Wolfowitz: Good morning. I would like to share with you some words that Secretary Rumsfeld addressed earlier this week to the Iraqi people, and let me just read directly in the words that the Secretary used himself.
We are at the three week mark since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, and the progress of the brave men and women from the United States, from the United Kingdom, from Australia, from Poland, who make up the coalition forces has been nothing short of spectacular.
They have liberated cities and towns and they are now in the Iraqi capital, removing the Iraqi regime from its seat of power.
We are seeing history unfold before our eyes, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people, and, potentially, the future of an entire region.
Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place on the dust bin of history, along with Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Ceaucescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are on their way to freedom.
The General who led our war of liberation here in the United States, our first President, George Washington, once said, "My anxious recollection, my sympathetic feeling, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whenever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom”.
As we watch Iraqis unfurl the banners of freedom today, all Americans share in their joy and celebrate with them.
To those Iraqi people who are not yet free, let me assure you, you will be free. I have seen President Bush almost every day since this conflict began, and I can assure you that he, like the American people, is committed to your freedom, to your future, and to seeing this effort through.
We will not stop until Saddam Hussein's regime has been removed from every corner of your country.
Much work remains, but this we can say with certainty: The tide has turned. The regime has been dealt a serious and fatal blow, but coalition forces will not stop until they have finished the job, Saddam Hussein is removed, and the entire Iraqi people are liberated.
Finally, let me say this. There are many reporters embedded with coalition forces in your country. They are interested and willing to listen.
This is your opportunity, your chance to tell them your stories so that history can properly record the viciousness, the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime, and so that we can make sure that history is not repeated.
To the free reporters and journalists in Iraq, this is your chance to listen and report. It is a historic opportunity.
Q: Can you assess the status of the [Iraqi] regime today?
Wolfowitz: Clearly, it's on the ropes. Clearly, they are not functioning in a coherent way, but it is a vicious group of people and even in small pockets, they can do serious damage.
So we have to keep our guard up. We have to recognize there are still large parts of the country that are not yet liberated. There is still a lot of damage that these people can do.
But I think what is absolutely clear is that the Iraqi people have already pronounced their verdict on this regime and if there was any doubt before today about how the Iraqi people feel about this war, it's clear now that this was a war of liberation.
It was a war for the Iraqi people, not against the Iraqi people, and it's a war that has ended Saddam's war against the Iraq people.
Q: Was it part of the military plan to leave Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, to the end?
Wolfowitz: I'm not sure. I'm not going to talk about what is still left. Tikrit is a problem. Mosul and Kirkuk are still problems. There are pockets even in the south that are still problems.
But we are working with operational realities, obviously. Most of our forces have come in from the south, and that's the operational reality.
Q: Do you have an immediate plan to stop disorder and looting in the areas that are under the control of the coalition forces?
Wolfowitz: Well, a certain amount of that, what is called looting, is actually, I think, taking it out on the statues of Saddam Hussein and on the government offices. We hope people wouldn't walk away with the kinds of documents that are important to find the war criminals and to track down the evidence of the things that they have done.
And people are in a celebratory mood in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, but I hope that in time and, hopefully, in a short amount of time, that Iraqis will understand the importance for their own future of demonstrating that they can control themselves without a brutal dictator and that mechanisms of self-control will come into play.
Look, we had an experience in northern Iraq 12 years ago -- it was pretty successful -- where Iraqis took over their own affairs and within a few months of the coalition forces coming in, we were gone. And Iraqis, except for Saddam's occasional invasions, handled themselves pretty well.
Q: Why Jay Garner is still in Kuwait and not already in Iraq? What can we do to speed up the establishment of a transitional authority?
Wolfowitz: Well, Garner's operation has focused, most importantly, on getting the basic functions of government operating, and I think we're still in a -- we're still fighting a war. Let's be clear. It isn't over yet and we're not focused yet on peacetime administration. But Jay Garner is working very hard at getting his people ready so that they can come in and do things.
Q: Do we have any veto on the Iraqi opposition groups that are based in Iran?
Wolfowitz: I think we've talked over and over again that what we want to see is a democratic Iraq. And I think if we mean it -- and we do mean it -- then that means the Iraqi people have got to decide who their leaders are going to be and who their political parties are going to be.
I do think we have something very strong to say, though, about anyone who is going to try to reintroduce violence as the way of deciding things in Iraqi politics. We want things decided in democratic ways, by debate and dialogue and elections, not by bullets and militias and torture chambers.
I think that's gone, hopefully forever.