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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability following Memorial Service for Iraqi Victims

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
August 02, 2003

(Media availability following memorial service for Iraqi victims, George Washington University.)


     Q: (Inaudible.) -- 9-11 report -- that said that there were documents that DoD (Inaudible.) employees knew in advance about the attacks on World Trade Center --


     Wolfowitz:  I am sorry.  First of all, I haven’t seen it and I would really like you to keep the questions to the memorial (Inaudible.).


     Q:  It was in the New York Times this morning.  An article --


     Wolfowitz: In any case I haven’t seen the reports or article (Inaudible.).


     Q:  I have a couple of other questions.  Why was it important for you to attend this function today?


     Wolfowitz:  Most of all, I was very moved by the invitation to a ceremony that would honor our dead was well as theirs and to recognize that there was a common debt that was owed to everyone who died against fighting this man and (Inaudible.).  And because I very much believe and I said when I quoted Abraham Lincoln, that we have a big job in front of us and people need to remember why they have to do it, why they have to work with another, why they have got to be patient and persevering.  There’s a lot of difficult work ahead if people don’t remember what happens when you don’t work together.  So I thought it’s not only an appropriate tribute to those who have fallen but it’s an important statement about what needs to be done.


     Q:  Dr. Wolfowitz -- how will you bring Ba’athists element to justice?   How will coalition forces do it do you think?


     Wolfowitz:   Like many other things, it’s happening slowly but moving forward.  We have a lot of things to do all at once.  And when I was in Iraq recently they had discovered -– thanks to the courage of this Christian woman who came forward  to talk about the crimes they had committed against her -- they discovered this horrible torture chamber, a torture (Inaudible.) behind the police academy.  They arrested some torturers a result of that.  Our real priority of course right now is establishing security.  And that means a focus on mid-level Ba’athists.  But personally, I think there is such an overlap.  The people that are committing crimes today against coalition forces are the people that committed crimes in the past against the Iraqi people.  It’s probably a bit pointless to separate the two things.


     Q:  Do you think there needs to be an international tribunal or are Iraqis capable (Inaudible.)?


     Wolfowitz:  I think there are some Iraqi courts that are going to start functioning this month to try some of these cases.  I have an open mind.  I think there are different views that might be had but the great bulk of these crimes were committed against Iraqis so there is no reason that they can’t judge criminals.


     Q:  One final question, Mr. Secretary, would you prefer Saddam Hussein be taken dead or alive?


     Wolfowitz: I would just like him out of action, one way or another.  And I think that would be a great step forward.  One of the overwhelming questions one had when traveling around Iraq is how much fear remains.  When you see the kind of thing we just saw today, it shouldn’t be a surprise.  The people are still receiving death threats.  One mayor in a city was assassinated.  One of our translators was nearly assassinated.  There were leaflets circulating in Baghdad warning people that if they give us information about WMD they’ll be put to death.  Obviously, those people circulating those leaflets believe there were weapons of mass destruction. So as long as the fear remains that this regime might be able to come back, it’s going to be very hard to move forward on all the other (Inaudible.).


     Q:  Mr. Secretary, will the U.S. (Inaudible.) identification of bodies in mass graves?


     Wolfowitz:  It’s going to be a slow process.  There is an excellent foundation, which I believe is U.S.-based but is international.  I happened to meet with them a couple of months ago in Srebrenica where they’ve been doing some very advanced DNA identification of the bodies from mass graves there.  The task in Iraq is probably 10 times or 100 times greater.  Just in Al Hallah alone, there are probably more people than in all of Srebrenica. That group is very eager to provide assistance.  I know that the Marines that I visited with try to do their best to help local Iraqis – in fact, they are helping local Iraqis (Inaudible.) to try to preserve things as well as possible so that this process can take place over time.


     Q:  Will the U.S. assist?


     Wolfowitz:  We will assist and I think the international community can assist.  But I think mostly this will be an Iraqi job.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     It’s a lot of silliness.  I have just been in Baghdad.  I would say probably the majority of the senior people I met with happened to be from the State Department but it’s interagency teams and we use people outside the government as well as inside.  We are trying to assemble the best talent this country has to offer.  Ambassador Bremer has a very distinguished career at the State Department and he is working very well with all agencies.  It’s your typical Washington kind of story and when you get to Baghdad people understand.  It’s a big job to get done and I think they are doing very well.  To do it, conditions aren’t perfect.  Challenges are very big. 


     What really impressed me was hearing from veterans of the Balkans, from U.S. military, including General Sanchez, from British colleagues, (Inaudible.).  People who were in Bosnia-Kosovo say we have accomplished more in 3 months in Iraq than in either of those 2 places in 12 months or longer.  I think that is an encouraging sign.  I think that it’s a reminder to everybody (Inaudible.).

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