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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview on CBS Face the Nation

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 27, 2003

Schieffer:  Today on Face the Nation, hunting Saddam, how close are we to finding him.  The attacks on Americans continue even after the death of Saddam Hussein's two sons last week.  Are U.S. forces getting closer to the Iraqi leader?  Would his capture stop the attacks?  Those are the questions for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the administration's Iraq policy.

 

            Then we'll talk about last week's report on 9-11, and the situation in Iraq with Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and head of the Intelligence Committee, and Carl Levin, Deputy of Michigan, who is on both Intelligence and the Armed Services Committees.

 

            Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times will join in the questions, and I'll have a final word on the reward money for catching Saddam.  But first, hunting Saddam, on Face the Nation.

 

            And we begin with the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who is here in the studio with us this morning.  Thank you, sir, for coming.  Joining in the questioning, our friend Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times.  Mr. Wolfowitz, let me begin with this, is there any indication that Saddam Hussein's sons were coordinating any of the attacks on the Americans?

 

Wolfowitz:  I think the question is, if they were coordinating would we know it.  There's a lot -- I mean, we're dealing with a secret conspiratorial criminal gang on a large scale, and given the way the pattern is emerging, I think there's every reason to assume that they were probably part of this network that is, frankly, doing contract killing for hire on a large scale.  You go to a town like Nasiriyah in the south, I just came back from Iraq after four-and-a-half days, local people will tell you they're offering $200 to attack a power line, $500 to attack an American.  So, we are dealing with the remnants, not small remnants, of a criminal gang that abused that country for 35 years, and I think you have to assume they're operating like any gang does.

 

Schieffer:  I ask that question because up until the last couple of weeks, people in the administration were describing these attacks as sort of isolated and sporadic.  But what you seem to be saying this morning after coming back from Iraq, is that, indeed, there was coordination, and there is some sort of a central plan here?

 

Wolfowitz:  I think a lot of the statements I saw in intelligence reports say there's no evidence it's coordinated.  But, you have to be careful, as my boss said when he did the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  And when you're dealing -- I go back to the analogy, a lot of people have said the way to understand Saddam Hussein is a sort of cross between the Godfather and Joseph Stalin.  It's a criminal gang on a large scale by a man who personally admired Joseph Stalin, and they don't reveal their secrets easily, and we shouldn't conclude too quickly that we know exactly what they're doing, but what is really striking, Bob, is how the great majority of what we're dealing with does seem to be connected to the former Ba'ath Party, which has now declared itself the party of the return.  Whatever we say about how they're organized or what their tactics are, their goal is unmistakable, it's the belief that if you kill Americans, we will leave, and the old regime will come back.  And what people have had enough horrible experiences with that regime that it takes a lot of convincing before they will believe that the regime isn't coming back and killing those two miserable creatures on Monday is certainly a step forward in persuading the Iraqi people that the old regime is done.

 

Schieffer:  Doyle?

 

McManus:  Looking at the numbers in a snapshot, it looks as if the pace of attacks against Americans, and the pace of American casualties have actually stepped up.  Is the security situation getting better or getting worse?  And, in your view, if American forces capture of kill Saddam Hussein, does that basically solve the problem?

 

            Wolfowitz:  Many things are increasing; the vital intelligence we're getting is increasing enormously.  That's how we got to the two sons.  The same day we got the two sons, we got one Number Five on the so-called blacklist who was, one, a key killer himself, the head of the Special Republican Guards.  And just so your listeners understand, that's part of the -- we have a system of checks and balances in Iraq, the Special Republican Guards were the spies who spied on the Republican Guards, and the Republican Guards were the people who kept the regular army in check.  And there was a special security organization that kept the Special Republican Guards in check.  We got one of the key members of that terror organization.

 

            In the last week alone, we have seized 660 surface to air missiles.  It's disturbing that there are that many in the country, but we're making inroads against the big threats against us.  These people haven't given up the fight yet, it's true.  Maybe they'll give up when Saddam Hussein is gone, but in any case, and this is, I think, the important point, they are, even in the thousands, they are a small faction of the Iraqi population, and everywhere we went, not just among Shia, not just among Kurds, not just among Turks, but among Sunni Arabs, we heard repeated expressions of gratitude to President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, to the coalition for liberating them from that tyranny.

 

            McManus:  In view of all that, why is the rate of casualties appearing to increase now to roughly two a day?

 

Wolfowitz:  Well, in fact, I think Secretary Rumsfeld said there may well be a spike after the deaths of the sons.  You know, people ask the kind of similar question when the bombing took place in Riyadh, isn't this a sign that Al-Qaeda is surging back?  And actually with a month's hindsight, it looks much more as though Al-Qaeda was making a desperate move to demonstrate that they were still on the battlefield.  This is not something that you can measure on a day-to-day basis.  But let me say something, and first of all we haven't had a chance to say this yet, our men and women out there serving in 120 degree heat, it's unbelievable, in combat conditions, with their lives in danger all the time, and doing some magnificent work with the people of Iraq, are just heroes.  They are heroes, and they are fighting to make our country safer in the future and the Iraqi people better off.

 

What they need most of is help from other countries, which we're getting, and most of all from Iraqis.  One of the casualties we took yesterday, the three soldiers who were killed when someone threw a hand grenade out of the top floor of a hospital, Iraqis can guard hospitals, and it doesn't take a year's worth of training to get them to that level.   We advertised for Iraqis to join the new civilian defense force there a couple of weeks ago, or ten days ago.  I believe in the first 24 hours alone, 7,000 volunteered.  So, we can get American troops into the tasks that they have to do, and get Iraqis out fighting for their country.  They're ready to do it.

 

Schieffer:  Do you think we're any closer to getting Saddam Hussein than we were?

 

Wolfowitz:  Well, you know, we probably are closer because we're getting more intelligence.  His sons are gone.  So they may have been some source of support.  But, you know, you never know whether you're closer until you're actually right there.

 

Schieffer:  Are you still confident we'll find him?

 

Wolfowitz:  There are many ifs in this.  We can't even be 100 percent sure he's in the country.  I think most indications suggest he is, but he might have taken refuge in another country.  I think it is very important to find him, or find out what happened to him.

 

Schieffer:  You said before the war, the administration said before the war, that there were connections between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  Have you found any evidence, any new evidence, since he was toppled that there are connections?

 

Wolfowitz:  Well, we talked about evidence before including Secretary Powell in his presentation to the United Nations.  One of the things that, if I could give two impressions from Baghdad that are really, to me, very compelling in understanding how hard it is to break this veil of secrecy, the regime surrounded everything with, first of all, the sheer size of the place.  You fly over Baghdad, I don't know my geography perfectly, I'm told it's the size of Los Angeles.  It is just huge.  You look at house after house after house.  You say, every one of those houses is big enough to have a huge lethal quantity of anthrax in the basement.  You're not going to find it by house-to-house searches.  You're only going to find it when people talk.

 

            An illustration of that, we visited the police academy because some terrific training is going on to build a new police force, the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was there a couple of weeks ago, and they admired the training of the police force, as did I.  What they didn't know, but was discovered a couple of days before I got there was that they had subsequently discovered that behind the police academy was a torture chamber where this woman who was reported in the press last week as having been tied to a tree and they did unspeakable things to here, right behind Uday's compound.  That was sitting there behind the police academy, and the police and the police academy didn't know about it until this woman came in and told them what happened.

 

            We're going to be unveiling secrets in Iraq day after day after day.

 

            Schieffer:  But have you found at this point any new connections to Al-Qaeda that you didn't know about?

 

            Wolfowitz:  Bob, this is in the very capable hands of the CIA led out there by David Kaye, and assisted by Keith –

 

            Schieffer:  But you'd know if we had, would you not?

 

            Wolfowitz:  Well, first of all, I wouldn't necessarily.  I mean, we've encouraged them to dig in, to get their facts straight, to cross check things, not to send the first rumor up the chain and flying into Washington, people get breathlessly excited about it.  These things need to be checked carefully.

 

            Schieffer:  But you know, obviously the reason I'm asking this is because this is one of the justifications.  And, as you well know, the line your critics are taking is that you went after Saddam Hussein because you couldn't find Osama bin Laden.  How do you respond to that?

 

            Wolfowitz:  Well, look, if you go back to October, George Tenet's classified testimony to the intelligence committees details what we thought we knew and what we didn't know about the links to terrorism.  His public letter, which was published in the New York Times, talks about a number of known links to Al-Qaeda.  Is this a murky picture?  Yes, it's murky.  Information about terrorism is inevitably murky because terrorists hide, and because you get an awful lot of information that's simply not true.  But, stop and think about what the 9-11 report is saying, it's saying that we should have connected these murky dots ahead of time.  Well, you can't have it both ways.  If you wait until you have absolute certainty about terrorism, you're really saying, we'll wait until after the fact and deal with it.  And I thought the lesson of September 11th is, that approach doesn't work anymore.  We can't deal with terrorism after the fact.

 

            Schieffer:  I wish we had more time, unfortunately we don't.  Thank you very much.

 

            Wolfowitz:  Good to be here.  Thank you.

 

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