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U.S. Committed to Bosnia Mission; Iraq Still a Problem

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2002 -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a national radio audience recently that U.S. troops will stay in Bosnia and that a new regime in Iraq minus Saddam Hussein would be good for the world.

Wolfowitz conducted a one-hour live interview July 2 with National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" news hosts Neal Conan and Tom Gjelten.

Gjelten, NPR's national security correspondent, first asked about U.S. concerns that its peacekeeping forces in Bosnia "might be exposed" to prosecution by the International Criminal Court established July 1.

"We're still committed to keeping our troops in Bosnia," Wolfowitz responded. However, he emphasized, "Our peacekeepers in Bosnia and elsewhere . are potentially going to be subject to . a court that has essentially no political supervision over it and prosecutors who are free to potentially try people on very political charges.

"We don't believe that that's a kind of threat that we should expose our people to," he added.

At a July 2 press briefing, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called the international court "a threat to civilian, military individuals from the United States of America, regardless of whether they're doing peacekeeping or warfighting."

The ICC's mission is to prosecute war criminals and dictators alleged to have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some 138 countries signed on to create the organization, which is to be based in The Hague, the Netherlands. The ICC currently has 74 member countries.

The U.S. Defense and State departments would seek to work through the United Nations, and agreements with other countries, to mitigate any possible adverse effects of ICC policy on American troops, according to senior DoD officials.

"There's every reason to continue the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. We're completely committed to it," Wolfowitz emphasized. He implied, however, that U.S. troops serving in Bosnia should be immune to ICC prosecutors. "There's every reason to have a U.N. resolution that provides that kind of protection for the peacekeepers."

The United States has supported a number of international courts, Wolfowitz pointed out, including one already in The Hague that is trying defendants for alleged crimes in Bosnia.

"Those courts have been established under U.N. Security Council supervision and with appropriate safeguards," he noted.

Under the ICC treaty, senior DoD officials have noted, citizens from nonmember countries could be prosecuted for alleged crimes. In this scenario, U.S. citizens, including service members, could be extradited and tried without the legal protections provided by the U.S. Constitution.

"Our objection to this whole treaty is that there were none of those safeguards included when this treaty was negotiated," he noted.

Turning to the Middle East after a caller asked what the United States would do about Iraq, Wolfowitz said President Bush categorized Iraq as "a problem" in his State of the Union.

Iraq, he continued, is one of several countries that have openly expressed hostility to the United States, have been actively supporting terrorists and terrorist networks, and have weapons of mass destruction and are developing more.

This situation is a dangerous, deadly combination that the United States can't live with indefinitely, Wolfowitz said. The timetable for dealing with Iraq and other hostile nations suspected of supporting terrorism is different in each case, and the most important decisions are ones only the president can make, he added.

The deputy secretary said the Iraqi people historically have been among the most skilled, most educated and most talented populations in the Arab world. He said they have potentially enormous national resources. Then he condemned the current regime under Saddam Hussein for squandering the nation's wealth "on building palaces and military weapons and weapons of mass destruction."

The situation is lamentable, he said, because Iraq has plenty of human and material resources to be a very prosperous, successful nation.

An Iraq without Saddam Hussein or a similarly styled dictator "could be a major force for good in this world and in this struggle for toleration and moderation against terrorism," he emphasized.

Gjelten mentioned that U.S. leaders in 1991 seemed leery of continuing the Persian Gulf War to topple Hussein after driving his forces from Kuwait. Wolfowitz responded that U.S. and other leaders probably thought a weakened Hussein couldn't survive politically after a military defeat of such magnitude.

"Frankly," he remarked, "I don't believe at the time most people believed that Saddam Hussein would still be around 11 years later and (be) capable of doing the kinds of things he's capable of."

The Sept. 11 attacks, Wolfowitz noted, may be construed as "a shadow, an inkling" of the potential danger Iraq and some other countries present to the United States and its friends. Such threats represent "a matter of a danger to be prevented," he added.

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