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Wolfowitz Interview with the Lebanese BC


NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz Wednesday, March 26, 2003

(Interview with Ghita Fawkry, Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: No, I wouldn't characterize it that way. In fact it seems to me that from any reasonable perspective this conflict has only been going on for six days and our forces have made remarkable advances and achieved some very important objectives, including preventing what would have been an environmental disaster in Iraq if Saddam Hussein had been successful in destroying his oil fields and destroying something that belongs to the Iraqi people.

By the way I have with me an Iraqi woman, Mrs. Akia Haki, who was actually a judge once in Iraq. She can speak much more authoritatively than I can about the feelings of those Iraqis who are free to express what they think.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Haki: Well, actually this is the day that -- (In Arabic.) --

Q: (Inaudible.)

Haki: (In Arabic.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

Haki: (In Arabic.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

Haki: (In Arabic.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: Oh, no. I don't think we underestimated anything. We have gone very prepared for all the kinds of contingencies that we could face. We have a very large number of countries that are supporting us, some of them directly with combat forces, many others with support for basing and overflight rights. It's a large number of countries already that are publicly and openly identified with this coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people and many more that are hesitant to be public about it now. But I imagine that when finally this dictator is gone and the Iraqi people are free to express their real sentiments, the whole world will want to join them in an effort to build a new and free country.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: Oh, no. Six or seven days of a war in a country the enormous size of Iraq is a very short period of time. What is surprising, if anything, is how rapidly our forces have advanced and how many important objectives they've achieved.

The fact that this regime still has its death squads in major cities intimating people and executing people who try to leave and desert the regime is not a surprise. It's the way they've ruled for years. But that rule is about to come to an end, and the Iraqi people are about to be free, and I think the whole world will celebrate with them.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: War is a terrible thing. We've tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understand what the price of a war can be and what it is. But the truth is the horrors of peace in Iraq under this dictator are actually far worse than war. We've taken great care to avoid hitting civilians. That doesn't mean we succeed every time, but we've taken great care in that respect. We've tried to avoid destroying the civilian infrastructure that will be necessary afterwards for the Iraqi people to construct a free country.

But I think it's a very important thing to understand. I hear sometimes nonsense about how this is a war for oil. If the United States had wanted access to Iraq's oil all we had to do 12 years ago was to abandon any policy toward Saddam Hussein and just do commercial business with him.

I hear sometimes that this is a war for Israel. This is not a war for Israel at all. It is an opportunity, I believe, to put the lie to those people who say there aren't any democracies in the Arab world because Arabs are incapable of democracy. I think Arabs are just as capable as other human beings of democracy, and I think the Iraqi people are one of the best people to have that opportunity to demonstrate it to the world. When this dictator is gone the whole world will see a demonstration of what Arabs can achieve in a free society.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: If you look at a map of Baghdad and see what targets have been struck you will see that it is very concentrated on things like the headquarters of the Special Security Organization which are the hired killers that make sure that everybody else follows the orders of the regime. It's targeted on things like the Iraqi Intelligence Services that spy on every Iraqi. It's targeted on things like the Special Republican Guards which are there to make sure that the Republican Guards obey orders. It is targeted not on the city of Baghdad or the people of Baghdad, and I think the fact that you see so many people going about their daily life and their ordinary business gives you a powerful message. They know that we are not attacking civilian neighborhoods. Does that mean there are no accidents? Does that mean no civilians are being hurt? I wouldn't claim that at all, but it is an extraordinary effort and with the precision of our attacks we have achieved, I think, a very high level of success in making sure that those bombs fall on the people who have been oppressing the Iraqi people for so many years.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: Look, it's not true at all. When the Gulf War ended in 1991 we all hoped, including myself, that Saddam Hussein had learned his lesson, that he would comply with the provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions and we could finally have peace between Iraq and the rest of the world. Instead what we've had is 12 years of defiance of those resolutions; massacres of Kurds and Shia and for that matter many Sunis; a continued and intensified oppression of the Iraqi people. Then came September 11th and September 11th was a real shock to people in my country. We had kind of thought that terrorism was something nasty but something we had to live with. I think September 11th demonstrated that we couldn't afford to live with it any longer, and that if these UN Security Council resolutions--that demanded from Saddam to obey normal, civilized standards of behavior and to get rid of chemical weapons and biological weapons--if those resolutions were not enforced we would be in great danger.

I think the fact is that the actions that we are taking in our own self defense now are actions that are also going to benefit the Iraqi people and I believe the larger Arab world.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: I might suggest you ask Mr. Chirac because he has suggested that maybe he won't allow the UN to play a role. We certainly think the UN should play a role but the most important role should be played by the Iraqi people.

What we hope will happen is, as quickly as possible, a real transfer of authority and power to the Iraqi people, and to a government that represents them through democratic institutions, and institutions that obey the rule of law.

You know, 12 years ago when Saddam Hussein started attacking the people of Northern Iraq and drove a million or two million of them into the freezing mountains on the Turkish border, the United States and the United Kingdom--and in that case France and quite a few other countries--intervened in Northern Iraq to create a sanctuary for those people. We left in six months, in less than six months, and handed over to Iraqis, who by and large have done a pretty good job of taking care of their own affairs for the last 12 years in difficult circumstances.

Iraq is a country that is rich in natural resources. Even more important it's a country that's rich in human talent. Unfortunately too much of that talent has been driven out of the country by Saddam Hussein. But I don't think the Iraqi people are going to need the United States or the United Nations or any foreign force for very long once they're given the chance to create their own institutions.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Wolfowitz: (In Arabic.)

??

[Web version: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2003/t03282003_t0326lbc.html]

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