(Also participating; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace on NBC "Meet The Press")
MR. RUSSERT: With us now for an update on the situation in Iraq, two central members of the president's war cabinet, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Gentlemen, welcome both.
GEN. PACE: Good morning.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wolfowitz, what is the status, the state of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, we're just barely past the two-week mark. It's worth remembering that we are in the middle of a difficult war, but we have made a lot of progress. Some of the big dangers may still lie ahead of us. So we need to keep a cautious view of the way ahead. But one thing is certain, and that is that this regime is on its way out. It's ended.
MR. RUSSERT: What might be the big dangers that lie ahead?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, we've been worried all along, we continue to be concerned about the possible use of chemical or biological weapons. We have seen the brutality of this regime. We've seen its willingness to push young men into absolutely hopeless situations. It's a disgrace actually. And the sooner the Iraqi people understand that there is no reason any longer to fear this regime, no reason to fight for it, the better it will be.
MR. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence yet of chemical or biological weapons on the ground?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: These young men and women are in the middle of fighting a very difficult war. I was visiting with some wounded Marines out at Bethesda, and it impresses you. They have their hands full defeating the enemy. When that's done we'll have time to look for those weapons of mass destruction. That's not our main focus right now.
MR. RUSSERT: And you have no doubt that we will find them in substantial numbers?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I've never seen the intelligence community as unified and confident in their basic judgment here.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, what's left of the Iraqi regime's military assets?
GEN. PACE: Of the six Republican Guard divisions, which are their main fighting force, two are assessed to be totally destroyed. The remaining four are assessed that about one half of their tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers have been destroyed.
MR. RUSSERT: How dangerous is that to us? Are they still a fighting force, or are they more of a police force?
GEN. PACE: It's always dangerous when they're -- folks still have weapons at their disposal. It's too early to tell whether or not they will continue to fight. Our hopes obviously are that they will understand that what we have done so far we will continue to do until our mission is complete. And we would much prefer as military men 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.
MR. RUSSERT: Can we go in and out of Baghdad at will?
GEN. PACE: The last couple of days we have demonstrated, using a tactic called an armored raid, that we can drive anywhere in Baghdad we'd like. But we do not yet have forces throughout the city.
MR. RUSSERT: The jihad armies that have come to Iraq -- from Egypt, Sudan, Syria -- how significant is that that we are now fighting Arabs from outside of Iraq?
GEN. PACE: Militarily it's not significant at all. If they join the fight, they will die.
MR. RUSSERT: And how -- what are their numbers?
GEN. PACE: I don't know. I've heard reports of -- in the hundreds -- but it is not militarily significant.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wolfowitz, you saw photos, video of Saddam Hussein on a walking tour. What's your reaction of that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: It's hard to know what to make of any of these things. He traditionally has not exposed himself to that kind of close contact with his people. It's hard to know. But I think what we can know with certainty is that this regime is on its way out. This evil, brutal man is on his way out. And the sooner the Iraqi people can be convinced of that, I think the sooner they will stop fighting for a hopeless and ignoble cause.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you confident that was Saddam himself?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: No, I don't think we can be confident of anything like that. I mean, it -- the propaganda apparatus in that country is extraordinary. It reminds one of some of the worst dictatorships of the last century.
MR. RUSSERT: Why did we have such a difficult time taking their television off the air?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Because they put enormous effort into developing that as one of the instruments of regime control, to convince the people that they need to fear this man, no matter how bad things may seem to be. And it runs on fear. They try to keep fear alive, but fear is on its way out.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that the coalition forces will be able to program their own radio and TV programs to the Iraqi people in the near future?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: We're doing that already, and increasingly. And of course now that we are on the outskirts of Baghdad we can do it with much greater power and effectiveness.
MR. RUSSERT: Radio and television?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Both.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Saddam's strategy is to try to create a humanitarian disaster, turn off the power, turn off the water, have his own people die, and then say to the world, Stop the United States invaders?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Not clear that he has a strategy, but it is clear that he has no respect for human life -- least of all the lives of his own people -- that they have done all kinds of things to deliberately suck us into killing Iraqis. On the other hand, we are determined, to the extent it's possible, with the safety of our own troops in mind, to do everything possible to protect human life, even of the enemy.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, how much is it going to be part of a military operation to protect the civilian infrastructure, make sure the power stays on, protect the power grids, make sure the water stays on, so that the people of Baghdad and Iraq are safe?
GEN. PACE: As this military campaign has unfolded, the targeting process has been very, very precise, and the weapons that we have used have been very precise. That's not to say that some have not missed their targets -- some certainly have. But things like water purification plants, electrical generation plants and the like you try to protect for the use of the Iraqi people when this is all over.
MR. RUSSERT: And you are confident we can do that?
GEN. PACE: I'm confident that we have a plan that in fact recognizes that there are facilities that are needed in the post-Saddam government. There are certain times when you may want to turn off electricity for good military reasons. So I am not saying we would not ever attack and target like electricity, but we know where those facilities are, we have them targeted with very precise weapons, if we need to use them.
MR. RUSSERT: A few weeks ago Secretary Rumsfeld was on this program, and I showed him footage of the defense minister briefing during a bombing raid, and the secretary remarked, "Well, we missed him" -- you could hear the bombs outside the briefing room. And yet we have not struck the Defense Ministry -- why not?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: We are taking great care to hit targets that we need to hit, and to avoid hitting those that will kill innocent civilians. And there are some you would like to take out, but you realize that the damage to the surrounding area is something to try to avoid.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Rumsfeld spoke early on about negotiations, discussions we were having with high-level Iraqi officials. Are those ongoing?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I don't think he called them discussions. We continue to talk to anybody who can surrender, who can bring units over. But there isn't going to be any deal with this regime. Let's be absolutely clear about that.
MR. RUSSERT: What is the state of our intelligence gathering in Iraq right now?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: It improves constantly. And, in fact, as the fear factor removes -- and we are seeing this in southern cities -- more and more people come forward to give us information. And it's been interesting, too, to see that those people we call the Free Iraqi Forces -- and we trained a number of them -- we would have liked to have more -- but having Iraqi Americans or Iraqi speakers with our forces have made it much easier for people to come and give us information.
MR. RUSSERT: These are forces from the Iraqi National Congress?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: They're from all over, but they are from the community of Iraqis living abroad, including here in the United States. And they've --
MR. RUSSERT: Five or six hundred?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: The number initially trained was smaller, but the number keeps growing daily.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of intelligence, the Los Angeles Times had an article yesterday, which I want to show you and our viewers and give you a chance to talk about it. "Officials said that intelligence out of Baghdad since the attack had largely dried up, despite expectations that the enormous military pressure bearing down on Saddam Hussein's regime would prompt a wave of defection and a flood of information by this point in the war. One senior Pentagon official struck a blind pose -- eyes closed, arms extended -- when asked about the quality of intelligence that war planners were getting. 'Nobody can tell us where anybody is,' the official said. 'No one can tell us what buildings they're in so that we can bomb them. I'd call that weak.'"
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I guess you measure this all against expectations. I think any realistic expectation would have understood that in a country where literally people's tongues are cut off if they say things they're not supposed to say, it's hard to get intelligence. It should have been understood. We call -- we have always called Iraq a hard target in the intelligence business, but it's softening up.
MR. RUSSERT: How imperative is it that we kill or capture Saddam Hussein, so that Iraqis know it is safe to come forward and support an alternative government?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think it's very important to dismantle this whole structure of fear. I mean, your point is right on the mark that Iraqis are afraid, and they have had the experience in the past of thinking this regime might be on its way out, and it keeps surviving. The regime needs to be dismantled -- and not just Saddam Hussein, but the structures of terror.
But I think the way to measure that really is when the fear goes away, and we'll know that.
MR. RUSSERT: But as long as Saddam is unaccounted for, won't there be a lingering fear amongst the Iraqi people that he may come back?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: But the best thing would be to know that he's gone. I think they will develop conviction, and we'll know when they have.
MR. RUSSERT: Could we set up an alternative government, even though he hasn't been killed or captured?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: That -- if I could put this in context, the goal isn't to immediately set up an alternative government. The goal is though to move as rapidly as possible after the regime is gone to a government that genuinely represents the Iraqi people. And we have spoken with the Iraqis inside and outside the country about this notion of an interim authority that would be a bridge from our initial administration to an eventual government that represents the Iraqi people. Now, that's going to take some time to get to that end point, but when we would set up an interim authority is something we are going to have to see as things develop on the ground.
MR. RUSSERT: When will we know when the regime is gone?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think when the fear stops, when people realize that they no longer have to worry about being executed or being -- having their family tortured. We'll know that, they'll know that, and the evidence will be clear.
MR. RUSSERT: The tipping point where their fear about losing their loved ones overcomes their fear of Saddam Hussein?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: That's what we are hoping for, and a regime that is this deeply rooted in, and that has terrorized people for so many years -- obviously they've thought about that tipping point as well, and they put a lot of buttresses. But they're going. They're on their way out.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, without violating any national security, or jeopardizing our troops on the ground, talk as freely as you can about what our plans are now. There had been discussion of a wholesale invasion of Baghdad. That seems now to have been set aside or dismissed by an awful lot of people, and rather an attempt to section off the city part by part. Can you talk about that a bit?
GEN. PACE: I think what you'll see on a macro scale, Tim, is a continuation of a combination of air strikes to destroy known enemy targets, and maneuvering on the ground, to both close with an destroy the remaining enemy targets, and also to get them to move so that they become better targets for the air. So it's very much an orchestrated event. On the open battlefield it is much more fluid. As you get towards the city, it becomes a much more compressed event. We'll not talk about the tactics, techniques and procedures in the city, but I can tell you that our soldiers and our Marines, if called on to do that, will do that as efficiently as they have done the rest of this war.
MR. RUSSERT: In order to mount though a street-by-street takeover of Baghdad we would need more troops -- the 4th Infantry Division is on its way -- it would take some time to put that force in place?
GEN. PACE: No, I wouldn't put it that way. I think that the forces that are available right now to the commanders on the ground is sufficient to do the job. And I truly believe that the Iraqi main elements in the Republican Guard understand how badly they are being defeated on the battlefield. And they still have free will. Their commanders still have the opportunity to do the right thing as leaders, to stop supporting a regime that does not deserve their loyalty, to surrender, to become part of the future free Iraq, so they can help rebuild their country in a way that the Iraqi people would like it to be built.
MR. RUSSERT: In your professional judgment, do you think it will come to buckle-to-buckle fighting, mano-a-mano in the streets of Baghdad?
GEN. PACE: No way to be prescient on that. I can simply tell you that the U.S. forces and coalition forces who are there are very well trained, and they will be as efficient in the city as they have been in the countryside.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wolfowitz, there are reports last night that Chemical Ali, Saddam Hussein's cousin who was allegedly responsible for gassing his own people, was killed in a bombing by the United States. Can you confirm that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: No, I can't. It would be a very good thing if it had happened, but we don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: How about his bodyguards?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Don't know that either.
MR. RUSSERT: Reports still coming in?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: You get a lot of battlefield reports, and some of them turn out to be true and some false. But, once again, I mean, the message that I hope is being conveyed to the Iraqi people, to these -- unfortunately, Iraqi soldiers are still fighting for a lost cause, as it is a lost cause, and it's time, as General Pace said, to do the honorable thing and surrender.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the way we are being treated, and refer you back to a comment back in November that you mentioned, in 2002. "It is entirely possible that in Iraq you have the most pro-American population that can be found anywhere in the Arab world. If you are looking for historical analogy, it's probably closer to post-liberation France after World War II." Do you still believe the Iraqis have welcomed us similar to the way the French welcomed us?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Remember, those victory parades in France were after the Nazis were gone, after Vichy was gone. These Iraqi people are still living with death squads in their neighborhoods and threats of death to them and their families.
I think we see more and more as parts of the southern cities are being freed, as senior Iraqi religious leaders are coming forward and urging people to support the coalition, that more and more that's happening. It's a little too early to say, but I think that will be the final result.
MR. RUSSERT: But there has been significant resistance and some ferocious fighting that was not expected?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Oh, there's ferocious fighting -- and let's not diminish -- I mean, these incredible young American men and women who are fighting a very fierce and vicious fight -- the country is proud of them. I think the country needs to be grateful to them. They are helping to free us from an enormous threat. And that is why we are doing it. But I think in the process also we are going to free the Iraqi people. And the fact that people are fighting with guns to their back -- I remember reading once that Stalin told Churchill that it's more dangerous in the Soviet army to retreat than to advance. That's what Saddam has created. But they are on their way out.
MR. RUSSERT: But our soldiers have encountered something much more than a "cakewalk" that Ken Adelman, who is on the Pentagon Defense Review Board, had suggested it would be.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I have always disliked that term, and no one in the senior leadership in this administration, either civilian or military, and certainly not the president, has ever thought that war is anything other than a very dangerous thing. The president would not have put young men and women at risk of their lives, young Americans at risk of their lives, if he didn't think that there's something very important here in terms of our security and security of our friends and allies.
GEN. PACE: And it really is important to point out just how magnificent the lieutenants, the captains, the sergeants, the corporals -- they are making battlefield decisions that just have made this incredibly successful, and we should be very proud of those young American, and the Brit, Australian and Pole counterparts who are out there doing what we have asked them to do.
MR. RUSSERT: There did seem to be a disconnect for a while from the commanders on the ground saying we didn't game plan for this war -- we need some help, we need the support to reinforce these supply lines -- what we are hearing from the ground commanders and what we are hearing from the Pentagon?
GEN. PACE: No. I think the disconnect was how things were being reported. And in fact I understand that the New York Times, for example, has printed a correction of the quote that they had from the very, very capable corps commander who we have out there. So this plan had been worked on for many, many months. It had been contributed to by the ground, air, Navy, special operations commanders -- General Franks brought it back and forth to Washington many, many times. All of us in the leadership positions knew it was the right plan. It is the right plan. It is being executed exceptionally well. A battle plan will always have to be adjusted. For example, when it appeared that we were going to potentially lose the southern oil fields to being destroyed by the regime, rather than wait for air strikes, General Franks decided to go in on the ground right away. That kind of flexibility was in the plan. It's part of a plan to be flexible, and I think what he's done with the flexibility has been incredibly good.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim, a very important part of General Franks's plan was to achieve surprise in circumstances where I think most people would have said surprise is impossible. But what he worked on was this expectation that the American way of war is to bomb for six weeks before we do anything on the ground. And he flipped that around completely. And I think the net result has been very positive.
MR. RUSSERT: But why is it that we had 600,000 troops for the Persian Gulf War to remove Saddam from Kuwait, when we only have 300,000 to take over all of Iraq?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: It's a long and complicated answer, but I think the simplest part of it is what I have just said. If we had waited to put 600,000 troops in place, we would have lost all elements of surprise.
GEN. PACE: And the fact is the force that's available to General Franks both at the beginning and en train is sufficient to get that job done.
MR. RUSSERT: In a very unusual move, your fellow Marine Colonel Joe Dowdy was relieved of his duties as a commander on the field. Why did that happen?
GEN. PACE: It would be inappropriate for me to sit here in Washington and make judgment on that. That was a command, chain-of-command decision made in the field, and I would leave it at that.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said something Thursday that caught my attention, Mr. Secretary Wolfowitz. Let me put it on the screen and show you both: "There is no question but that some governments are discussing way cutting a deal. And the inevitable effect of it, let there be no doubt, is to give hope and comfort to the Saddam Hussein regime, and give them ammunition that they can try to use to retain the loyalty of their forces." Governments? Who are they that are giving hope and comfort to Saddam Hussein?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, it doesn't matter. I think I can even finish that quote for you. I think the secretary said there's not going to be a deal. It doesn't matter who proposes it, there is not going to be one. That's the bottom line.
MR. RUSSERT: But are the French encouraging Saddam?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I don't think so.
MR. RUSSERT: The Germans?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: In fact, you know, I noticed that Chancellor Schroeder just the other day finally came around and decided it was time for regime change in Baghdad. So that's a good sign.
MR. RUSSERT: But who is then?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: What we do know is that the Saddam Hussein propaganda ministry, the so-called Ministry of Information -- I mean, one of the things they want to do to keep fear alive among their people is to keep alive the idea that somehow this is going to stop before the regime ends. It's not going to stop until the regime is finished.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, let me show you a n article from Knight Ridder on Friday. "Two former Soviet Army generals have been so deeply involved in helping to prepare the Iraqi military for a rematch with the Americans, that on the eve of this war, Saddam ordered them decorated with high honors in Baghdad. General Vladimir Achalov, a former Soviet deputy defense minister and Mr. General Igor" -- as you can see -- "Maltsev, a leading expert in air defense systems, left Baghdad only six days before the war began." What is that all about?
GEN. PACE: I have not heard that before. I don't know. All I can tell you is, whatever leadership is being applied on the Iraqi side has been failing miserably.
MR. RUSSERT: Did President Bush, or will President Bush, say to President Putin of Russia, "What is this all about?"
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, I don't know. I mean, I noticed you mentioned one of them is an expert on air defense. They haven't done very well on the air defense business.
MR. RUSSERT: But should the Russians be involving themselves in this way?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Obviously not, but we don't -- we don't know whether the people you just mentioned are officially involved or not. I hope that when this over the whole international community will come together and understand that there is an enormously important project here to help a liberated Iraq build a country that can be an inspiration for the entire Arab world. And I think when they see that opportunity a lot of people are going to look forward instead of back.
MR. RUSSERT: We are going to take a quick break and come back and talk about just that: What will a post-Saddam Iraq look like? Who will be involved? A lot more of our discussion with Secretary of Defense -- Assistant Sec -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and General Peter Pace, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back with our conversation with General Peter Pace and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Let me show you a memo that was reported on in U.S. News & World Report, and read it to you: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is urging President Bush to install an interim Iraqi government immediately, even as the war continues. The new authority would be made up of Iraqi opposition groups in exile, including the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi. Rumsfeld suggested that this step would be a way to turn international perceptions in the United States' favor. Rumsfeld's request was outlined in two memos to the president this week." Is that accurate?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Not really. I think -- let's put this in context. The -- what we are trying to accomplish in the post-Saddam era, and we are thinking about that already -- is to balance two things. On the one hand, there has got to be an effective administration from day one. People need water and food and medicine, and the sewers have to work, the electricity has to work. And that's a coalition responsibility. We have to make sure it gets done. But our goal is to have a legitimate Iraqi government that represents the Iraqi people. And this interim authority, which we've discussed and agreed upon in our government with our coalition partners, and with important elements of the Iraqi opposition, is a bridge to that legitimate government. But the goal is not to install some particular group as the new leaders of Iraq. That absolutely contradicts the whole notion of democracy.
MR. RUSSERT: Will it be set up soon?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think the key to when it can be set up is when people have a feeling -- and it's going to be Iraqis, not Americans to make this judgment -- that the people who have been free to express their views now for many years can be joined by enough of the people who are still under the control of the regime to be able to have something that represents a first step toward really expressing the will of the Iraqi people.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you a photograph of Ahmad Chalabi. He left Iraq originally in 1958. There are reports this morning that he is going back to Iraq as we speak.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: You know, there are a lot of -- he's been back in Iraq, as a matter of fact, in northern Iraq --
MR. RUSSERT: Is he in Iraq now?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I believe he is. But I think something people need to understand...for the last 12 years, northern Iraq has been more or less free territory -- free from the Saddam Hussein regime. The people of northern Iraq, who are predominantly Kurdish, have established some institutions that are a significant rudimentary step toward a representative democratic government. There's a lot to build on here, but the goal is not to have any one particular group or any one particular leader be the favored choice of the Americans. Our goal is a democratic goal, and that requires the Iraqis being free to speak. Millions of them are not yet -- and forming an agreement on the method by which they'll pick their leaders.
MR. RUSSERT: So Mr. Chalabi would not be the leader of the new Iraq?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I can't say. That's for Iraqis to decide.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something that was in USA Today on Friday: "Congress waded into the feud between the Defense Department and the State Department on Thursday with a strong vote of confidence for Secretary of State Colin Powell. A war spending bill that is headed for enactment next week contains unusually blunt language that gives Powell, and explicitly not Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, control over $2.5 billion to be spent on postwar reconstruction in Iraq. Key members of Congress suspect that Rumsfeld is trying to elbow Powell out of what is traditionally diplomatic territory: postwar reconstruction." Who will oversee postwar reconstruction, the State Department or Defense Department?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: It's a team effort. There's agreement between Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld. In fact, it's a decision of the president. Jay Garner, who has had by the way some extraordinary experience in northern Iraq 12 years ago, will be in charge of this initial coalition administration, but it's going to include people from State Department, from Defense Department, from coalition partners. And what we want to make sure is that Jay Garner and the people who work for him have the money they need on a flexible basis to operate quickly.
But, you know, I look forward to the day when we can read stories about divisions in the Iraqi cabinet and there's a free press in Iraq. It's a very healthy thing. But we are in this in a unified way. I think that's really important.
MR. RUSSERT: Who will be the lead department, State or Defense?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Jay Garner, who is no department -- he is going to initially at least be reporting to General Franks -- is going to have an interagency team that includes all department together. His instructions will come from the president through the secretary of Defense, through General Franks. But bear in mind this is the part of the administration that is focused on getting things functioning and running. It is not the ultimate government of Iraq. That has to be a choice of the Iraqi people.
MR. RUSSERT: There was a lot of discussion about your role in all of this. Let me show you the New York Times on Thursday: "Along a promenade of beachside villas, several hundred American government officials from well-worn former generals to fresh young aid workers are working at their laptops, inventing flow charts and examining maps of Iraq in what has become Potomac on the Persian Gulf. This is the nucleus of the Bush administration's new Iraqi government. One of the faraway masters, in the minds of many here, is someone known fondly, or not so fondly, depending on one's political orientation, as Wolfowitz of Arabia."
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, it's amusing, but not very accurate. I mean, I noticed even that story suggested that one of the people I had actually nominated, former Ambassador Tim Carney, who is one of the people I was supposedly stopping. It's -- but the most important error in what you just read is the idea that this is the future government of Iraq. It is not. It is the provisional administration to provide basic services to the Iraqi people, and to help General Franks provide the secure environment in which the Iraqi people can pick an Iraqi government that represents them, that treats them decently, and that can run the country.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned that if the Iraqis in fact do develop a democracy that it could be controlled by the Shiia, the dominant sect of Islam in Iraq, which is also the dominant sect in Iran, and we could very well have a democratically-elected fundamentalist Islamic country? We saw in Turkey a modern democratic state, which in fact blocked the United States from conducting military missions in the north. Are you concerned we may be creating something we may regret?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim, democracies are democracies, and they have their own judgments. We supported a democratic transition of the Philippines, and that democratic government then kicked us out of the bases in the Philippines. It was still a good thing to have that democratic transition. We're much healthier -- we are much better off with a healthy democratic government in that country. We have had our differences with Turkey, but I'm glad that Turkey is a democracy. I think we are going to work out those differences.
And certainly people shouldn't conjure up the notion that the Shiia of Iraq is like the horrible ayatollahs that brutalized the Iranian people. Iraq, I believe, has one of the most educated populations in the Arab world. There are many talented Iraqis in this country, and in England and elsewhere, who want to go back and help build a new kind of country. And I think Iraq can be an inspiration to the Muslim world and the Arab world that Arabs and Muslims can create a democratic country. And that will be positive.
MR. RUSSERT: An inspiration. Do you think that a democratic Iraq could create a domino effect throughout the Middle East?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: It's not something mechanical. I mean, dominoes applies to one hits another. It's the effect of a good example, and we have seen the effect of good examples in Asia, over a long period of time -- it doesn't happen overnight. But it's very important for people to understand this idea that Arabs are not capable of democracy is nonsense. I remember hearing that Koreans weren't capable of democracy, and that was a myth you heard for a long time. The Koreans have demonstrated they can do it. Many people have done it in the latter part of the 20th century. It's time for the Arabs to do it now.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, let me show you an article from Reuters a short time ago. This is the Army's top general -- repeated his estimate that a postwar occupying force in Iraq could be as large as several hundred thousand troops -- a number disputed by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told a House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations the military could only estimate what forces might be needed after any invasion of Iraq. It could be as high as several hundred thousand. He's consistent.
GEN. PACE: Well, I think what he is -- the main phrase there was "could only estimate." And we don't know what the postwar Iraq is going to look like. It will be the conditions at that time that will describe how many forces, how many coalition forces are needed. The bottom line is that after we defeat the armed forces of Iraq that we will want to and need to provide stability throughout that country. It will take a certain size force. We don't know what size force. But it will be those forces that will stabilize the environment, allow the government to begin to rebuild, and allow the Iraqi people to select the kind of government that they want.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim, the important message to the Iraqis and to everybody in that region is that we do not come as a new colonial power, we do not come as an army of occupation. We come as an army of liberation, and we want to see the Iraqis running their own affairs as soon as they can.
MR. RUSSERT: But it is a nation of 23 million people. And if General Shinseki believes it's going to take a force of 200,000 American troops, he should keep on saying that, shouldn't he?
GEN. PACE: All of our leaders should give our best military advice whenever we are asked it. But you have, for example, in Afghanistan, a country that is larger, has maybe three or four million more people than are currently in Iraq, and the U.S. coalition force there is around 10,000. So to try to equate millions of people on the ground with how many forces are needed truly is not the right exercise. What you need to determine is what missions need to be accomplished, and then how many forces do you need to do that to give the Iraqi people a chance to rebuild their own army, get their own police force up, get their own government working, so we in fact can leave as quickly as possible.
MR. RUSSERT: But in Afghanistan the only secure place is actually Kabul. The rest of the country is being treated in a very chaotic fashion. Are you concerned that unless we have a significantly large American presence in Iraq we could be creating another Afghanistan, which would be a haven for terrorists to come to Iraq rather than Afghanistan to kill Americans?
GEN. PACE: Actually, in Afghanistan the only part that is really insecure is the part in the southeast border area. Most of the rest of Afghanistan is fairly well secure, and is in fact rebuilding. I am very proud of what we have been able to do in Afghanistan as a coalition, and I am very proud of the progress that is being made in Afghanistan. In Iraq, as I've said, we will need whatever size force is required to help them establish a stability to rebuild their institutions, so we can turn over to the Iraqi people their own country, let them build their own government, and let them become a partner in the world community.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim --
MR. RUSSERT: Are you comfortable with the military being used for nation building or nation-rebuilding?
GEN. PACE: The military's role in that would be to provide a stable environment, and providing stability after a war is an important thing to do.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wolfowitz, let me bring you into this discussion, because it really is important that there is a feeling in the Arab street that is definitely anti-American. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, an ally, said the other day that he is concerned we have created a hundred new bin Ladens. How concerned are you that the war in Iraq has created more animosity towards America, and that those jihad fighters will try to focus on Iraq and the American troops there in years to come?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: You know, when you are in the middle of a war people have one set of reactions. And when, as we saw in Afghanistan, women started taking off their burkhas, and the Afghans greeted us as liberators, a lot of that sentiment changed. So I think it's too early to say what the effect is going to be.
I think most of the Arab world understands that Saddam Hussein is a horrible dictator, and will breathe a great sigh of relief when he's gone. The challenge then is going to be for us to demonstrate that we are not occupiers, we are not colonizers. And it's worth then -- if we are going to talk about examples, it's worth mentioning environment northern Iraq. We helped the people of northern Iraq get rid of the Iraqi army in 1991. We left six months later. And they've done a fairly decent job without any international peacekeepers. I'm not saying we'll achieve that. But our goal really is as quickly as possible, but not faster than is possible to help the Iraqis stand on their own feet. And I think that's going to change a lot of minds.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me refer to you some comments made by former CIA Director James Woolsey the other day which raised some eyebrows. And I'll put them on the screen. He told students in Los Angeles the United States is now engaged in World War IV. Woolsey described the Cold War as the Third World War, and said this Fourth World War would last us some time. He said the new war is actually against three enemies: "the religious rulers of Iran, the fascists of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network." Do you concur with that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think it's too much of an emphasis on all the people we are against. The truth of the matter is, I think, one of our real goals here has to be to convince the world's billion Muslims that we stand for positive change in the Muslim world, that we are on the side of Muslims that are fighting for democracy, for freedom, for a better future for their people. I was the American ambassador to Indonesia for three years. That's actually the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. They have a struggling effort to build a new democracy. We need to be out supporting our friends. That's as important as any focus on enemies.
MR. RUSSERT: Is Mr. Woolsey being considered for a position in Iraq?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: First of all, positions in Iraq belong to the Iraqis. If you mean positions within this provisional administration, we are looking at a wide range of Americans both inside and outside of government.
MR. RUSSERT: Including him?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Anybody who is willing to serve is a candidate.
MR. RUSSERT: The concern that people gave to those comments -- because it reinforced some other things that had been written -- this was in the New York Times at the end of March: "'This is just the beginning,' an administration official said. 'I would not rule out the same sequence of events for Iran and North Korea as for Iraq. But circumstances do not compel you end up in the same place.'" And Bill Kristol, someone you know well over the year -- his book concludes this way: "The mission begins in Baghdad, but does not end there. Duly armed, the United States can act to secure its safety and to advance the cause of liberty in Baghdad and beyond."
What should the American people be prepared for vis-a-vis Iran, North Korea, Syria?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think every one of these cases is different, and you can't approach it based on a doctrine or some philosophical predisposition. We arrived at the position we did on Iraq based on facts, and facts had changed over time. Iraq is a unique case. I mean, there is no other country that has defied the will of the international community as consistently and as deliberately and as long as Saddam Hussein. There is no other leader that I know of who glorified the events of September 11th and who actively supports terrorism the way he does.
And the circumstances are different. We'd like to see change in a lot of places, but it's going to come about by different means in different places. I think it's important in putting together and sustaining this coalition that's made extraordinary strides in fighting global terrorism that we make it clear that the military is not the only instrument -- it isn't even necessarily the main instrument. And we use political means, we use intelligence, we use law enforcement. There's a lot of work to do.
MR. RUSSERT: But you take something like North Korea -- this is what their government said -- North Korea signaled it is learning a lesson from the war in Iraq, though not the one the Bush administration had wanted. The government's official party newspaper said Iraq's experience proves that North Korea must not submit to international nuclear inspections or agree to disarm. North Korea would have already met the same miserable fate of Iraq had it compromised and accepted the demand raised by the imperialists and its followers for nuclear inspection and disarmament. The irony that we went in to disarm Saddam Hussein and now the North Koreans are saying, "We are going to keep our nuclear bombs -- because you'll invade us if we don't."
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, they've obviously stood logic on its head once again. I mean, it's clear that if Saddam Hussein had accepted the conditions -- had lived up to the conditions he accepted 12 years ago -- we wouldn't be at war now. He would still -- who knows who would be in charge -- but certainly there would not be a war in Iraq, and his country and his people could have benefited from the enormous support and revenues that were available. That's the choice the North Koreans face. They can either continue taking their country further and further down this economic disaster that they have created, or the can become respectable members of the international community, live up to their obligations to give up nuclear weapons. Then they could look forward actually to a great deal of international help to rebuild and build a better country. That's not what that leadership so far seems to be focused on. But that's what they need to do.
MR. RUSSERT: Will we allow North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear weapons?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, unfortunately, we think that North Korea probably already has some. But it is clear that that possession of those weapons by countries that support terrorism is a danger to the United States and a danger to the world. And it's a danger that has to be addressed. I think in each case you address it differently. The circumstances in North Korea are very, very different from the circumstances in Iraq. In even Iran, which is a next-door neighbor, the circumstances are different. The problem has similar dimensions, but I think the strategy for dealing with each one has to be tailored to each individual case.
MR. RUSSERT: How about Syria, who is sending night goggles to the Iraqi fighters?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: They are doing some things they shouldn't be doing, and the sooner they stop the better it will be for them.
MR. RUSSERT: How do we stop them?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Right now we are focused on winning the war. I think the Syrians need to know though that what they do now will be -- they'll be held accountable for.
MR. RUSSERT: Meaning?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Meaning that it's going to be more difficult for them to have the kind of relationships they are going to need to have in the aftermath. And there's got to be change in Syria as well. But I think the -- I think a lot of countries, including Syria, will eventually get the message from this that it's much better to come to terms peacefully with the international community, to not acquire these weapons of mass destruction, to not use terrorism as an instrument of national policy, and to take care of your own people. And the truth is that it really is striking that the countries that terrorize their own people, mistreat their own people, also support terrorism. That kind of policy needs to change.
MR. RUSSERT: General Pace, you're a military man, highly decorated, when you read comments like this -- and this is Dana Priest's book, "The Mission," quoting a former chief of staff, Hugh Shelton, "Rumsfeld relegated then Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton and his staff to the status of second-rate citizens. Everything the military had to say was second-guessed at every turn. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the Persian Gulf War: 'Candidly, I have gotten somewhat nervous at some of the pronouncements Secretary Rumsfeld has made. When he makes his comments, it appears he disregards the Army. He gives the perception when he's on TV that he's the guy driving the train, and everybody else better fall in line behind him or else.' That dismissive posture bothers Schwarzkopf because he thinks Rumsfeld and the people around him lack the background to make sound military judgments by themselves." How do you respond to those comments by your fellow military men?
GEN. PACE: I've had the great pleasure of being the vice chairman since 1 October of 2001. Daily, at least 30 minutes -- more recently as much as six and seven hours a day -- I spent time with the secretary of Defense, the deputy secretary of Defense, General Myers and myself and others -- hours and hours of discussions and deliberations. I mean, every single part of our military planning has had the benefit of input from the commanders in the field, from the Joint Chiefs themselves. If any of us feels that there is something that should be being done differently, we have had numerous opportunities in the past, and still retain the absolute obligation today, to look our bosses in the eye and tell them what our best military advice is. I can tell you categorically that every single day I personally have the opportunity to look the secretary of Defense in the eye and give him my best military advice. Many, many commanders have that opportunity, and certainly those of us who have the privilege of sitting on the Joint Chiefs of Staff get that opportunity every day.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wolfowitz, we just have about 30 seconds. Do you believe the American people will be safer after the regime in Iraq is gone?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Absolutely. And that's why -- that's the only reason the president decided to risk American lives, to get rid of this regime. It was a danger to us. It doesn't mean we are going to be 100 percent safe afterwards, but it was a choice of what was the less dangerous course. And I am absolutely sure we will be safer.
MR. RUSSERT: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, thank you very much for a very interesting discussion that you shared with the American viewers today.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.
GEN. PACE: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Good luck with the war.
GEN. PACE: Thank you very much.
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