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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

02 June 2003

Wolfowitz Highlights Saddam Hussein's Terrorist Links

(Deputy Secretary of Defense May 31 interview, Singapore) (3630)
The United States went to war with the regime of former Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein because of the regime's weapons of mass destruction,
its ties with terrorists, and the way it mistreated the Iraqi people,
according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
In a May 31 interview with Cable News Network in Singapore, Wolfowitz
said America's perception of the Iraq regime changed after the
September 11 terrorists' attacks on the United States, and focused on
the possibility that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction could end up
in the hands of terrorists.
"Before September 11 terrorism was viewed as something ugly, but you
lived with it," Wolfowitz said.
Saddam Hussein, too, "was viewed as something ugly," Wolfowitz said,
but also as "something that was for the Iraqi people to take care of."
After September 11, 2001, "terrorism looked different," to the United
States and the American people, Wolfowitz said.
"Saddam Hussein, who played with terrorists, and had weapons of mass
destruction, looked much more threatening to United States than just
to his own people," he continued.
Turning to the terrorist threat in the Southeast Asia region,
Wolfowitz said the terrorists' bombing in Bali in 2002 that killed
nearly 200 people "brought home just how bad it is" in the region.
"The fact is it doesn't take more than a few hundred people of that
kind, in a country of 200 million to create a serious problem,"
Wolfowitz said.
"But I'm very impressed by the professionalism with which the
Indonesian police has gone after the Bali bombers," he continued.
"We are not going to eliminate terrorists overnight or with one magic
bullet but I do believe that (in) the last year (there) has been much
more a series of defeats for them with minor tactical successes here
and there," Wolfowitz said.
Following is the transcript of the May 31 Wolfowitz interview with
Cable News Network in Singapore:
(begin transcript)
from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing
Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Q: There is a report in Vanity Fair today that just quoted you as
saying that the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was just a
bureaucratic reason. Can you respond to that?
Wolfowitz: No, it's a misquote. In fact, the full quote you can see on
our website where the whole interview is there. What I was trying to
explain there is a complicated situation. We had, in fact, three
concerns about Iraq, from the beginning, and it's repeated in Colin
Powell's statement in the UN. One was weapons of mass destruction,
about which I've never seen as unanimous a view in the intelligence
community on almost any issue. Second was the Iraqi connection with
terrorism, about which there is a range of views, although everyone
agrees that there is a connection there. And the third was Iraq's
mistreatment of its people, which has unfortunately never been in any
doubt. But in many ways, it's the first two reasons that were crucial,
and as I said in that interview, there is really a fourth reason,
which is that connection between weapons of mass destruction and
terrorism. That's the axis the President originally was talking about
in his State of Union message, is that connection between terrorism
and weapons of mass destruction. It's complicated, it's not a simple
issue, but when people say our rationale keeps changing, it's not that
keeps changing. We've had all three of those reasons from the
beginning but people who often choose to focus exclusively on the
weapons of mass destruction piece of it.
Q: Even this article seems to highlight the distrust that's around
that. The perception seems to be that weapons of mass destruction was
an excuse to move in. How did you respond
Wolfowitz: I can tell you quite emphatically it was not an excuse.
What really changed in our whole perception of this issue was
September 11. Before September 11 terrorism was viewed as something
ugly, but you lived with it. Saddam Hussein was viewed as something
ugly, something that was for the Iraqi people to take care of. After
September 11, terrorism looked different. Saddam Hussein, who played
with terrorists, and had weapons of mass destruction, looked much more
threatening to United States than just to his own people. And so it
changed the calculation entirely. I mean, without that perception of
threat, I don't believe the President would have considered it
something that American lives should be risked for, as terrible as the
regime is -- I mean there is no question the regime was a horrible
Q: The fact that there hasn't been a substantial cache of weapons of
mass destruction -- is that an embarrassment?
Wolfowitz: No. Is it an embarrassment to people on the other side that
we've discovered these biological production vans, which the defector
told us about? Look, this dictator had twelve years to develop
innumerable ways to hide his program, and we've said from the
beginning, the only way you get to the bottom of it is when people
start to talk to you. That's why we gave the UN inspectors
unprecedented powers to interview people. I think it is evidence in
itself that Saddam never allowed a single one of the scientists to go
outside the country for interview. In fact he never allowed a single
one of them to be interviewed in the country without monitors present
or at least tape recorders present. So he was a man with something to
hide, and we'll have to find it.
Q: What kind of repercussions do you think this will have now, in the
Arab world and in Southeast Asia?
Wolfowitz: I heard from one Arab foreign minister that it's a shame
that we weren't able to do this for ourselves, but it had to be done
and thank heavens you did it. This is an Arab official. I think in the
Arab world it was actually not a surprise that thousands of mass
graves turned up. I think the Arab people understand that this man was
responsible for killing more Muslims than I think any other single
individual and there is an opportunity now to build a much better Arab
society and to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Arabs are
capable of democracy. I believe they are.
Q: And yet at the same time as the Senior Minister said last night,
there also seems to be a growing concern and in some nations a fear
that the US will go it alone. Senior Minister Lee kind of chided the
US a little bit last night.
Wolfowitz: I found it surprising frankly. Why don't you chide
President Chirac for going it alone? There were 15 NATO nations on our
side and France had Belgium and Luxemburg and Germany with it, in what
seemed frankly like a rather cynical disregard of facts and disregard
of the suffering of the Iraqi people. In all of this discussion about
multilateral, unilateral, we had 46 countries with us. But more
importantly, and I would say we had 95% of the 20 million Iraqi people
with us and their voices ought to count for something.
Q: So you don't see it as a unilateral action at all, do you?
Wolfowitz: No, I don't. In fact we had more international legal
sanction I think for what we did than for the action in Kosovo that
NATO did a few years ago, and no one disputed that.
Q: How do you respond to things like the Senior Minister and what
other diplomats have said?
Wolfowitz: First of all, to say that we had a coalition of 46
countries, that we weren't acting unilaterally, that the time came
that some action had to be taken. Frankly, it was I think France's
action that has weakened the United Nations. We've seen in times past
in history when the failure to come together to act is terribly
damaging to the international community. And I think we were acting
not just in behalf of our own interest, although our own interests
were definitely involved, but I think we had very major regard
(inaudible) quite significantly. We had all the support that we needed
in the region. None of the terrible things that people said were going
to happen -- there weren't terrible mass casualties in Iraq, there
wasn't a food crisis or refugee crisis. We, I think, did a lot to take
care of the concerns that people had.
Q: What about Iran?  What policy will the U.S. pursue?
Wolfowitz: We have concerns about Iran. It's sort of actually a
welcome development that our concern about Iran's nuclear program is
now finally being shared by other countries that were dismissive about
that concern for a long time. We have a big concern about Al Qaeda in
Iran. We are not quite sure whether the Iranians hold them or don't
hold them or what they are going to do with them if they are holding
them. We are concerned more generally (about) Iran's support for
terrorism. But I believe that one of the ways that we can help to
influence Iran to a different kind of policy is by getting things
right in Iraq, because the example of a free and democratic Iraq I
think is going to increase the pressure the Iranian regime already
feels to its own people and that s a good thing.
Q: Is the threat of military action a possibility in Iraq?
Wolfowitz: You know, I think you know, we never rule out that kind of
thing. But let me put it this way. I think the most effective way we
have to persuade the Iranian regime to change is the fact that some 75
percent of the Iranian people voted (a) few years ago for a different
government. They didn't get the government they voted for, but
nevertheless this is a regime that is susceptible I think to some
extent to pressure from its own people.
Q: The thoughts of Senior Minister Lee have been mirrored often by
other Muslim leaders in Southeast Asia, by the Indonesian, by the
Malaysians. And within the Muslim world, it seems to be amplifying
into a paranoia that the U.S. is going to attack and pick them out one
by one. I've heard that said also. How do you respond to something
like that this growing paranoia in the Muslim world that the U.S. with
its power can pick them out one by one?
Wolfowitz: I think there are many Muslims, like the foreign minister I
referred to earlier, including many Arabs, who welcome the positive
change in Iraq. They wish that they had been able to do it and didn't
need us to do it. But they don't see it as picking off. They see it as
liberating a major important Arab people. I do think it is important
to make progress now in the Arab-Israeli issue. That is something that
will do a great deal to balance the concerns that we are one-sided and
that we only worry about one kind of justice.
I think it is very important also to see this Iraq thing through to
success, and while we've had some spectacular gains - it's barely two
months since the war began, let's remember that -- there is a lot of
work to be done. I think those are two very positive contributions
that when, if we can achieve them, I think the whole issue will look
different. Nobody likes war. It's not a pretty thing. It's only
compared to mass graves and the kind of terror that Saddam Hussein was
putting forward that you can say it's the lesser of two evils.
Q: (Inaudible)
A: Well we have an opportunity now. The President is meeting in Sharm
El Sheikh, I think Monday, with leaders of three Arab countries and
with Prime Minister Sharon and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian
Authority, and then he'll go on to Aqaba to meet with just the Israeli
and Palestinian.
There is a new atmosphere there. There was a new atmosphere there,
it's worth remembering, in 1991 after the defeat of Saddam Hussein
that I think is what opened the way to the Madrid conference, opened
the way to the Oslo agreements, which were two of the most positive
steps that we have seen in that process.
Removing the neighborhood bully has got to improve the environment.
But also the United States now goes into this with a credibility we
didn't have before. And I think that's going to make a difference for
Q: Do you think that that is the source that fueled a lot of the
extremism? Do you agree with that analysis of it? The Middle East?
Wolfowitz: I think it's overstated. There's no question that it fuels
extremism. But the idea that if you take that away, none of the
funding of Madrases would take place, nonsense. None of the hatred of
the United States would be there, nonsense. In fact, let's be clear,
if you read Bin Laden's proclamations, the thing that he most
complained about was the presence of American forces in Saudi Arabia
as part of the containment of Iraq. So that I believe is progress also
-- that the Saudis have no longer have to carry the burden of large
American forces on their territory, bombing Iraq almost daily, to
support a containment policy that was failing.
Q: But wasn't the U.S. in its own way supporting the Saudis who were
also exporting Wahabism. Isn't that going to be changing?
Wolfowitz: Well, it doesn't mean we are supporting the Saudi export of
Wahabism. It does mean there are worse things than the government in
Saudi Arabia, and we certainly didn't want to see it taken over by a
hostile neighbor. I believe in fact that the bombing that took place
in Riyadh about two weeks ago, ten days ago, was a kind of wake-up
call for Saudi Arabia just as I believe Bali was a wake up call for
Indonesia, and 9-11 was a wake up call for us. And while the
terrorists achieved a certain, from their point of view, tactical
success, I think it was a strategic failure and I think the Saudis are
much more serious now about dealing with their own problems than they
were before. And they have a much freer climate to do it because
Saddam Hussein isn't over their shoulder and the Americans aren't on
their doorstep.
Q: In Southeast Asia, there has been a lot of arrests over the last
month. Intelligence reports are saying that there were really two main
places Al Qaeda operatives fled to post-Afghanistan -- there were five
areas where Al Qaeda was operating but two main places the Horn of
Africa and southeast Asia, southeast Asia having the most Al Qaeda
operatives coming in here. How large of a threat remains here in your
Wolfowitz: It's hard to know because if we knew it, we d pick them up.
So we are guessing about what we know we don't know. And by the way
you have to count Pakistan and Iran as two other major places. And
northeastern Iraq, by the way, which is no longer a sanctuary. So it
wasn't one place.
My sense of the Al Qaeda problem here is that it was more indigenous,
not so much that people fled from Afghanistan into southeast Asia, but
that the penetration into southeast Asia was more extensive than we
had understood at least before 9-11, and in some ways we first started
to get an inkling it from materials we captured from Afghanistan that
led us to that group in Singapore and those arrests.
But Bali brought home just how bad it is here. The fact is it doesn't
take more than a few hundred people of that kind, in a country of 200
million to create a serious problem. But I'm very impressed by the
professionalism with which the Indonesian police have gone after the
Bali bombers. I think there is a new spirit in Indonesia. The
Philippines and Malaysia and Thailand were already quite serious and
of course Singapore -- well they were a little shocked that terrorists
could be even in this nice tightly controlled little country.
We are not going to eliminate terrorists overnight or with one magic
bullet but I do believe that the last year has been much more a series
of defeats for them with minor tactical successes here and there.
Q: Despite that there has been a lot said about Indonesia doing a lot
to dismantle the network, but the network still remains. As late as
April you still have JI and Al Qaeda still meeting in Indonesia. I
guess from you, a sense of how this network that is here, JI, how
large a threat of --
Wolfowitz: Look, there are still terrorists operating in United States
and in the UK and in Europe. Particularly I think in democratic
countries, it takes time, and you have legal restrictions on what you
can do and political constraints on what you can do, and even in less
democratic countries these people go underground. So that's why our
President had said from the beginning it is going to be long war, it's
not going to be won with one victory in Afghanistan or a second one in
Iraq. It's not going to be won just by arresting 3,000 people,
although we have done that. It's going to take time and I do believe
it's also important during that time that we build up the positive
Q: Redeployment of U.S. troops. Looking at the threat, and then
bringing the troops. Where in Southeast Asia are we looking at? We
know they are coming to the Philippines, but where --
Wolfowitz: No they are not. Here is the basic thing. We are looking at
our military posture worldwide including in the United States,
Congress has given us authority and it's not easy to get that
authority to do a base realignment and closure commission in the
United States starting in 2005. That's a big thing. We are doing it in
United States, we are doing it worldwide, because we have to figure
out how to make the most effective use of our military forces. I know
we have a lot, but the requirements are large as well, and the threat
has changed. The threat turns up in places in the world we had never
imagined we'd be in before.
But the technology has changed also, and allows us to do things with
an efficiency and an effectiveness and a reach that didn't exist when
we set up many of these bases. So we need to approach our posture
differently. But some of these announcements in the press that come if
anything from some ninth level bureaucrat, and I'm not even sure that
it came from there.
We are not about to move our Marines from Okinawa to Australia --
that's wrong. We are not about to base forces in the Philippines --
that's wrong. And in any case we are not going to make any of these
changes without consulting with our Congress and consulting with our
allies and our friends in this part of the world. So, the general
principle is correct, most of the details that I have read are either
inaccurate or extremely premature.
Q: What are the key ideas that are going to motivate this new change?
Wolfowitz: I think there are really three things. One, that we can do
things at long range with precision in a way that was never possible
before. Secondly, the same sort of internet revolution that you can
see on your home computer brings together disparate forces with an
effectiveness that never existed before. But the third thing is that
the threat is so dispersed that you need a kind of mobility and
flexibility in how you move your forces around.
It's very different from old Cold War posture in Germany, where you
thought you knew exactly what the Soviet war plan was, and exactly
what you had to do to meet it, or the threat you face on the Korean
Peninsula. Those are very fixed, they are very calculable. You need a
very big force in place to deal with them. The new threats are
unpredictable, widely dispersed, and what you may need is a much
smaller force, much more quickly.
Q: There is a growing paranoia or fear among the Muslim nations that
the U.S. power, will result in them getting picked off one by one. How
do you respond to that?
Wolfowitz: I think by my count, seven times in the last ten years or
so, U.S. military forces have gone into harm's way to rescue people
from aggression or from ethic cleansing or from war-induced famine.
I'm thinking about Kuwait, I'm thinking about northern Iraq after the
Gulf War, I'm thinking about Somalia, I'm thinking about Bosnia, I'm
thinking about Kosovo. I'm thinking of Afghanistan. I'm thinking Iraq.
All seven of those countries were majority Muslim populations. We were
there helping Muslims who were suffering, not because they were
Muslims, but because our interests were engaged and because in many
cases our moral impulses were engaged as well. I think what we're
trying to accomplish in Iraq is to help the Iraqi people build a free
and democratic country, which I think will have a powerful political
effect throughout the Muslim world and the Arab world. Not all change
is accomplished by the use of force.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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