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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with WSVN-TV

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
March 23, 2003

(Interview with Brian Andrews, WSVN-TV (Fox), Miami, Fla.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, the world has seen these pictures aired on Al Jazeera television, very disturbing, of U.S. troops who have been killed, U.S. troops who have been taken prisoner. There are some families no doubt all over the country that are petrified, could this be my son. What do you know about the situation right now, and what can you say to the families who are just worried sick?

Wolfowitz: Well, we know there are some Americans missing and we can't verify beyond that where they are although they seem to match, at least a couple of the names. We are trying, first of all, very quickly to get what we do know to the next of kin. They're the people who are entitled to know first.

The other thing I would say to those families is there's no question how this war is going to end. I can't predict when but it's not going to be like some conflicts in the past where our prisoners have languished for long periods of time in captivity.

This regime is on its way out, and I would also say that's a warning to the people who are holding our American prisoners -- that if they violate the Geneva Conventions that require that these people be treated humanely, they themselves are going to be in serious jeopardy soon of being punished for that.

Q: Apparently they were actually interviewed on television, which you said was against the Convention.

Wolfowitz: There's definitely a rule in the Convention against humiliating prisoners and I'd have to see exactly the interview to see whether that in itself violated the Convention, but the Convention is very clear that prisoners have got to be treated properly. We are treating the Iraqi prisoners extremely well. In fact I think they get good food and shelter and they're free from the horrible commanders they used to work for. I think most of them are much happier, frankly.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what about Saddam Hussein? Where is he? Is he still alive? Is he dead? What do we know?

Wolfowitz: We really don't know. There's a phrase the military uses a lot, it goes back to a German writer of the early 19th Century: the fog of war. Everything you learn in war is shrouded in a great deal of uncertainty. We have some reason to think that he might be either dead or severely wounded, but we don't know that. What we do observe is a certain amount of, shall we say, uncertainty in the way their command structure is operating.

But the real point, I think, is his regime is finished. Wherever he is, whoever they are, they're not going to be around too much longer. I think the sooner those people that are supporting his regime, including the Iraqi military, understand that that's where things are heading, they can spare themselves, spare their country, spare us a great deal of unnecessary violence by just doing the honorable thing, which is to quit.

That's what our target is. It's this regime.

Q: You had information Wednesday night in the opening strike of this that Saddam and his sons were in this house. How certain are you that he was hit? That he was injured? Do you have hard information that leads you to believe that?

Wolfowitz: No. This phrase "hard information" may apply in a courtroom --

Q: Has anybody seen him? Do you have pictures?

Wolfowitz: We had enough information to be absolutely certain that this was a leadership target and that striking it would be number one, legitimate; and number two, would at the very least disrupt their command and control and it certainly seems to have achieved that effect.

We did some other things that I think General Franks and his staff really deserve a lot of credit for. I think as it emerges it will be clear, which was to basically play on the expectation that Saddam and his regime had that the American way of war would be weeks of intensive bombing before anything began on the ground and that they would literally see us coming for a long time ahead, and managed in a way to achieve surprise even though some people would say this was a military action that was forecast weeks and months in advance. But what they didn't understand was that we would be in on the ground before the air attack even began, that we would be able to do that kind of precision strike even before we'd taken out the Baghdad air defenses, and the pilots who did that were very, very brave people. But happily they came home safely.

Q: We have troops that are making a lot of progress, zipping toward Baghdad right now, and from our reporters that are embedded with them, they said they're meeting a lot of resistance. So for the last couple of days moving really fast, and now today, Sunday, they've seen an incredible amount of resistance.

Have you have any front line reports that you can share with us?

Wolfowitz: I'm sorry, but what was incredible was to be "zipping along" in a war zone.

Q: They seem to be.

Wolfowitz: Resistance is what you expect. Resistance is what our people are trained to meet. We're not surprised that we're encountering it and we would have expected to see more of it as we got closer to Baghdad and where the more elite units are that guard the place.

I think it might almost help your listeners to realize that there's a large Iraqi army that basically hate Saddam and the only reason they're there is because it's so dangerous not to be there. Then there's another circle called the Republican Guards who are a little bit more committed, although by now I think their commitment is waning. If their commitment wanes there's another circle inside that called the Special Republican Guards who keep an eye on the Republican Guards to make sure that they don't quit. But Saddam doesn't trust the Special Republican Guards so he has another inner inner circle, the Special Security Organization. Those are the people that were guarding the facility that we targeted that first night. Their headquarters was one of the first targets when we had the large bombing attack.

I don't think there's ever been such a painstaking effort to make sure that we hit military targets and voiced civilian targets, and I know there's never been a capability before in history to be that careful about what we hit and what we don't hit.

What people saw on television the other night was not an attack on Baghdad. Most of Baghdad was unscathed. It was an attack on the Iraqi regime. Most of the people in Baghdad understand that. And now that we've gotten into Basra the people there are telling us that they were truly amazed and delighted at the precision of our bombing.

Q: What was the reaction here at the Pentagon and among the President's war council when the news came out last night that one of our own troops was being detained in connation with connection with this bizarre situation at Camp Pennsylvania for apparently attacking the command structure there. Tell us how that all played out and what we know about it so far.

Wolfowitz: We don't know a lot. We're investigating. Of course when something is being investigated we have to be exceptionally careful about what we do say.

Obviously it was a tragedy. Most of all it was a tragedy that people were killed and wounded. It's a double tragedy that it was done by one of our own. But what's more impressive to me is it doesn't seem to have made a dent in the morale of that division. They are up and going. The first brigade of that division is already deep inside Iraq. It doesn't seem to have phased them at all and that's the important thing.

The young men and women who are defending this country thousands of miles from home are just extraordinary. Their skill is extraordinary, their bravery is extraordinary, their humanity and their care for innocence is extraordinary. They do this country proud.

Q: There are a lot of moms and dads from Pembrook Pines to Key West and down in Kendall who have kids who are out there. My drycleaner, she says my son's in Kuwait. Have you heard anything? There's another lady who runs a shoeshine place in Miami Shores, she says yeah, my son's in a tank. These folks are just worried sick when they see these pictures.

Going back to how we began things today, I would imagine from the President's war council, the leadership here at the Pentagon, you've got to have some reassuring words for these moms and dads who are really worried.

Wolfowitz: I think I'd say two things. First of all, the risk is something that the President has thought long and hard about and he wouldn't be putting people at risk if he didn't believe deeply that what they're doing is protecting America from a much bigger risk, so they can be proud of their sons and daughters because they are defending America.

Secondly, while it's hard to be reassuring about war I think they can be confident that we're going to win this one. The sooner the Iraqi military understand that they've lost, I think the more lives will be spared. And the President is giving his commanders everything they need in order to save American lives. That's our number one priority.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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