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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview With ITV London

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
February 17, 2003

(Interview with Sir Trevor McDonald, ITV London)

Q: Mr. Secretary, over the weekend, we saw huge protests across the world against the war. How, in a participatory democracy, do we ignore the voices of so many people?

Wolfowitz: You know, I've been in large demonstrations myself. In fact, I remember nearly 40 years ago being on the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King delivered that powerful speech about "I Have a Dream." And I understand the sentiment that can sweep over crowds like that, and I have enormous respect for it, but I also think that people should keep in mind that in Baghdad, people aren't free to demonstrate like that. In fact, if you utter the slightest opposition to the regime, you put yourself at risk of the most terrible tortures, not just for yourself, but even more horribly, for your family. So, people in Iraq are terrorized into silence. If they were allowed to demonstrate like the people were in Europe and the United States yesterday, you would have seen millions of people in the streets saying, "Come, please come. Please liberate us from this terrible man."

One thing -- I mean, with all respect for the people who are demonstrating, I think those who think that if it comes to war, it's going to be a war for oil or a war for Israel, really do not understand the issue. The issue is about a real and present threat, and a threat that only gets worse the longer we wait. Colin Powell spoke at the U.N. Security Council last week, and talked about the connections between this group in London who are planning to put ricin in the London subways. Ricin is one of the most deadly poisons known to man. They are linked to terrorists who operate out of northeastern Iraq, and have been given sanctuary and protection in Baghdad itself. That ought to be a focus of the real issue, but the real issue is, do you take the risks -- and there are unquestionably real risks -- of dealing with that threat now, or wait until it's even more risk.

Q: But you see, if the protestors listen to what you've just said there, their response would be, you seem to be suggesting that whatever they say, however strongly they feel, you've made up your mind there's going to be a war. That's it.

Wolfowitz: No. We haven't made up our mind, but the point is, what they ought to do is, they ought to go and demonstrate in front of the Iraqi embassy. They ought to go out and demonstrate against Saddam Hussein. The decision on whether there's going to be a war or not now is whether Saddam Hussein complies with 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions, the last one of which, 1441, which was voted unanimously by the Security Council, said, "Either you disarm, or you face serious consequences." Frankly, the credibility of the United Nations, the credibility of the world community, is at stake, and it would be so much more effective if millions of people would turn out in the street saying, "Saddam Hussein, disarm now."

Q: Tony Blair has called the war against Saddam an "act of humanity." Is that a description that you'd use?

Wolfowitz: Well, first of all, he was using the future conditional, not the present. If it comes to a war, it would be an act of humanity. There's no question that -- you know, I met with a group of Iraqi Americans last week, three Shia, one Suni, one Caldian Christian. The stories that they told about what their families, or they themselves, had experienced in Iraq were heart-rending. Three of them, at one point or another, broke down in tears. The Iraqi people have suffered horribly under this man. What was it, four years ago, Europe and the United States united belatedly -- admittedly, we were about a year late -- to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and we were proud of doing that, as we should have been. What Milosevic did to the Kosovars is just a Sunday-school picnic compared to what Saddam Hussein does to his people.

Q: So is this a war then to get rid of Saddam, or is it to help free the people of Iraq?

Wolfowitz: Well, again, let me repeat: it isn't a war yet. It's going to be a war if Saddam Hussein doesn't change his behavior, and I think the people should be demonstrating to focus on getting him to change his behavior, not the United States to stop putting the pressure on him. If it comes to a war, it will be a war to liberate the people of Iraq. The one way Saddam Hussein can avoid a war is if he disarms voluntarily, but so far, he's shown no sign whatsoever -- no sign whatsoever -- of complying with Resolution 1441.

Q: The people who were protesting over the weekend all over the world would agree with you that he is a dangerous tyrant, a despotic man. But they were protesting to try to save innocent people, the lives of innocent people who might get caught up in this. I mean, how many deaths of innocent people do you think might in any way be acceptable to do what you suggest is important to be done?

Wolfowitz: Well, I'm not sure that -- let's first of all say some of those people were demonstrating because they thought this is a war for oil, which it's not, or a war for Israel, which it's not. I respect the fact that any war is a terrible thing. And I'm not only concerned about the innocent people that will die; I'm concerned about the American soldiers, who are perfectly innocent also, who are prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to rid the world and the United States of this threat. I'm absolutely sure that if you could take a free poll among Iraqis, who are the innocent people these people care about, they would say far more innocent Iraqis are dying, and living daily lives of terror, because of this man. "Please come; please do the job, and do it quickly." So, on that score, I would pay more attention, for example, to those Iraqi Americans who have real experience that spoke to me last week. I don't think some of these people that say, "Well, we know Saddam is a terrible man," I guess I'd ask them, "Why do you think he's less terrible than Milosevic? You were prepared to go to war against Milosevic. Saddam Hussein is far worse."

Q: The U.N. weapons inspectors have said, "We can achieve disarmament." It looks that way. It is possible, if we're given more time." Why not? Why not give them the time they need?

Wolfowitz: The inspectors can't achieve disarmament. The inspectors could verify if Saddam Hussein were disarming.

Q: But they said, "Give us more time. We can discover more of what he has, and urge him to get rid of it. Just time; give us the time."

Wolfowitz: Sir Trevor, the point -- the inspectors are not there to comb through a country the size of France and dig into every hidden tunnel and every apartment house to find documents, to find weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors are there like auditors, to verify that the accounting that's been given is full and honest and complete. And we all know, including the inspectors, that the accounting that's been given is 12,000 pages of lies and deceptions. We all know that Saddam Hussein is actively moving his things and hiding them from these inspectors. There are ten hiders, or twenty hiders and monitors, for every inspector. It's a losing game if it's up to the inspectors. It is up to Saddam Hussein to disarm, and he's so far from disarming. He's threatening the scientists with threats of death and torture if they so much as tell us the truth.

Q: If the United States fails to get the second resolution at the U.N., will you go it alone? Will America go it alone?

Wolfowitz: We're not talking about going it alone. The President has made it clear that if we have to use force, we have a coalition of many, many countries who are with us, countries some of whom are going to literally put their security on the line in order to support us. We have no doubt about getting enormous support. I think the question you're really asking is, if the French insist on vetoing a resolution, will we act anyway? And I don't think --

Q: Yes, but will you?

Wolfowitz: Well, I don't think we can allow French opposition. I mean, it's funny to call that multilateralism. It's really unilaterialism of the worst kind. We had --

Q: So you would ignore them?

Wolfowitz: We're not trying to ignore them. We're trying to bring them around, so that Saddam can be confronted, and the world can be confronted with a united world. This is a test of the United Nations. It's a test of NATO; it's a test of France. I hope all of those organizations and countries meet that.

Q: So what you're saying to me is nothing will diminish the desire of the Americans to do this?

Wolfowitz: What is "this"? I mean, it's not the desire to --

Q: To have Saddam disarm?

Wolfowitz: Absolutely. And but peacefully, if possible. And frankly, the spectacle in the Security Council last Friday and the millions of people demonstrating, despite the best of intentions, can only have left Saddam in Baghdad saying, "I'm winning. I don't have to disarm. I can have my cake and eat it, too," and that's really terrible. You know, I was listening to quite a few Sunday talk shows yesterday, and there were two quotes, if I could share them with your listeners that -- I mean, I've been puzzled at this gap between European opinion and American opinion, and even more between leaderships and some of the larger public opinion.

One distinguished British correspondent said on American television yesterday, "Here's the big difference between Europe and America. The big difference is appeasement and containment. We believe that appeasement is okay. We've done it in wars before." Contrast that with what Condoleeza Rice, the President's National Security Advisor said, and I'm quoting from her: "Any time you have a situation in which you are calling for more time, rather than calling for Iraq to immediately comply, it plays into the hands of Saddam Hussein. We need to remind everybody," she said, "that tyrants don't respond to any kind of appeasement. Tyrants respond to toughness, and that was true in the 1930s and 1940s when we failed to respond to tyranny, and it is true today."

And I think your prime minister understands that lesson from history. He understands that the people that have been arrested in London with ricin are connected to terrorists who are sheltered in Baghdad. He understands that the people of Iraq are crying out for freedom and liberation, and you know, you have to respect public opinion. You have to respect demonstrators, but that doesn't mean that you -- they're entitled to determine the facts. And the facts as we know them are that this man is a serious and dangerous threat. He's more dangerous now than he was five years ago, and he'll be even more dangerous if we leave him armed five years from now. And he's a terrible, terrible travesty to his own people. It's a tragedy that one of the most talented populations in the Arab world have been held back by this terrible man.

I remember when I was the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, longer ago than I care to remember -- it was about 15 years -- and the Moroccan ambassador was my tennis buddy and we played a lot, and at one point, he had a run-in with the ambassador of another Arab country. I won't name it at the moment, but he said, "You know, the most talented people in the Arab world are from that other country and Iraq, and they've all left." And that is -- I don't think they have all left, frankly. I think a lot of them are still in Iraq, but they're keeping their mouths shut. They're living in fear and terror, but there's the possibility here of really giving the Iraqi people a chance to establish a government that will be the pride of the Arab world.

Q: Dr. Wolfowitz, thank you.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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