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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Reaches Out to Indonesians

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2002 -- Terrorism is a "great challenge" to democracy and unity in Indonesia, but Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Indonesian people today that he thinks they are up to the challenge.

Speaking live on an Indonesian television station via a telephone link from the Pentagon, Wolfowitz used the opportunity to reiterate the oft-made point that America is not an enemy of Islam, terrorists are.

Indonesia is the most populous predominantly Muslim nation in the world, and it has had its own recent problems with terrorism. A terrorist bombing at a nightclub in the mostly Hindu province of Bali in October killed nearly 200 people, many of them Western tourists.

Wolfowitz has a special bond with the people of the island nation. He was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia under the Reagan Administration. He invoked those close personal ties today in getting his message across.

"If Indonesians don't do something to stop terrorism in Indonesia, it's going to have really terrible consequences for democracy in that wonderful,important country that I love so much," Wolfowitz said.

The deputy secretary said it's a shame the United States constantly has to defend its actions when this country has such a strong history of defending and aiding Muslim populations.

"The United States, I believe over many years and particularly in the past 10 years, has regularly gone to the aid of oppressed Muslim populations," he said. "I don't think we've got something to defend in our record."

Wolfowitz cited U.S. military interventions to assist Muslim populations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia, and noted the United States fought the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War to liberate and defend Kuwait from "a vicious dictator," Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

He also said millions of Muslims in Afghanistan are better off because the United States helped overthrow the repressive Taliban regime in that country.

"No one ever said that we were fighting for Islam when we did that, but we happened to be defending Muslim populations," Wolfowitz said.

"It is the terrorists who are the real enemy of Islam," he continued. "It's their very perverted, extreme, distorted version of the religion that they're trying to not only use as a justification for killing Americans and killing Westerners, but also the justification for subjugating Muslims."

Another aim of terrorist organizations is to drive a wedge between democratic Muslim nations, such as Indonesia, and their friends in the West. "It is, I think, very noteworthy that you can read now on al Qaeda websites elaborate justifications and glorifications of the killings in Bali," Wolfowitz pointed out.

He told the people of Indonesia they face a challenge all democracies face, to effectively fight terrorism and still protect the civil liberties of its people. This is complicated because the terrorists use the freedoms of democracy to hide their goals of undermining democracy.

"Their theory probably is that if they can increase the level of misery and desperation in this country with such a heavy Muslim population they hope to gain more recruits for their rather evil cause," Wolfowitz said.

The program's interviewer pointed out to Wolfowitz that some pundits in Indonesia have suggested the United States is responsible for the Bali attack. Wolfowitz vehemently dismissed the suggestion.

"That is just totally unbelievable fantasy," he said. "I can't believe that anybody rational actually believes that. The evidence is so clear that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organizations that are connected to them have been behind a whole series of horrible attacks on innocent people and they claim credit for it.

"In fact," he added, "if you go to some of their web sites, they're boasting about the attacks in Bali. It's inconceivable that this was done by the United States, and I can't imagine anybody informed or educated believing that."

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