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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with The Laura Ingraham Show

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
August 01, 2003

(Telephone interview with Nancy Collins, The Laura Ingraham Show.)

Q: Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the Laura Ingraham Show on this the first day of August 2003.

My name is Nancy Collins and boy do we have a great show for you tonight. I’m not going to waste a minute, first up I am so honored, I am so thrilled to have with us the man of the hour, the man of the week, the reigning intellect of the Bush Administration, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is here.

Now as you probably all know he’s been in Iraq, he just got back from a five-day trip to Iraq. And of course we’ll talk about that as well as the fact that this man out of really one of the few who really understands the Muslim mentality, having served as the Ambassador to Indonesia during the Reagan Administration. In fact, I think, Mr. Wolfowitz -- don’t you speak Arabic?

Wolfowitz: I wouldn’t claim to speak it, I understand bits and pieces of it and I taught myself some Arabic once. It’s a very hard language and it’s a beautiful language.

Q: I was going to say, taught yourself, that’s even better than taking a (Inaudible.) course.

Last week you know as I watched you ace the tri-fecta of Sunday morning talk shows it occurred to me that along with Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, you’ve become a key spokesman for the administration’s foreign policy which is by the way very unusual for a Deputy Secretary.

Wolfowitz: Well I had a lot to say having just come back from a very intense five-day trip to Iraq, thanks to the wonderful support you get from the military on trips like that.

Q: Well what surprised you most about Iraq? I mean theoretically you probably know more about the country than any body else.

Wolfowitz: Well I was pleased and not totally surprised but pleased to learn that things generally are going a lot better than I was reading in the newspapers back here. And it’s not perfect, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and most of all we’re still fighting a war and that’s a grim business of people getting killed and getting badly wounded.

But I would say the strongest impression over all is that the Iraq people are just absolutely pleased to be liberated from this tyrant and that’s not just true in the Shi’a areas and the Kurdish areas where we’ve known so dramatically how oppressive he was but Sunni’s as well. This is a man Saddam who as I said conducted equal opportunity oppression, he was brutal to Muslims as well as Christians to Turks as well as Kurds to Sunni’s as well as Shi’a.

Q: Did you find -- how’s the morale? How’s the morale of the people? I mean are they -- we hear so much of course that here a mixed bag of things. Number one that they’re glad we’re there and on the other hand they’re sort of resentful that we’re there. On balance with the populist did you find that they -- on balance are thrilled that we’re there or do they still have reservations?

Wolfowitz: I think there are variations, I can tell you among the more brutalized elements of the population it verges on ecstasy. I mean the greeting we got from the Kurds up North was -- really tugged at your heart strings and the most moving one. We visited a village of Marsh Arabs, these are people whose civilization goes back several thousand years, they’ve been living in the marshes of Southern Iraq and developed a very distinctive culture that adapted to that lifestyle.

For example, they produced a breed of water buffalo that actually produces milk where most water buffalo don’t.

Q: Really?

Wolfowitz: But over the last 10 years Saddam has systematically been wiping them out because those marshes were a refuge for people who were opposed to his regime. So he’s created a absolute desert wasteland the size of the state of New Jersey and reduced their numbers from half a million to at most at the very most 200,000.

So we visited this one village that had been forcibly moved at gunpoint and sometimes with hanging people and drowning families 17 times. When we got off the helicopter we were just mobbed, kids, women, some men but the male population obviously had been reduced a lot.

Q: I’m sure.

Wolfowitz: And they were saying things like "Salaam Bush" and "down with Saddam."

Q: Salaam Bush huh?

Wolfowitz: And they’d put out their hands, they weren’t asking for money or candy, they wanted water. That was the one word we heard. Those people are just -- in fact, for them liberation really just came in the nick of time before that civilization was wiped out.

Q: What about the troops? You know I’m so moved every time I see almost any footage of our troops.

Wolfowitz: They are wonderful.

Q: But what’s the morale among the troops?

Wolfowitz: I think it’s high and in some cases very high. There are variations, the 3rd Infantry Division has had the hardest time and have been there the longest and they were getting a little frustrated with what seemed to be changing departure dates but that’s been fixed now.

Q: In what way, are they coming home sooner?

Wolfowitz: They’re going to be -- well they’re going to be coming home -- they’re starting home now. I think they’ll be out of Iraq by September.

Q: Um Huh.

Wolfowitz: But it was just very upbeat. I was particularly struck, the Marines who are working among the Shi’a in Southern Iraq and this is -- some people have predicted this was going to be the heart of trouble because we have this view of Shi’a extremist - I think it’s a misplaced view. They’ve just been doing very well they’ve stood up a town council in Karbala and another one in Najaf. These are two holiest cities of Shi’a Islam. They’re out of their tanks and armored vehicles, they have very low profile and as we drove by the mosque -- I think it’s the mosque of Ali in Karbala I couldn’t open the windows in my car because it was an armored car but the people behind me who could open their windows heard people saying, thank you America, God Bless Bush, Hooray for the Marines, lots of very -- lots of smiles and waves. I mean these are people who are just very happy to have us there and the morale of the Marines is correspondingly high. And it’s similar up north where the 101st Air Assault Division has really developed some very good relationships with the local people and local leaders.

Q: I was sort of struck by some of the stories you told this week about the ingenuity of America -- I mean so American isn’t it? How these troops go in there and they start organizing town councils and they sort of organizing government almost like you know student councils in high school in a way.

Wolfowitz: Well in my favorite story, which if you permit me tell again. We were walking around the main square in Mosul and as it happens I think we were probably there more less at the same time that unbeknownst to us someone whose coming in reporting the location of Uday and Qusay of Hussein. We’re walking around the square with the Company of 101st, I remember the commander was a young captain named Paul Stanton and they had their guns at the ready and they had full body armor and they were on the look out for possible trouble I guess because they had this thing -- so called important person from Washington. And as we walked around the square and their relations with the people were seemed to be to me good, a little bit tense especially if you’re heavily armored, but basically quite good.

We went down this row of butcher shops and the captain explained to me that in the immediate aftermath that the butchers had kind of decided that freedom meant you could slaughter your animals in the street and leave the carcasses out in front of the shops. Of course in the old days they would’ve taken care of that by just shooting a few butchers.

Q: That’s right, yeah.

Wolfowitz: And they certainly wouldn’t allow the butchers to organized but what the Americans did was to get the butchers organized into a butchers association so they had someone to deal with and then tell them what the rules were and he said as long you had this dialogue with them they were quite responsive. And I said, well did they teach you at West Point how to form a butchers association and of course he laughed because it wasn’t in the curriculum but it is in the American way of life, it’s in people’s blood here.

Q: You think -- You told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and you had a very spirited session with them this week and rambunctious and some might say. That we would not be sending more troops in and some -- there’s been a lot of critics who say we need more troops there. We will not however at the moment be sending more troops in?

Wolfowitz: The Commanders say they do not need more American troops, in fact several of them say that they don’t want them.

Q: Why not?

Wolfowitz: In many cases they wouldn’t know what to do with them. What they need is more is more intelligence to be able to go after the people who are organizing these attacks on Americans. What they do need more of are Iraqis or in some cases international troops. So let me sort of illustrate it -- I think it’s very clear if you put it this way. We lost 3 Marines last week, they were guarding a hospital and someone threw a grenade out of the top floor of the hospital which is a construction site, tells you something too that the enemy is still hiding and shooting out of hospitals. We don’t need Marines to guard a hospital. There are Iraqis who would be more than willing to take on that task and I think we need to accelerate the process of enlisting Iraqis on our side.

I visited the newly reorganized police academy and met with the man who has been put in charge of it. He’s a Sunni by the way in case people think that all the Sunni’s love the regime. He spent a year in jail and I said, "what was it for?" He said, "I denounced Saddam Hussein." And I thought well that’s got to be kind of crazy. I said, "Didn’t you know what would happen to you?" And he said, "well I only said it to by my best friend." That was the kind of country it was.

Q: And that’s the kind of friends you had in that country.

Wolfowitz: Well and probably the friend didn’t know whether he was being tested or not. I mean he may have thought this guy was checking him out to see whether he would turn him in. It’s just an absolutely horrible place.

Well this police inspector is doing a marvelous job training his force. And I just read a few days ago that at 1:00 in the morning he took a bullet in the leg leading his troop on a raid against a bunch of folks who now turn out to actually be quite important people in the Ba’athist organization. So in other words, these police are actually rounding up some of the people who are trying to kill Americans.

Q: Today Paul Bremer who of course is the U.S. Administrator in Iraq finally came out with a figure and of course we’re all concerned about the cost of rebuilding Iraq and he said it would cost 50 to 100 billion dollars. How long? Is America going to pony up all this money Sir, or is it going to come from other sources as well?

Wolfowitz: Well we want it to come as much as possible from other sources and there are a lot of Iraqi sources. This is a country that can begin generating significant resources, not just from oil but from the productivity of it’s own people. There are billions of dollars in frozen assets or in UN accounts that we are making use of. We’ve actually seized I think its close to 2 billion dollars just in cash that was stashed around in various places probably Saddam Hussein and his cronies.

Q: What do we do with that 2 billion? Where does it go?

Wolfowitz: It goes into an Iraqi reconstruction fund and it’s used for the purposes of rebuilding the country. Rebuilding isn’t even quite the right word, it had been run down so badly especially in the last 10 years by Saddam moving all of the resources of the country into building his palaces and building his Army’s and not taking care of his people. So we’re really talking about rehabilitation.

Q: Well I’m going to start from scratch. If you just hold on Sir we have to take a quick break and we’ll be back after this.

(Break.)

Q: Hi there. This is Nancy and we are talking to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. So thrilled to have him here tonight.

Mr. Wolfowitz where were you on 9/11? How did you hear about the attacks?

Wolfowitz: Well I heard it when the building shook. I was in my office on the River Entrance as we call it and I guess that’s sort of the east side of the building and the plane struck on the south side on the west side of the building.

Q: Did you understand what it was right away or?

Wolfowitz: No, I think my boss did. I think Secretary Rumsfeld immediately understood it, I thought it was either a bomb or an earthquake and even though I’d seen the two attacks in New York I guess it was to me it was hard -- I don’t know hard to comprehend it, I didn’t immediately associate that there could be yet a third or even a fourth. I have heard a few stories from some survivors though who just barely made it out that as soon as they had been watching the television and they said that they put two and two together the minute -- I mean they were down near much closer to the point of impact and they just -- as soon as they heard the noise they realized they’d been attacked.

Q: And did you run out of the building right away?

Wolfowitz: We moved out pretty quickly. They had alarms going off and then assembled a big crowd out in front of the River Entrance which would not have been a very good place to be as it turns out if there’d been yet another plane but who knew all of that? And then after fairly a short while I was -- someone came and got me, brought me back in and we spent the next couple of hours with Mr. Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center.

Q: Now did you think right away that Iraq could have been involved in this?

Wolfowitz: Right away the focus was on what do you need to do. And how do you start shutting down flights and we had several false alarms of flights coming in. There was really frankly I’d say for the first 24 hours too much to do to think about who was behind it.

Q: And when did you start to think that perhaps Iraq had something to do with it?

Wolfowitz: I’m not sure even now that I would say Iraq had something to do with it. I think what the realization to me is -- the fundamental point was that terrorism had reached the scale completely different from what we had thought of it up until then. And that it would only get worse when these people got access to weapons of mass destruction which would be only a matter of time.

So it convinced me that we couldn’t continue to treat terrorism as a kind of law enforcement problem where you wait until after the thing happens and then you convict people based on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and you put them in jail and that will somehow deal with terrorism. I mean that’s after all more or less the approach we’ve been following for 20 years or more. And even retaliation doesn’t work against that kind of threat that what you really got to do is, eliminate terrorist networks and eliminate terrorism as a problem. And clearly Iraq was one of the country -- you know top of the list of countries actively using terrorism as an instrument of national policy.

Q: Of course you know the report came out today that if Saddam Hussein is ever captured he will be tried by I guess a jury of his peers in Iraqi tribunal. Would you like to see Saddam dead or alive?

Wolfowitz: I don’t know that we’ll have choice in the matter. I’d like to see him taken out of action one way or the other. And I certainly I don’t have much doubt about what the outcome would be if Iraqis are able to try him and expose one, one hundredth of the crimes that he’s responsible for.

Q: You know you’ve been on the case with Iraq since 1979, you were one -- you were very prescient about the dangers there. Have you focused on this man for that long of period of time? When he’s finally gone one way or the other it’s going to be sort of a moment for you isn’t it?

Wolfowitz: Well can I just -- yes but two qualifications I mean I would say my view of Saddam has evolved a lot over that period of time and generally in one direction he just keeps surprising me with how demonic he is, how brutal he is, how adventurous he is, I mean I would have thought after -- I thought after the end of the Gulf War that we should press harder to get rid of him.

Q: Sir, I have to interrupt you but we have to take what they call a hard out. Can you just hold on for a minute please?

Wolfowitz: Okay.

(Break.)

Q: Hi this is Nancy, and I’m back to sort of say good bye to Secretary -- Deputy Secretary -- I’m already promoting you don’t you see? Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Wolfowitz: Hello.

Q: Paul Wolfowitz. Are you there?

Wolfowitz: I’m here.

Q: We were just actually having -- we’re just going to finish up this question because Mr. Wolfowitz has a wonderful daughter waiting for him. I understand you’re crazy about your kids by the way?

Wolfowitz: Yeah I am.

Q: You have two daughters and a son is that right?

Wolfowitz: That’s right.

Q: Well are they grown up kids or small kids?

Wolfowitz: Ah they run from 15 up to 25.

Q: Ah, and do they want to be in foreign policy?

Wolfowitz: I’m not sure. My oldest actually is working on -- for a non-government organization that helps developing media in new democracies like Indonesia and now maybe in Iraq, so I guess you can say that’s a little bit of foreign policy.

Q: Will he or she go to Iraq?

Wolfowitz: She would love to go to Iraq. I don’t know if she’ll get the chance soon, but.

Q: Well I’ll tell you they’re going to need media over there like crazy.

Wolfowitz: Oh we need it desperately -- it’s one of our biggest gaps.

Q: I think one of the problems that one thing that hardest to understand is why we can’t as Americans just go in there, and make their electricity work. Do you know, I mean and make the media work, we’re so use to having the instant-ness of that in American you know?

Wolfowitz: Well and unfortunately people think we can do that kind of think instantly too and so they think of us you know they say we’re the super power so how come everything isn’t fix immediately and we’re living -- our reputation creates excessive expectations but we’ll just have to do the best we can.

Q: You were talking about Saddam Hussein and what his end might mean for you or you know -- not you but well I ask what it would mean for you since you’ve been focused on him for so many years.

Wolfowitz: And thanks for coming back to the question because I guess for me and I think for all us it’s only half the battle and getting rid of him is important, getting rid of his regime I mean. And I’m a little bit concerned too that even when we get him -- it was a pretty large gang of criminals that’s -- even if it's only just one in a thousand Iraqis that’s 20,000 people who have blood on their hands from the old regime and many of them probably are adding to their criminal records.

But getting rid of that and it’s important by the way, I just cannot stress enough how fearful people still are in Iraq that those people are around and they might come back it’s not a fear you get over with quickly. But building a new Iraq, showing the world what Arabs and Iraqis can accomplish when they are free. And I think it’s going to be very, very important and I think it can have a big impact on the rest of the Arab world, the rest of the Muslim world. And that’s where I think we’re going to have the biggest challenges but it’s going to help make our country safer and more secure in the long run because the Middle East after all is the swamp in which so much of this terrorism is bred over the last 20 years. And if we can begin to show the people of Middle East that there’s a better alternative, a better way to go, we’ll be safer in the long run.

Q: And you’re very optimistic about that aren’t you?

Wolfowitz: I’m cautiously optimistic I guess that makes me a lot more optimistic than most people. But you know I’ve heard people tell me in the past when I worked in Asia that the Koreans have no history of democracy, they’re never going to be able to do it, the Chinese have no history of democracy but the Taiwanese are doing it now. I mean most countries that are democratic today, for most of their history, were not democratic and I think the Arabs have every capability to be democratic as well.

Q: Just quickly, what did you learn about the Muslim mentality when you were in Indonesia? I mean it’s so different -- I don’t think we really understand it here.

Wolfowitz: Well and it’s a complex -- you know it would be like generalizing about the Christian mentality and we realize that you can’t generalize but then we go and we look at another religion of a billion plus people and think that you can. And unfortunately, the most vocal exponents of that religion are the ugliest ones.

One of the wonderful things about being in Indonesia it’s a country, it’s the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, it’s population of greater than 200 million people and it’s the most tolerant outlook on religion generally that you could hope to find. The leader became very friendly with a man who later became the first democratically elected President of Indonesia a man named (Inaudible.) who was the leader of a movement called NU that had 40 million members. This man was as comfortable sitting in a Hindu (Inaudible.) or even a Jewish synagogue as in a mosque as far as he concerned. Everybody was worshipping God in a different way and that is perfectly comfortable for millions and millions of Muslims.

Q: That experience must have really changed you personally as well?

Wolfowitz: It had a big impact, I had already had a lot of influence from quite a few years before that of working closely with Turkey and with Turks and that’s another Muslim country with a very strong tradition of separating religion from government.

Q: Well I just think it’s fantastic that you bring to this job that experience because I think it belies the fact the feeling among some people that the Bush Administration hasn’t been -- doesn’t understand the Muslim point of view and I just think that it’s great that you’re there. And I cannot, again thank you so much for being here and I hope next time you are willing to come back and we can talk some more. I’d really like that.

Wolfowitz: Okay well thank you. I enjoyed it.

Q: Thank you very much.