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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability with Mayor-Elect Bloomberg

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
November 15, 2001

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2001

(Joint media availability at the Pentagon with New York City Mayor-Elect Michael Bloomberg)

Wolfowitz: It's my pleasure to introduce the mayor-elect of New York, who really doesn't need an introduction. I think one of our pilots, early in the campaign, said it best: We're all in this together. And we realize that as much of a tragedy as took place here, a much greater one took place in New York, and we are all in this together. And we're continuing to work with the city of New York on what we can contribute to their recovery efforts.

It's my pleasure to introduce Mayor-Elect Bloomberg.

Bloomberg: Paul, thank you.

Secretary Wolfowitz is an old friend of mine from Johns Hopkins. And it was nice to be able to look at the terrible tragedy and get a first-hand briefing from him. New York has to understand that other parts of the country also are subject to terrorism. And our hearts go out to the people who lost their lives, both in the airplane and on the ground here. There were 180-some-odd people who died.

It is very tragic, and we just wanted people who live here and work here to understand that we are with them in the same sense that we need them to be with us in New York. And we just have to be vigilant against terrorism every place in the world. And I think supporting the military in their efforts to protect all of us is an obligation we all have.

Be happy to take any questions anybody has.

Q: The fact that our mayor-elect comes to the Pentagon first to visit with you, how does that underscore that these are, I guess, unusual times, that he comes to the Pentagon first when he comes to Washington?

Wolfowitz: (laughs) I'm not in charge of his schedule. But I think the point really is, we are all in this together. The whole country has been attacked, not just New York, not just the Pentagon. We have Americans out in Afghanistan risking their lives, some of them losing their lives, trying to end this threat. And we've got a great job to do. But I think we will see once again that bin Laden's going to join that list of tyrants who underestimated the strength and will of the American people.

And I'm assuming that the mayor-elect came here partly as an expression of that solidarity and that will.

Q: Do you care to add anything?

Bloomberg: No. Paul said it all.

Q: Do you think, sir -- (off mike).

Q: You might want to repeat because of the helicopter.

Q: I couldn't hear you. Sorry.

Wolfowitz: Okay. Sorry, we can't -- (chuckles) -- we don't control the environment totally.

The point that quote from the pilot underscores, we are all in this together. The whole country has been attacked, not just the Pentagon, not just New York City. We all have a job to do in continuing to defend against terrorists.

But I think, as we've said over and over again, you also have the best defense is a good offense, and our offense in Afghanistan is going pretty well right now, as we speak.

Q: Do you think, sir, there will be a difference -- a change in the relationship between the Pentagon and municipalities, particularly New York City, under these circumstances now?

Bloomberg: Well, I think that security and terrorism are much more on everybody's minds. One of the things that I considered in appointing a police commissioner was the commissioner's experience in Washington and contacts. And I think that Ray Kelly is exactly the right man for the time, not just because he is well liked and respected in New York City, but he is respected and well liked in Washington. And we will be working more in the future, I suspect, with the security agencies and with the Defense Department. It's just a sign of the times. Unfortunately, terrorism is not something that's only offshore; we've experienced it at home, and we have to be vigilant. People have to feel that government is doing everything it can to protect them, and I think we are.

Q: Mr. Bloomberg, what's your reaction to this current stepped-up hunt for bin Laden? How important is it to New Yorkers for the United States to actually get bin Laden? And your reaction to the secretary's comments yesterday in New York, that in fact he may have a helicopter and have already escaped the country.

Bloomberg: Well, I don't know where bin Laden is, but -- (chuckles). Look, my first concern is to take care of the families of those that we lost, and to make sure that in New York City, with the help of the Defense Department and the intelligence agencies, that we're doing everything we can to make sure that New York is safe.

That's the first priority.

After that, I think all Americans have the soldiers overseas and sailors, airmen, in our prayers, and we hope that they are successful. We have to, as a country, show zero tolerance for terrorism. I think that's a lesson that's been learned repeatedly, unfortunately, over the years. You cannot negotiate with terrorists and you cannot let them strike them without us striking back.

Q: Given the fact, though, that New York took such a hit, do you think it's psychologically important to New York City to have him brought to justice?

Bloomberg: I think everybody in New York will feel better knowing that one terrorist organization is stamped out. Unfortunately, there are multiple terrorist organizations, and I think New Yorkers understand that we have to continue to be vigilant and that this struggle that the president is leading is not going to be over quickly and it's not going to over just once you get bin Laden. It's going to -- vigilance is a price we pay for having an open society and democracy. Freedom is the most wonderful thing in the world, and it's a very scary thing to those that don't want us to have it, and there will constantly be a battle.

Q: Secretary Wolfowitz, a question about the Pentagon's understanding about bin Laden's whereabouts now -- whether he's alive, do they have any idea where he is, whether he's still in the country? Can you elaborate at all?

Wolfowitz: I think I'd just say we're still looking for him. As the secretary and the president have said over and over again, this is not just about one man or even just one terrorist network. It's about dismantling the whole structure of global terrorism. And it's not just about avenging September 11th. It's also about preventing future attacks. So it's a very broad campaign.

Q: But about bin Laden? What is your understanding of the latest information about whether he's alive, whether he's still in Afghanistan?

Wolfowitz: We are still looking for him.

Q: Do you believe he's still in Afghanistan?

Wolfowitz: I'm not going to get into where we think he is. I said we're still looking for him.

Q: Mr. Wolfowitz? Secretary Wolfowitz, excuse me. General Myers today said there's a lot of focus on the South today and over the next few days, including consultations with Pashtun tribes, to see if they will come along and form some kind of southern alliance. Can you give a sense of what progress you'd like to see in the next two or three weeks in terms of formatting that southern alliance of some kind?

Wolfowitz: I think -- you know, it's extraordinary, the speed with which the Taliban have collapsed. I believe that a week ago they controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Now they control, at most, maybe 20 percent of the country, and it's sending a message, I think, to everyone there that this is the time to get off of their side and get on to the winning side. And it's very clear which is the winning side.

I think it exposes something fundamental here, and it's been part of the strategy from the beginning: that the Taliban are a regime that rules by terror, and regimes that rule by terror don't command people's loyalty for very long, once the fear factor is gone. It's not an accident that every regime that supports terrorism around the world also terrorizes their own people. I think we're going to find that that's a weakness not only of the Taliban, but of all the other people, and I think that's a weakness that we are successfully exploiting already in the South.

Q: (off mike) -- active consultations or meetings with various Pashtun tribes?

Wolfowitz: We are in consultation with a number, and we're looking for others, and I think they're frankly coming out of the woodwork rather quickly now.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have a reaction to the latest attacks, the two attacks in the last two days that have killed senior leadership? Is this a good sign for the military?

Wolfowitz: We are tracking the leadership. We aren't always sure who we've gotten, but we have a pretty good fix that a number of the targets we've hit are senior leadership targets. And until we get rid of the Taliban and the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, our -- the Taliban leadership and the al Qaeda network, our mission is still ongoing.

I'd encourage questions for the mayor-elect, if you have them. We have time for about one more, I think. (pause)

Q: Thank you.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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