Utterances.net edited by Jalel Harchaoui.
 

27 March 2013

A democratic Iraq will assist the Saudis in transitioning to a parliamentary monarchy
Aug. 2003: Wolfowitz speaks to the American public
by Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz, who never was elected into any position, is recognized as the “paradigmatic figure” of the Iraq war, i.e. the intellectual in charge of envisioning a graceful paradigm, knowing that the conclusion is already fixed: the targeted country must be taken over. In that quality, the deputy secretary of defense was, rightfully, hailed as “the Bush administration’s idealist in chief.” Wolfowitz was “a rare animal in Washington—genuine intellectual in a top policymaking job. [...] He reads about the Arab world, bleeds for its oppression and dreams of liberating it” (Washington Post, 12-Nov-03). “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,” Paul Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair’s Jul. 2003 issue. The transcript of the 04-Aug-03 interview below (Charlie Rose, PBS) is not about Paul Wolfowitz the person. Rather, it is a means of asking, Who are the current idealists in Washington c. 2013? Is the common American responding any differently?
Aug. 2003: Wolfowitz speaks to the American public

Deputy Sec. of Defense Wolfowitz, 2003.

The battle to win the peace in Iraq is now the central front in America’s war on terrorism. The latter really has two pieces to it and both of them are in play in Iraq. One is the whole effort to capture and kill terrorists; to root out these terrorist networks. The other piece of America’s war on terror, which is just as important, and why I think we have a real opportunity in Iraq, is to, in the President’s words of a year ago [16-Feb-02], “to build a better world beyond the war on terror.” To demonstrate—especially to the Arab and Muslim world—that there is a better way than the way of the terrorist. Part of what the terrorists feed on is a sense of despair and defeat, [a sentiment] that Muslim societies all around them are failures. And they shouldn’t be; there’s no reason. The Arabs are talented people [as opposed to other ethnic groups]. They come to this country and they do great things. But they’ve lived under oppressive governments now for decades and we just got rid of one of the most oppressive[, Saddam Hussein’s rule].

Do you think the Arab world and the Muslim world understand that this [war] is a real opportunity and [that they] share with the United States that opportunity?

I know quite a few Arab democrats. There are a lot of Arab democrats who understand it perfectly. I am struck at how many Arabs who share our values really do see what’s at stake in Iraq. [Yet,] all of them do not. There are a lot of myths out there that this was a war for oil, or to take the resources of the Iraqi people. Absolute nonsense. And, at some point [in time], they’ll see that it’s absolute nonsense.

Then [on the other hand,] there are people who benefit from the stagnation of the Muslim and Arab world and they’re a little bit afraid of change and they’re not quite sure where it’s going. But, you know, we’ve had some very interesting discussions recently with the Turkish foreign minister and with people from Turkey. Turkey is one of the great examples in the Muslim world of a country that’s secular and democratic and making real progress. And the Turks see the stakes; they see that a democratic, free Iraq would not only be a good neighbor for them but help join them in moving the Muslim world forward.

Why didn’t Ankara join Washington then?

Oh that’s a complicated question but they are joining us now. They really want to be part of building a free and democratic Iraq.

And they are prepared to send troops?

They are prepared to. It’s a delicate issue because Ankara’s relations with the Kurds are ambivalent, to say the least[1]. We’ve talked to the Turkish government however about participating not in the Kurdish areas in the north, but in the center and south of Iraq. Even more than [just committing] troops, I think the Turkish government wants to be part of the political and economic reconstruction. I shouldn’t use that word reconstruction. I mean this country [Iraq] was deconstructed by Saddam for over 35 years and the wealth of the country was poured into palaces and torture chambers and tanks and artillery pieces and weapons of mass destruction. It’s really a matter of rehabilitating a country that has just been run into the ground.

It is said about you that you look to an East-Asian model because of your own experience out there. That happened after World War II, too [seems to have inspired you]: some say there is a model in Germany in terms of what the United States was able to do with the Marshall plan. Are they models for what you think can be done in Iraq?

Well, the experience I had in East Asia did, and it’s not me personally—I mean our country had that experience. If you think back (for me, it coincided with becoming the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia in 1982) Japan was the only democracy in East Asia at that time. The Philippines made a dramatic transition to democracy [in 1986] and I’m proud to have played a small role in that when I was at the State Department.

You recommended to President Reagan he should let Marcos go.

Well, [I was] one of quite a few people who did. And I think that had a big influence elsewhere, I think it had a big influence on the transition that took place in South Korea just a year later. And South Korea has been an example that has inspired others. Taiwan, first Chinese democracy maybe in history, there’s some debate about whether there was a predecessor but no question that here’s a Chinese society that’s demonstrated a capacity for democracy. That has a huge influence by its example on other Chinese particularly, but also throughout Asia. I was Ambassador to Indonesia for three years [in 1986-89]. That is the largest Muslim population of any country in the world and when I was there it was a dictator named Suharto who ran the country, now they have a democratically elected President, it’s a woman named Megawati. They’re still struggling. I’m not saying it’s a rosy picture, but I think that that kind of evolution over a twenty-year period didn’t happen overnight. It’s something that can happen in the Arab world as well. We’ll all be better off when it does; that’s the important point [to bear in mind].

And how goes it so far in Iraq?

A lot better than what I read in the newspapers. I was just there for almost five days. Thanks to the wonderful support of the U.S. military, I think we did about two weeks’ worth of travel in five days of 16 hours each. Of course, our troops are doing a magnificent job there, that’s part of the story. But the other part of the story is that the Iraqi people are part of this coalition. Three really strong impressions: Number one—enormous gratitude for their liberation. As we would drive by, little kids would run up to road in order to wave and give us a thumbs-up sign. Meeting after meeting with town councilmen in the Shia heartland in Najaf and Karbala, up north. We have a mixed population of Kurds and Arabs and Turks: over and over again, “Thank you President Bush”, “Thank you Prime Minister Blair”, “Thank you coalition troops for liberating us.”

One of the most dramatic moments in that regard came when we passed the shrine of Ali in Karbala, one of the holiest shrines of Shia Islam and people waved and I couldn’t roll down the windows in my car because it was unfortunately armored but people in my party who did roll down the windows heard people calling out, “Thank you Bush” and “Hooray” and “Thank you America.”

Where does the resistance come from then?

The resistance—so-called resistance—I wouldn’t dignify these people with the same word that we used for the anti-Nazi resistance. This is a reactionary resistance that aims to restore that evil regime that persecuted Iraqis of all kinds, all religions, all ethnic groups for 35 years. It is basically centered on those elements that were the instruments of terror and torture of the old regime. The so-called Special Security Organization, which is kind of like the Gestapo, the Special Republican Guards kept an eye on the Republican Guards, who were in turn keeping an eye on the regular Army.

There is no more important objective in American foreign policy today than to win the peace in Iraq?]

That’s right.

Because it says everything to the region and if you want to stabilize the region, and because you believe it is the centerpiece of the global fight against terrorism, why is Iraq the centerpiece?

Well, you know John Abizaid, who is the new Commander of Central Command, who’s a remarkable General, I mean he’s a terrific soldier. He speaks Arabic, knows the region. I actually first met him up in northern Iraq in 1991 when he was commanding a battalion in part what we call Operation Provide Comfort. He said, I think this a paraphrase, “The heart of the terrorism problem is in the Middle East and the heart of the Middle East is Iraq and what happens in Iraq is going to determine in a crucial way which way the Middle East goes.”

Iraq is one of the most important countries in the Arab world. It’s one of the most educated populations in the Arab world and I think (now I’m going to give my interpretation) it is the place right now where there is a real struggle between the Baathist terrorists aligned with foreign terrorists and those people who really want to build a free and democratic Iraq. It is the turning point, I think, in terms of what an Arab country can become, and it is very important for the security of the United States for the Arab world to see that there is a free and democratic future for Arabs.

As you know, ‘Baathist terrorist’ is one thing and ‘al-Qaeda terrorist’ is another, aren’t they? Some people make the point that Iraq was not a stronghold for al-Qaeda and all the terrorists who were responsible for 9/11. While al-Qaeda may have had friends there, maybe have had bin Laden there [inside Iraq] and may have made some connection that people are not sure about, i.e., it is not the center of terrorism from that standpoint?

Look, that sort of assumes that what you need to have is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the Iraqis were directly connected to 9/11. I think the lesson of 9/11 was that it was about more than just 9/11. It was about this whole insidious network of terrorists that work with one another and unfortunately get support from a number of governments. There’s no question that [Hussein’s] regime harbored terrorists, including [Palestinian killers] Abu Abbas whom we captured [in Baghdad in Apr. 2004], Abu Nidal whom [Saddam Hussein’s regime arrested] killed [in Aug. 2002]. There’s no question this regime was offering $25,000 for suicide bombers in Israel. There’s also no question that they were harboring al-Qaeda people, this fellow, [Sunni Jordanian killer Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, whom Secretary Powell spoke of in the U.N. Zarqawi was crucial in the [October 2002] assassination of our diplomat in Jordan, Laurence Foley, and was part of a network that was plotting to plant ricin […] in the subway in London and elsewhere in Europe. How close those ties were, we still do not know. We’re still digging into that. But it was there. What is also important is, I think that, in some ways, Iraq now is no longer a sanctuary [for terrorists]. What is important right now is that foreign terrorist groups, including one particularly evil one called Ansar al-Islam which is aligned with al-Qaeda or aligned with the Baathists in a common objective. And that common objective is: they believe that if they can just kill enough Americans, they think they can repeat the history of Beirut and Mogadishu, i.e., that we will go home and they will be able to restore this evil regime with all that it means. Well, they’re not going to succeed. We’re winning this. […]

What will the war cost? And I mean by this in terms of troops, in terms of resources, in terms of money and what’s necessary if it’s that crucial in the war against terrorism to win? How do you measure victory and what will it cost to get victory?

Well, we’re spending $4 billion a month right now on our troops [there]. That is not a small amount of money. How long we’ll have to keep doing that depends on the progress in the war and that’s something you just can’t predict. There’s a lot of work to be done not just to restore the infrastructure of Iraq—there was actually relatively little war damage—but to rehabilitate it from these 35 years of abuse. I would say two things, maybe three. I mean it probably will be expensive, but number one, there are a lot of resources that Iraq will eventually be able to apply to its own rehabilitation. Not right now—right now they’re going to need help and certainly the . . .

Won’t the country’s oil resources cover it?

No. But in the long run this is a country that’s rich in natural resources and even more importantly, rich in human resources. And I think the lesson of modern economics is that it’s the people that really make economies. It’s a very, very talented, educated population.

The second point, though, is, This is part of making the world safer for us. For instance, we’re here in New York. People here don’t need any reminders of what terrorism can cost us even when it’s just some commercial airplanes as a weapon. And if we don’t succeed in this struggle to essentially do to terrorism what was done in earlier centuries with slavery and piracy—to make it essentially a outlaw activity, one that countries don’t support and don’t have these networks—then the dangers facing us are enormous. So the stakes are large and I think this country is up to it and I think the American people understand how large the stakes are.

Is there a window of opportunity here? Where if we don’t make significant strides in a month or in six months, we don’t have Iraqis in principal positions, we will be losing ground to those who are in opposition to us?

There is a window of opportunity and the faster we can move on certain things, the better it is. You want to retain that sense of gratitude, you want to retain the support of the population and the longer people go without electricity, the longer they go without jobs, the greater the danger is that they might as (I think it would take a lot though) to think that maybe it’s better to have Saddam back with all of his cruelties. I think that regime was so terrible, the willingness for some patience is not inconsiderable. But time is not something you want to squander here. It’s much better to, I think, move quickly on things like electricity, try to fix that electricity system as fast as you can so people go back to work, so that young people are not unemployed. There’s an urgency to this, yes.

The Administration does not want to go to the UN and get a new resolution does it?

First of all, we have a UN resolution. Sometimes even I get into this discussion as to whether there’s a very good resolution now.

Or maybe amend it or add to it?

We want all the help that we can get militarily, economically and there are some countries who’ve at least said they will be able to do more if there was another resolution and we’re certainly open to looking at that possibility. But what we don’t want to have is a resolution that instead of bringing us help brings a lot of slowness in this process. We were just talking a few minutes ago about the need for urgency, the need for speed. I was struck by the way both military and civilians, Americans as well as British as well as some other coalition partners who had experience in Kosovo and Bosnia -- almost everyone I heard said we are way ahead of where we were in those places at a comparable time. In fact, General Sanchez who was in Kosovo the whole first year gave me a list of ten things that had already been accomplished in Iraq that weren’t accomplished in Kosovo after 12 months. I think it’s, in part, because we have set up very consciously a pretty stream-lined chain of command, enormous authority given to Ambassador Bremer as the President’s representative. We’ve got town councils stood up all over the country.

I hear you saying that any UN resolution, new or amended resolution, that reduces American control or coalition control or limits the actions of Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III is not something that you would favor, correct?

I think that’s a fair statement.

And that’s the price of getting UN support are countries to come in under a UN mandate then it’s not worth paying that additional price?

We have over 20 countries that are coming in already.

That said, you’d need more. If you had more, then you could bring some of the American troops home and I know you want to do that, correct?

We’d like to. We are getting over 20,000 (I think close to 30,000) coalition troops already coming in. I met the Commander of the Polish Brigade that’s going to take over one of these main cities. We’re going to have an Italian Brigade taking another whole province, a Dutch Brigade taking a whole province, there’s a lot that’s moving forward. And look, there are some countries that are not going to come in until we’ve taken care of the Baathists. They don’t want to send their troops into a combat zone. So they may say they want a UN resolution but that’s not the only obstacle. We’d like a UN resolution if it’s helpful, it shouldn’t be just people trying to interfere with what I think has been actually a pretty smooth and rapid movement forward.

What’s your judgment about weapons of mass destruction and what happened?

Oh, I think we’re going to find them. David Kay who’s been put in charge of the search is absolutely confident we’ll find them. I’ve seen a lot of intelligence estimates over the years, I’ve seen very few that were as unanimous as this one -- that they had chemical weapons, they had biological weapons, and they were working on nuclear weapons.

You think you will find them because he hid them somewhere and you have not yet been – because he may have been a master in camouflage and covering up? You will find them somewhere?

Saddam Hussein had 12 years to deliberately hide and conceal [weapons of mass destruction]. You know, you fly over Baghdad, a couple of impressions: One is how much electricity there is and how many cars are driving around the streets at night. But the other, this is a city the size of Los Angeles and you look at those houses and you say, Any one of those houses could have a lethal quantity of anthrax in the basement. You’re not going to find that with house-to-house searches; you’re only going to find that when people start to talk about what they did.

But we’ve been there long enough and talked to enough people. You would think that there would be some indication so far, wouldn’t there?

There are some indications. Let me say also that we just found some leaflets circulating in Baghdad about (well I don’t know when we found them, [Iraq Survey Group head and weapons inspector] David Kay told me about them about) a week ago, threatening people with death if they give us information about weapons of mass destruction. Well, when there are threats like that out there, people are going to probably, if they know something, be a little bit careful. So it will take time and we want to be careful not to jump forward with somebody’s testimony if we can’t corroborate it in other ways. But, as I say, I’ve rarely seen an intelligent judgment that was as unanimous as that one.

Even today, notwithstanding the fact that Iraqi scientists, according to what I read are saying that there were no weapons of mass destruction?

Well, they may be lying. They may have been deliberately dismissed in order to continue the [weapons] program another way. You know even we were able to hide things I don’t know how many years. We hid the whole fact of stealth technology until we unveiled it and we don’t do it by resorting to torture and threats of death. We just do it by keeping the number of people who actually know the truth extremely small. If you think about the stakes for this regime and 12 years to do it . . . And, Charlie, if they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, why on earth did they go for 12 years with those sanctions giving up over $100 billion over that period of time? You think of the palaces he [Saddam Hussein] could have built with that [money]?

So what do those Iraqis you have in custody say in response to that very question?

I’m not interrogating them so I don’t know what they say. I know that what other Iraqis say is, Why are you Americans so obsessed about weapons of mass destruction? These graves that you’re digging, Saddam Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction [himself]. The damage that he did to our country was a weapon of mass destruction [per se].

As you know the reason that they’re obsessive is because it was used as a reason for urgency with respect to the war?

Let’s not jump to conclusions. We will get to the bottom of what went on, but it’ll take some time.

What do these people like Tariq Aziz tell you? Are they saying we just followed orders, we were fearful our life, we had to do what he did or he would have killed us? Or are they saying we believed Saddam gave us a good life, we were among the privileged class and so we served an evil dictator?

I think at the top level for the most part they just don’t say anything or they seem to be lying. [...] [One of our people explained to me that] the whole concept of plea-bargaining in the old regime did not exist. If you told the truth you simply got executed sooner and with less torture. And I repeat, the threat of retribution from the Baathists is [still] around [at this minute]. The more we can remove that threat the more we can remove this blanket of fear, I think the more we’ll get to the truth about everything, including weapons of mass destruction.

Do you believe that it is necessary to have more and more Iraqis in the police and in the effort? That once you have the Iraqis as the public perception of police and military you will get more Baathists under control?

Absolutely and it’s in Mosul where they’ve turned in Uday and Qusay. They were already training an Iraqi; I think they call it Self-Defense Force. It’s an interesting mixture of some Kurdish fighters, some what we used to call the Free Iraqi Forces, and some people rehabilitated from the old Army. In the city of Kirkuk, the whole police function is now taken over by Iraqi police. So we’re making progress. To get Iraqi troops up and running is even more important than getting Indian troops or other foreign troops in this. There are a lot of Iraqis who would be very happy to risk their lives guarding places, fighting Baathists. It shouldn’t just be Americans [risking their lives].

[The Iraqis] don’t want us [to leave]. It’s very interesting. There are polls. The polls show pretty consistently [that the Iraqis] want to be sure that we will eventually leave, but they want to be sure we don’t leave too soon. [The United States leaving too soon would] mean the return of this horrible regime. They have been known to have enormous staying power and to have come back from defeat in the Iran/Iraq war and defeat in the Kuwait war and those two in particular. So I think what the [Iraqis] would really like to see, and they are starting to see it more and more, is us receding into the background—the standing up of the governing council in July, i.e., the interim governing council. We’re going to have to get a constitution[2], have elections[3]. I think that was a very important step for them to be convinced that, eventually, they will [see the U.S. giving their sovereignty back to them]. Hopefully sooner rather than later, they’ll be running their own affairs.

And you think that’s a matter of months before Saddam Hussein is captured?

Secretary Rumsfeld was asked the other day, Are you getting closer? And he said there’s just no way to know how close you are until you actually get him.

Many people say that this was a war of choice and not a war that was necessary at this time. So the question is, What did we gain by going when we did and what would we have lost by going later.

Let me first point out that, in many ways, this was a war that never ended. This was a continuation of a war that was supposed to have ended in 1991 with UN Resolution 687, that declared the terms of ceasefire. And Saddam violated those terms over and over and over again.

The war certainly ended too early in your view you specifically?

We probably did let the pressure up at just the moment when it might have made a difference. But I think, I mean, one of the important considerations to me is that we had put together an enormous effort to get a minimal and grudging compliance with the UN resolution. It wasn’t even compliance. I mean they were frustrating inspectors; they were making lying declarations. We not only had tens of thousands of troops mobilized to get that effort going, but enormous pressure on countries in the region who in fact were supporting us. Many of them supporting us quietly and tactfully. The notion that you could have just continued for months and months or another 12 years with that kind of pressure is nonsense. Just think about the fact that shortly after the fall of Baghdad there was that awful bombing on 12-May-03 in Riyadh, which shook the Saudi regime. [That attack] changed the attitude about terrorism but, you know, it happened after we had finished the job in Iraq—or the major job—and we no longer needed the base forces in Saudi Arabia. So [the Saudi leaders] were able to deal with their terrorism problem free of that burden[4]. If it had come in the middle of a build-up of a war against Iraq and they’d told us, We’re sorry but the terrorists are a bigger problem for us in Iraq and would you please leave [the Arabian Peninsula], I mean it would have been a very, very big blow. So we had assembled quite a coalition in spite of some of the things that are said, and, in my view, it was much more important to keep those countries of the region that were critical to our success in the coalition, than continuing, hoping that maybe, maybe, maybe if we waited long enough France would join us.

The French were talking about five more months, letting inspection do it’s part and all that.

This time it was “five more months.” I mean, it’s been 12 years of “five more months.”

So you worried specifically that if we waited we might lose some of the momentum to go to war?

Some of the ability to win, yes. [To defeat Saddam Hussein’s army] looks easy in hindsight. There were a lot of dangers that were prevented by the fact that we had what we needed when we needed it.

And nothing would have been gained by delay in your judgment?

I can’t see what would have been gained and you know a lot of–let’s remember what that UN resolution was supposed to do. It was supposed to be the last and final chance for Saddam to comply with what he was supposed to have done 12 years prior. He was supposed to give a full and complete declaration of what he had, which everyone agrees he didn’t do and he was supposed to comply fully with the UN inspectors, which everyone agreed he didn’t do. Now some people say, Okay, but you know the UN inspectors were making progress. They were finding things Hussein hadn’t declared. They were finding things he had hidden. [The Iraqis] were destroying them—"if you’d only given him more time.” Just look at how hard it is with all that we have in Iraq today to find what’s there. You think 200 UN inspectors working for another 12 years wouldn’t have done the same?

So we wouldn’t have found the weapons of mass destruction even if we had five more months, in your judgment? Since we haven’t found them this far?

That’s right. Since it’s been this difficult, I think it tells you how much more [effort it will take]. Everyone is convinced the weapons of mass destruction are there. [Former diplomat and Valerie Plame’s husband] Joe Wilson is convinced they’re there.

What lessons does Iraq hold for the United States in terms of how it views its mission in the world?

As far as the future goes, the United States’ mission in the world is] central and there’s a certain simple-minded view that democracy is the solution for all the world’s problems, that all countries can be democratic and that it’s easy to make fun of that. But I still think, at its core, it is essentially a sound principle. That we do, we are comfortable in a world where people can determine their own form of government freely. That when people have that chance they tend to go in the direction that we’ve seen in Europe. [We also have seen it] East Asia—that [people] like to go about their business, they like to take care of their families, they don’t like waging imperial wars of the kind that Saddam Hussein continued to wage. We will be much better off and this problem of terrorism can be licked if the Muslim world begins to join that trend of history[, democracy].

And Iraq will more likely make that happen?

I think it’s not going to guarantee anything, but I think [democracy in Iraq is going to be] a major step in that direction.

Other people will make this argument that war engenders anti-Americanism around the world; that it’s made it more difficult for some nation-states that we would like to be on our side to join with us in the fight against terrorism. And made in some cases cooperation more difficult than easy?

Look, anti-Americanism is a problem that didn’t start with Iraq.

But perhaps the war on Iraq has increased it?

The war certainly has not increased anti-Americanism inside Iraq. There are 20 million Iraqis, most of whom are grateful for what we’ve done. And I believe that, if you think forward a few years, and we succeed in Iraq, we’re going to have 20 million witnesses to what we accomplished. I’m sure there was a lot of anti-Americanism in Germany and in Japan, I don’t want to compare those—those are very different situations, but you can’t measure these things by the moment. The Germans and Japanese, their success today is very much attributable to what the United States accomplished [in 1944-45].

As far as the argument about cooperation, I see evidence day after day of countries who may disagree with us on Iraq or on other matters of policy but do not by any means refuse to cooperate with us against terrorism. The fight against terrorism is a very fundamental fight. I think there’s some 90 countries that you can count in that coalition and they’ve stuck with us. Our cooperation with Pakistan is ever so strong as before.

You were saying that anybody that argues that this has been an impediment in the war against terrorism, quite the contrary, it has in fact helped us in the war against terrorism?

I believe it really has, yes.

And it will help in the future more so because you will create [a democratic example] out of Iraq—notwithstanding the battles now, notwithstanding the fights, if it works out in Iraq it will be the strongest argument against terrorism that can be made?

I think it would be powerful if it works out in Iraq. It will be a powerful argument in the Muslim world that there is a much better way than the terrorist way, and that Americans really did do something for themselves but, in the process, did something for an Arab people. [Our initiative will demonstrate] that Arab people are capable of building a country that’s a model for their world.

We Americans have done things before for Muslim people. I’m thinking of Bosnia and Kosovo and places like that.

And we probably didn’t get enough credit for it but yes, we have. We went to war in Kosovo [in 1999], and we brought in peacekeepers in Bosnia. We’ve sent in troops into Somalia, we rescued Kuwait. Every one of those countries are majority Muslim population, but this [the war in Iraq] is something a little bit different. Iraq is the heart of the Arab world, the heart of the Muslim world. I shouldn’t say the heart. It is a centerpiece for that world and success in Iraq is going to make a very big difference [going onward].

Is that the reason why, before 9/11, you have felt so strongly, some say ‘obsessive,‘ about Iraq? In 1991, in 1998 and in 2001 before 9/11.

I wasn’t alone. We had great majorities in both houses of Congress saying, and for that matter the Clinton Administration, saying that the liberation of Iraq should be a goal of American policy. What’s changed with 9/11 for me, and I think for this country as a whole, was: Before 9/11, it seemed to me a cause definitely worth contributing to. I believed we should be supporting the Iraqi people and the Iraqi opposition to try to overthrow [Hussein’s] regime. But, at the time, I would not have said, ‘We should send 150,000 American troops and go into Baghdad and risk American lives on that scale.’

[The 9/11 attacks changed it for me] because it brought home the fact that regimes like that—and that regime in particular—are a danger to our country and that [regimes like Hussein’s] can cause tragedies [on American soil] that would make 9/11 look small in comparison.

The United States is going to win [the peace] in Iraq; the coalition is going to win; and the Iraqi people are going to win.

I really think the great debate right now in American foreign policy should center on what I think we should have learned from 9/11 and which we seemed to have forgotten awfully quickly. It wasn’t just about one terrorist group or one man named bin Laden. It was really about the reality of this danger that we talked about for years and even those of us who did talk about it, I think, never quite believed it would really happen. That modern technology in the hands of terrorist groups could produce tragedies of just unbelievable proportions. And if that’s the case, then we’ve got to think about dealing with that problem root and branch. There are two fronts in that battle: one is rooting out the terrorists, dismantling the networks. The other is to encourage moderate, progressive, tolerant forces in the Muslim world.

I have to confess that that’s something that’s been a matter of interest to me for a long time. I was in Indonesia for three years (1986-89). It was inspiring actually to be in a country, the largest Muslim population in the world, where tolerance really seemed to be the watchword of most Muslims. And I think with the price of intolerance, the danger of the evil that’s represented by Osama bin Laden didn’t really come home until 9/11. I think we need to figure out how to address that together [with the Muslims around the globe] and recognize that its going to take some time [for them to learn tolerance].

Aired on 04-Aug-03.

~ Paul Wolfowitz


[1] In 1999, using mainly armament supplied by Bill Clinton—approximately $300mm’s worth of U.S. taxpayers money—the Turkish government exterminated 35,000 Kurds and destroyed 3,600 villages in southeastern Turkey.

[2] First draft submitted in Aug. 2005. The Constitution was adopted on 15 October 2005 in a referendum of the people.

[3] In 2004-05, through peaceful mobilization, the Iraqi masses rejected three attempts by the U.S.-occupation authorities to postpone, evade or dilute genuine suffrage. Non-violence prevailed. Bush was compelled to allow fair elections on 15-Dec-05.

[4] One of the proclaimed reasons for the invasion was that the ousting of Saddam would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia in compliance with a major al-Qaeda grievance since 1990-91. “Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door” to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying days before suicide bombings, attributed to al-Qaeda, against Western targets in Riyadh and Casablanca killed 75 people on 12- and 16-May-03.