary’s special assistant passed me a note saying, "Rule number one for a new Assistant Secretary: never fall asleep during the Secretary’s toast." Now I’m conscientious and I was determined to take that lesson to heart, so I asked the special assistant how he managed to stay awake. "Simple," he replied. "I’ve been sitting on my fork." If you think my performance escaped my boss’s notice, think again. Shultz recounts everything I’ve just told you in his memoirs, and concludes: "Diplomacy is a cagey art."

I’d venture that both Bob and Howard would agree with that assessment. And I think they can certainly appreciate the art in another story that came to me by way of George Shultz. It’s a story I used to like to tell when I was at Johns Hopkins.F

George was once asked: "What’s the difference between managing in the private sector, government, and academia?" He reportedly replied: "It’s sort of like this: In the private sector you have to be very careful what you ask people to do because they’re going to go out and do it—so be sure you ask them what you want. In government, you don’t have to worry about that—you ask people to do something and check back a couple months later to find that nothing’s happened. In the university, you ask some people to do something, and they look at you strangely and say, ‘Who the heck do you think you are giving us orders?’"

Report from the Central Front in Iraq

Now I’d like to give you a report about my trip to Iraq.

Early Sunday morning, I was in my room, getting ready for a breakfast meeting. I heard this loud explosion, like something had gone off in the distance. People have asked me how I felt at that moment. I have to tell you, after you account for your people and do what you can for the wounded, you mostly just figure out how to start going about your business, because what we were there to do was so important. We had lots of work to do, and I was going to be damned if they were going to keep us from it.

The strongest emotion came when I was told that one of the Army people working for CPA had died. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach – and anger. We learned later that Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Buehring was killed in the attack. "Chad" Buehring was an 18-year Army veteran. He was helping the Iraqi people by helping build new media. We deplore the act of violence that caused Chad Buehring’s death. With gratitude we remember what he gave doing the work he wanted to do. He died doing noble work on behalf of the people of America and the people of Iraq, so we might all be safer.

Sixteen people were wounded in that act of savagery, and I was able to visit the five seriously wounded in the hospital. Symbolically enough, it was a coalition: one British, four Americans; one military, four civilians.

I asked the Brit, a civilian from the Finance Ministry who had helped to produce Iraq’s new currency that gets rid of the butcher's face—I asked him if he was in a lot of pain, and he said no. I said, "Either you're lying"—another diplomatic art—"or it’s that British stiff upper lip." And he said, "Well, actually, I have a lot of American blood in me also." And he was proud to be serving.

I talked to a State Department secretary who had just been there a couple of weeks, having volunteered to come from Guatemala, and I asked if she was sorry she was there. And she said, "No, this is important work."

The one that I'll always remember the most, I think, was an American colonel, who was still getting oxygen when I came to see him and who was obviously in some pain. They lifted the mask so that we could talk, and I asked him where he was from. He said, "Do you mean where do I live, or are you asking about my accent?"

Well, I hadn't noticed the accent, but I said, "Why don't you answer both questions?" He said, "Well, I live in Arlington, Virginia, but I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon." And I asked him how he felt about building a new Middle East, and he gave me a thumbs-up and a pretty big smile for someone who was in that much pain.

And then he asked the nurses to prop him up and take off the oxygen mask so that we could have a photo together. And it's a photo that I will cherish as long as I live.

When it comes to acts of courage, I was truly inspired by each one of them—by their reaction, by their bravery. There wasn’t a single complaint. Instead, they each told me how proud they were of being there, proud of what they’d accomplished in Iraq. They have a wonderful defiant spirit. We’re proud of them. And they are heroes.

They have a wonderful, defiant spirit. Their colleagues in the CPA were hard at work on a Sunday, even after that terrible attack which had touched hundreds of them and killed one of their number. We’re proud of them, civilians and military, State Department and Defense Department and Department of Justice, and I could go on with a long list. People were wounded in that attack, not only from the United States and the United Kingdom, but from Kosovo and Italy and Nepal. They are all heroes, as are the Iraqis who are fighting with them for future freedom.

Dramatic violence like that can not only grab attention and drive news coverage, but it can effectively obscure the larger picture—which, of course, is the terrorists’ goal.

I don’t mean to imply that the situation in Iraq is not dangerous—it is. Every single life that is lost is a tragedy, not just for the families of our service members, but for all those who serve – it is a very close community.

As the President pointed out earlier this week, "it’s dangerous in Iraq because there are people who can’t stand the thought of a free and peaceful Iraq…. The Baathists try to create chaos and fear because they realize that a free Iraq will deny them the excessive privileges they had under Saddam Hussein. The foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear and retreat because they fear a free and peaceful state in the midst of the part of the world where terror has found recruits, that freedom is exactly what terrorists fear the most…. It is dangerous in Iraq because there are some who believe that we are soft, that the will of the United States can be shaken by suiciders…. It’s the same mentality … that attacked us on September 11th, 2001."

Iraq is dangerous. But our troops and their Iraqi and international allies are making progress.

Monday morning, a Wall Street Journal editorial made an important observation along these lines. While the hotel attack was dominating the news then, it said, the bigger news in the long run will probably be the Madrid donor conference that brought together more than 70 nations and, as the article put, "the progress it represents toward a self-governing Iraq."

Members of the international community pledged tangible support for Iraq—proving once again that the investment in Iraq’s success is one shared by many nations.

From what I’ve seen in Iraq, such attacks and certain headlines that follow can can’t overshadow some other things—like the hundreds of individual acts of courage by Iraqis and Americans and other coalition partners who are working together to build a new and free Iraq.

Such attacks can’t obscure the remarkable achievements of coalition forces and Iraqis themselves. Last Thursday I went to Iraq to assess Iraq’s progress toward stability and democracy. Today I can tell you, less than seven months since the toppling of Saddam’s statue in the heart of Baghdad, there is also plenty of good news in Iraq. Plenty of good news and hope for the future among one of the most intelligent and able populations in the Middle East. Seeing the joy in the faces of people who’ve been freed from Saddam’s republic of fear underscores the President’s wisdom in freeing them from the ghastly prison in which they lived—which also means we’ll be safer, too.

There is real forward movement in Iraq—and thousands of Iraqis are standing and fighting for their country. It’s no surprise that progress itself is the target of an enemy that doesn’t stand and fight. They hit and run.

In this, the holiest month of the Muslim year, they target progress in Iraq, because they’re losing. They refuse to accept the reality of a free Iraq. So they take aim at the prospect of a country freed from their control and moving to become an Iraq of, by, and for the Iraqi people.

It only takes a few dozen people, or sometimes only one or two like Timothy McVey and Terry Nichols, to set a bomb that can kill scores or hundreds. That happened in Najaf two months ago and it killed a brave Shia leader.

That was the big news. But to me the real news was the incredibly restrained response of the Shia community afterwards.

Sunday, I was privileged to have dinner in Baghdad with a remarkable individual who is helping to move Iraq in that direction. His name is Abdelaziz Hakim.

It was an extraordinary three hours. It was impossible not to be impressed by his intelligence, his sense of humor, and his completely understated courage.

Hakim is the last of seven sons, and brother to the important Shia leader, Baqir Al-Hakim, who was murdered by a car bomb on the steps of a mosque in Najaf last August. His five other brothers were among some 63 members of his family who were victims of the old regime.

Today, Abdelaziz Al-Hakim is part of the new Governing Council of Iraq. And, he said with a laugh, he "did not want to be Number 64". Most impressive was his humanity and the conviction with which he spoke of his and his family’s commitment to religious freedom.

He told about how his recently-murdered brother had intervened with Iranian authorities in Iran to permit Iraqi Christian prisoners of war to be able to assemble to celebrate Christmas and how his brother, a senior Shia cleric, had joined them for those celebrations.

When his brother died, hundreds of Christians came by to pay condolences, many of them weeping inconsolably. As Abdulaziz Hakim observed, quite shrewdly, it might be possible for a few of them to have been pretending, but not all.

Hakim then went on to talk about how his late father was described in a history of modern Iraq as having defended the Jews of Iraq even after 1967, when it had become particularly difficult and dangerous. This man comes from a family that boasts of courage and tolerance, and he appears to be firmly in their tradition.

In Hillah, we saw some remarkable women, including some women in traditional Muslim dress, who have been courageous in standing up for women’s rights. We also saw courage among those who were organizing a center for human rights in a country where human rights were systematically trampled so brutally for 35 years.

We visited Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq with a diverse population that includes Kurds, Arabs, Turkmans and Christians, and we went on a foot patrol with some of our soldiers.

In the marketplace, which is full of life and commerce, crowds gathered and enthusiastically shouted their thanks to the Coalition and their hatred of Saddam Hussein. One cute young Arab girl looked me in the eye and said, "Saddam is a donkey", to the applause of a group of mostly Arab men. But these crowds were a mixture of Kurds and Arabs and Turks and, despite some of the ethnic tensions that simmer beneath the surface, Kirkuk seems to proceed peacefully with a very ethnically mixed population.

We saw a money changer sitting at a card table. When he saw us, he held up an old piece of Iraqi currency with Saddam Hussein’s picture. Then he tore the bill apart, big smile on his face. That man has cause to smile—because aside from the progress we’re making to introduce new Iraqi currency, now he can tear up Saddam’s picture when he wants. Under the old regime, that act of defiance could have cost him his life. Today, he pays for it with a tattered bank note.

In many other instances we observed, the hatred for Saddam Hussein was palpable. But, even more striking than the enthusiasm we encountered—with Arabs and Kurds and Turks and Christians shouting out thanks for their liberation and hatred of Saddam Hussein—was to see these ethnically-mixed crowds thronging together in evident tranquility.

We met with religious clerics at the newly opened Kirkuk museum site, and one cleric, who said he spoke for the entire group, urged us to wait until Iraq’s new government is fully established before withdrawing our troops. I could see that their commitment to interethnic harmony is enormous.

In Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, we saw the progress being made in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, which is central to Iraqi’s ability to govern themselves. Despite their limitations in training and equipment, these Iraqi forces have some advantages that American soldiers simply won’t have. They can speak the language, they know the neighborhoods and they can read the culture. They can get intelligence and enter mosques.

The training program has become a model for Iraq; it promotes increased dialogue with government, sheiks, imams and the locals. Some 80,000 to 90,000 people are now fighting in the police, in the ICDC, in the Facilities Protection Service and the other elements of Iraq’s new security forces. They are fighting and sometimes dying. In fact, as many Iraqis have died fighting for their country since June 1 as have Americans, far more than any other coalition partner.

The police deputy superintendent we met at the police station was shot in the leg capturing three former members of the old regime a few days after I first met him in July. He showed me an Arabic newspaper that targets him in a rather vicious way. Yet, he added, he was proud of what he was doing to eliminate the remnants of the old regime and to move Iraq forward.

I would add that Tikrit is important symbolically, because even in this Baathist stronghold, there is now a provincial council that was elected by secret ballot.

Battle of Ideas

All of these important local developments are taking place against a backdrop of important international developments. Even though terrorists did their best to distract the world, the donors’ conference in Madrid last week made international headlines, as well it should. The international consensus seen in Madrid was consistent with the unanimous adoption not only of Resolution 1441 last year, but also of Resolution 1483 – which lifted sanctions on Iraq back in May – and also, earlier this month, of Resolution 1511. The President and Secretary of State placed a high priority on reaching that Resolution, which spelled out an international consensus for how to move forward in Iraq.

And while the United States has been instrumental in this campaign in Iraq, we are clearly not acting unilaterally. In addition to these UN Security Council Resolutions, 90 countries have contributed troops, treasure and other material support. The truth is, this government has pursued a consistent policy of working with allies and partners – but in a way I would call "intelligent multilateralism."

In any case, it doesn’t make sense to talk about unilateralism anymore. Not just because of the consensus reached at Madrid and in the United Nations, but also because our adversaries have clearly defined this as a war with the international community. With anything that represents the rule of law, whether that is multinational forces, Iraqi civilians, the United Nations, or the Red Cross. This is a great venture at which the international community will be able to look at with pride someday. And that is what we all want to see.

The discussion on multilateralism raises a larger question of what multilateralism is for. We turn to multilateral means to achieve goals that are common to all of the international community, and you need look no further than the UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq to know what those goals are. Those goals are also totally consistent with America’s policies and security needs, which are so often mischaracterized. We need to do a better job of explaining our policies abroad, because that is part of winning the war on terrorism – it is also a battle of ideas.

Some say there is a war on Islam. But there is no war between the West and Islam. There is battle against the Muslim mainstream, against such underlying values as the rule of law – and this battle is being waged by the same vicious extremists that are waging war against their concept of the West. It is a false distinction – whether we are talking about the Koran, the Bible, or the Geneva Conventions, there is a common, universal regard for human life. There are fundamental moral protections for human rights and the innocent. These extremists kill without reservation, corrupt the hopeless with false promises that suicide and murder are the path to heaven, and they use holy places, orphanages, and hospitals as military platforms. They are only a small minority of the more than one billion Muslims in the world.

And they have not only declared war against Islam, but against the civilized world.

We saw it on September 11, 2001, when hundreds of Muslims were among the innocent thousands who died. I saw it firsthand on Sunday, when they attacked people sleeping in their beds in the hotel. We saw it in the attacks against the International Red Cross and the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad. We saw it when they exploded the bomb outside one of the holiest sites for Shia Muslims, killing one of Iraq’s most important potential leaders.

These factors and more make moderate Muslims and the rest of the civilized world natural and necessary allies. That puts us on the same side as the majority of the world’s Muslims.

Clearly, we face a struggle over modernity and secularism, pluralism and democracy, and real economic development. These ideas scare extremists, because their ascendancy would only mean the lessening of the terrorists’ iron grip on the people they control and oppress. That is exactly why the terrorists are fighting now in Iraq. They fear what success in Iraq will mean for them—the loss of power over other people’s lives.

Given the scope of the evil of the terrorism we now oppose, this fight for a just and peaceful world is not one to be waged only by America, or only by the West. This fight must be fought by all who aspire to peace and freedom throughout the world—for that aspiration is what the terrorists wanted to destroy. This fight must be fought most emphatically in the Muslim world itself, and by Muslims.

So part of our outreach must go beyond governments, good ones as well as bad, to individuals, for they are the real focal point of liberal democracy and the true engines of change. Accordingly, we must become more attentive to the moderate voices in the Muslim world. For the better we are at encouraging them, the more effective we can be, as the President has said, in "leading the world toward those values that will bring lasting peace."

And I would point out that Americans aren’t the only ones who suffer from mischaracterization. Recall the bombing in Najaf that took the life of one of Shia Muslim’s most revered leaders. Some speculated that horrendous act would lead to attacks of Shia on Sunni. But instead of violence, hundreds of thousands of people turned out to mourn and witness the funeral procession of Ayatollah Hakim as it passed by in a manner that was remarkable for its calm and restraint.

I know from my experiences that there are serious discussions going on among Muslims throughout the world who want to move their community into the modern world. Unfortunately, we so often see that the shrill rhetoric of extremism many times drowns out the more moderate voices.

Reaching Out to the Muslim World

It is essential that we all carry our share of the burden. Like the Cold War, the global war on terrorism is also a war of ideas, and promises, like President Kennedy said, to be a long twilight struggle.

The United States will do its part and finish the job it has begun in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and we will find more ways to support moderate Muslims the world over. We will do our part.

But this is a fight that cannot be fought by the West alone—in fact, the fight against the killers who pervert and exploit a great world religion is most effectively fought by Muslims themselves. We must help and support them, because the outcome affects the security and welfare of the entire world

It is more appropriate for Muslims to refute the extremists’ false arguments that Islam condones terrorism, suicide bombing, the killing of innocent men, women, and children.

And Muslim voices are the ones that will be most effective in calling for the reform of the madrassas that deny Muslim children any opportunity to cope and excel in the modern world, that prepares them not for life but only for early and senseless death.

Muslims are the only ones who can dispute theologically the extremist teachings that are distributed free to millions.

Many good decent Muslims have spoken out against those who have tried to hijack their religion. Unfortunately, all too often, they have to do so in the face of threats and intimidation from well-funded extremists.

We need to do everything we can to support those moderate voices and assist their courage in speaking out. That is one of many reasons why it is so important for us to succeed in Iraq and to achieve a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, because when those two goals are attained, moderates in the Muslim world will have two important successes that will greatly strengthen their position.

My own experiences through the years have taught me that when we appeal to and support those who advocate the values of "human dignity, free speech, equal justice, respect for women and religious tolerance," that President Bush also spoke of in his State of Union message last year—all the things that America stands for—things can and do change.

In my second tour at the Defense Department, in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, we witnessed a striking change in one portion of Iraq, in the Kurdish-controlled areas in the North. We saw an example of the kind of self-government that Muslims can achieve—giving the lie once again to those who say Islam and democracy are incompatible. There, beyond the reach of Saddam’s regime, people enjoyed a level of prosperity that far surpassed the rest of the country. Based on this model, we can look with optimism to the day that Iraqis as a whole develop their own forms of self-government.

I know that here at Georgetown, you have a keen interest in these things, and you understand that ideas like pluralism and tolerance and self-government evolve with time, persistence and hard work. It was that way with our own society and government.

Based on my own experiences with Muslims – not only with Indonesians when I was U.S. Ambassador for three years, but Arabs and Turks and Bosnians and Pakistanis and Malaysians and many others – my own outlook is prudently optimistic, despite the many obstacles.

I believe there are hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world who aspire to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy and free enterprise and equal justice under law. We must speak to them. And there are many in this room who can help to do that.

One huge facet in our relations with the Muslim world, and certainly one of the great obstacles to peace, is the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is clear that the solution to this conflict can only come through political means. The President has made it clear the importance we attach to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

As the President has said, the outline of a solution has been clear for some time, and it’s based on two fundamental elements: the acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within secure and recognized boundaries; and, the creation of a Palestinian state that brings an end to Israeli occupation and provides a better life for its citizens and security for its neighbors.

There are thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who feel the same way. Right now, there is a significant grass roots movement that has already gotten some 90,000 Israeli signatures and some 60,000 Palestinian signatures in support of principles that look very much like President Bush’s roadmap, favoring a two-state solution.

In fact, I met with the two organizers of that petition last week—Sari Nusseibeh and Amit Ayalon. One of the keys to achieving peace is to somehow mobilize majorities on both sides who crave peace so that the extremists who oppose it can be isolated.

As Americans, we know that there are times when great changes can spring from the grass roots. There are also times when great leaders can point the way to breakthroughs. At one such time, Anwar Sadat spoke to Israel’s Knesset in 1977.

"Any life," said Anwar Sadat, "any life that is lost in war is a human life, be it that of an Arab or an Israeli. Innocent children who are deprived of the care and compassion of their parents are ours. They are ours," the president of Egypt said, "whether they live in Arab lands or in Israel."

And then he made a point that bears reflecting on today. "There are moments in the lives of nations and peoples," he said, "when those who shoulder great responsibilities must have the courage to make decisions that fit the magnitude of the situation and never to forget that infallibility belongs to God alone."

Most of what progress has been made in the Arab-Israeli peace process is owed to the courage and statesmanship of leaders. But, as we know here in the United States and as is known in many parts of the world, that same sentiment can sometimes be mobilized by grassroots movements. In either case, the cause of peace in the Middle East will be enormously advanced if Israelis and Palestinians in overwhelming numbers can demonstrate their support for compromise and their opposition to terrorism.

Achieving the President’s vision of "two states, living side by side, in peace and security," will be a difficult process. And as the scenes of suffering and carnage, such as we witness so often in the Middle East, clearly attest: one of the greatest obstacles to achieving that vision is terrorism.

Twenty years have passed since 241 Marines, stationed in Beirut as peacekeepers, were killed as they slept when a truck loaded with explosives slammed into their barracks. Even more than the deadly attack, the withdrawal of the Marines told the world—and the terrorists—that terrorism succeeds.

Twenty years later, we will send them the opposite message. And if it’s to be a long, hard slog, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, to send terrorists that message, we are up to it. We can’t afford to do anything less. We can’t afford to quit on the battlefield and we can’t afford to quit in the battle of ideas. We can’t and we won’t.

Now is the time for boldness and action. And, we are fortunate to have a President who is willing to make decisions that fit the magnitude of the situation we face. We are fortunate to have brave men and women who seek to serve this nation—in uniform and as public servants, here at home and throughout the world.

I’d like to close with one more story from my diplomatic years. Every new ambassador heading out to his or her post would go to George Shultz’s office for a picture with the Secretary of State to hang proudly in their office in their embassy.

Each time a new ambassador came in, George would take them to this enormous globe, some three or four feet tall, that sat on the floor of his office. He’d casually say, "Just for this picture, turn the globe to your country."

The new diplomat would eagerly spin the globe around to France or Mali or Germany. And it was at that point that the Secretary of State would say, "No, let me explain something," as he slowly turned that giant globe back around to the United States of America.

I have to confess that by the time went to Indonesia, I’d already heard the story. So, fortunately, I passed the exam.

But, I think George Shultz’s exercise illustrates two very important things. First, the security of the United States must always be foremost in our minds. And, second, people around the world look to the United States for leadership—whether it be as an example of justice or representative government or in fighting terrorism, the great evil of our time.

When we guard our own interests, when we protect the very things that make America what it is, we help shape a secure and peaceful world. And that is the goal of foreign policy and that should be the goal for all who enter the field of foreign service.

I firmly believe that the future belongs not to those who seek to tear down and destroy—whether it be buildings or religions or opportunities for advancement. The future belongs to those who work to build a world based on justice, freedom and peace. This room is full of potential builders. I challenge you to take up this battle of ideas. We need you. Thank you.