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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with AP, Reuters

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 01, 2002

(Interview in Singapore with Steve Gugkin, AP, and Richard Hubbard, Reuters.)

Q: (Situation in South Asia)

Wolfowitz: The president made it very clear we'd like to see Pakistan put an end to the cross-border incursions and to the support for terrorism from elements inside Pakistan. We would like to see India continue to exercise restraint. Clearly the goal would be to ratchet down this crisis. We're going to be sending our deputy secretary of state out there shortly to talk to both countries and the president just announced my boss, the secretary of defense, will be following not long after that and a number of diplomats from other countries -- UK, Japan -- have been weighing in. We're reflecting a very high level of concern about the dangers this could lead to and the dangers of miscalculation. It's not a problem that either country needs at this stage and it's a problem that should be solved.

Q: You had a line in this prepared speech thanking, a few words of praise for President Musharraf, I noticed it wasn't actually delivered. Was that deliberate?

Wolfowitz: No. I was just on the verge of losing my audience as it was. I had to edit. No, I stand by everything in it. And I can be quoted on any of it. Also it was a line I used before so I was a little bored with it.

Q: I noticed a few other words that were deleted by some -- there was a sentence about how we support free markets and democracy and in Asia you hear a lot about like the Asians say we don't like to be preached to by the US. So I'm curious -- obviously you're here helping selling the U.S. anti-terror agenda. How are you feeling the responses? Do you feel that there's a certain amount of resistance possibly to being "preached at" by the U.S.?

Wolfowitz: I don't like preaching and I don't think I did. It's a fair point and one has to be careful about where is the line. I think preaching is telling other people what's good for them as opposed to trying to say here's how I see the world and obviously you can have your own views but I would say generally speaking both publicly and privately, I thought that was a message that was pretty well echoed around the room and among the countries we met with and I certainly didn't hear anyone complain that we were preaching at them. I think they actually really do recognize that this was an attack on them as well as an attack on us. And a point that hits home here very hard, it was just one low-key line in there but the point that when the market started going down on September 11 they felt that out here and they understand that when you attack the world economy you're attacking them. They're even more dependent on the health of our economy than we are when you stop to think about it.

Q: If we want to move on to Indonesia. Just kicking off -- basically are you satisfied with the way Indonesia is tackling the fight against terrorism?

Wolfowitz: -- One of the things I really was trying to get across to this audience -- and I think with some success and it still takes work -- is to get those people who are not experts on Indonesia to appreciate the importance of Indonesia's moderate traditions of Islam as a potential example for the whole Muslim world. And I was very deliberate in picking that one quote from Kareem Aslan where he mentions two extraordinary Muslim thinkers. One is a very very well known Iranian named Suroosh but the other one this extraordinary Indonesian named Nekolish Majeed whom I've known for a long time and have great admiration for. The Indonesians are kind of modest about themselves and don't go around blowing their own horn a lot. I think that probably goes along with having a tolerant attitude and not a preachy attitude but I think it's a story that needs to get out more for two reasons.

First of all, I think for those non-Muslims who think of all Muslims as being fanatics, it's an eye opener to see how different the overwhelming majority of Indonesian Muslims that are from that fanatic lineage. But secondly, more importantly for Muslims who may be tempted by the idea that the road to vindication is the road mapped by al Qaeda. Does he know that the largest Muslim population of any country in the world is a group of people really have a very very different toward religion, toward non-Muslims, toward women. One reason why I believe the U.S. and other advanced countries have a big interest in seeing Indonesian democracy succeed and Indonesian economy start to grow again as that they have the world's largest Muslim population be a success story when it embodies those values of tolerance and openness and acceptance of an important role for women. All of those -- it's nice to have Muslims think of those as qualities that are associated with success so we should have an interest in seeing Indonesia succeed for that reason.

Q: You've spoken about the need to have reform inside the Indonesian military. The question is have you actually seen any progress toward that happening?

Wolfowitz: Some progress. I think there's no question there need to be more. But the conviction of the killer of the New Zealand peacekeeper was a good step. The increased sentences that were given to the (Atambula?) killers is a good step. The trials that are on-going now are a good step although some appropriate concerns have been raised about whether the display of senior generals at the opening trial was an attempt to intimidate the result. I hope it's not. But if slowly I believe they are taking our concerns seriously. I do think there's a lot more to be done.

But I also believe that it's time for us to make good on some of our willingness to help them move forward, not just keep criticizing and keep using the sticks. Moreover, I'd like to figure out ways in which we wouldn't always use as the means of expressing displeasure. Isolating the Indonesian military from contact with the West or the U.S. I know not every story of military education is a success story but on the whole I think experience really does show that those officers who've had real contact with the U.S. are much more open in their outlook, much more accepting of the civilian control, much more supportive of democracy.

It's not an accident that -- I believe it's not an accident that the ministry of information who removed the controls on the press a few years ago was a retired general who learned about free media in a course at the army command staff college in Fort Leavenworth. It's a remarkable story, it's a big success story for military education and training and I also believe that we've come a long way in understanding that where there are problem situations like Indonesia that one can design and tailor military education courses to help educate people and officers in those things that will be helpful for democratic development but focusing in that way is a constructive thing to do.

I believe one of the reasons that we have some real problems in Pakistan today, and perhaps not an even an exaggeration to say, it's an element that contributes to this kind of crisis is that for 20 years we cut off contact with the Pakistani military and really left them as with one of the few outlets, few external influences where the Islamic extremists. That's not a healthy thing.

Q: You sort of ended your military ties in Indonesia during really I guess, partly through the Suharto regime and then the experience with East Timor. What's preventing you from reestablishing them? Is it purely Congress? Or are there -- other issues?

Wolfowitz: It's not purely Congress, it's not as though Congress says some -- I think we share a view with the Congress and with large elements of Indonesian civil society that for democracy to succeed in Indonesia the military has to be reformed. You can't have a successful democracy with a military that abuses its people. And the accountability for some of those crimes that were committed during the pre-democratic era is part of that military reform.

On the other hand possibly you can't have a successful democracy especially in a country like Indonesia if you don't have military or security forces which includes the military police as well that can deal with the serious outbreaks of communal violence that produce refugees, produce opportunities for terrorists to burrow in. And moreover the military's an important institution. It's important for Megawati who is quite extraordinary democratically elected president to have the support of that key institution.

So I think you have to balance all of those considerations and not just focus entirely on some horrendous things that were done a few years ago and as you pointed out done under the previous government not under this democratic government. But we don't want to just wipe the slate clean and forget about how we go forward. I think Senator Reed said in a session this morning that the Congress as a whole was in agreement on the desirability of re-establishing military to military contacts with Indonesia but the issue was under what conditions and I think that was fair statement of where we are. We're trying to work out conditions that will assure the right kind of progress would make it possible to move forward.

Q: If you listen to the Singaporeans and especially Lee Kuan Yew, he portrayed Indonesia as the weak link in Southeast Asia's fight against terrorism and he just pointed the simple evidence of their dozens of people arrested in Malaysia and Singapore, the Philippines, and then you hard to find arrests in Indonesia where it is much much larger and obviously majority Muslim. Do you think it's a weak link?

Wolfowitz: I certainly wouldn't use that term. It is a critical country in this respect. I'm sure I would agree with Minister Lee that it's a critical country in just its huge size, and if Indonesia were to go bad it would be spectacularly bad. I also believe that if Indonesia succeeds, as I suggested in my speech it can be a very important model for the rest of the Muslim world. The truth is I don't believe we've detected or are aware of anything in Indonesia of the scale for example, of the plot that was uncovered here in Singapore where al Qaeda people were planning a kind of repeat of the USS Cole attack in Yemen.

The problems in Indonesia are much more internally directed and the problem of Lasco Jihad which is not an international terrorist organization but is responsible for some serious incidents of communal violence and on that score the Indonesian government has in fact arrested the head of Lasco Jihad. Each of these countries has very different circumstances and very different governments. Indonesia is a wide open democracy which is another factor that has to be taken into account. Generally speaking a good factor but as we know in our own country it means that civil liberties issues come up when you deal with these things. Our FBI director was there, this was your question, are we happy, satisfied. FBI director Muller was there a month or two ago and expressed satisfaction of the progress they were making then and I believe there has been more since then.

Q: Have you found any more evidence though? I mean you've handled these al Qaeda suspects in interrogation. You've had other investigations going on. Is there evidence of any international terrorism operations emanating from Indonesia?

Wolfowitz: There are suspicions about one or two individuals and there are suspicions that there may be other people there whom we don't know about but you know of course that's true of Germany and the U.S. We're pretty sure there are people in the U.S. that we don't know about that's why the real issue isn't quite as much as are there people there who need to be arrested as our Indonesian law enforcement people doing as much as they can to gather information, to gather evidence, to develop that picture and we working to improve ourselves. I think the Indonesians are coming along and the co-operation is really very good. Both with the FBI and the CIA.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the Philippines?

Wolfowitz: I'd say a major objective of my stop is going to be to get a first hand look at what our people are doing down in Mindanao and report back to Secretary Rumsfeld and give him some advice about as he considers options for the next phase of our work there and that work is aimed at giving the Filipinos the capability to deal with their own problems. They're quite emphatic that that's what they want to do, but quite willing to take help in getting there.

It is also for me. It's going to be my first time back in the Philippines since what was for me was one of the most memorable experiences of my life which was being the assistant secretary [of state] of East Asia at the time of the democratic transition 16 years ago, that's a while. An enormous pride in seeing the Filipinos take their destiny in their own hands and satisfaction and I think the U.S. played a very constructive role in that transition and it's kind of nice to go back and see them and I'll be having a dinner in Malacanang I think this is the first time I'll have ever been in Malacanang when it was under democratic control that's a good thing.