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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Paul Wolfowitz Speaks in Washington

Aired March 11, 2003 - 10:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to cut away and go right to Washington. We understand that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is speaking out right now, and we want to hear what he has to say.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEP. DEFENSE SECY.: That is a kind of cruel joke. No one who understands the way the Iraqi people are intimidated into silence could possibly think that any Iraqi could speak free of intimidation when their families are still inside Iraq.

But would you have to be exceptionally gullible to think that interviews conducted in a Baghdad hotel are private and not monitored. Certainly every one of the Iraqis who was interviewed in those hotels would assume that every room was bugged and monitored by Iraqi intelligence.

I said earlier: punishments worse than death. Americans may have difficulty comprehending what it means for these men to be interviewed in circumstances where they have every reason to expect that the slightest misstep on their part would be picked up by Iraqi intelligence agencies.

The possible consequences are unimaginable, thank heavens, to us. Saddam Hussein heads a regime, to name one example, that forces doctors to cut off the ears and sometimes even the tongues of people who have disobeyed the regime or spoken against it.

They don't merely punish individuals, they punish their families. And there are credible reports that the families of Iraqi nuclear and chemical and biological scientists have been moved to special locations to ensure that their knowledgeable relatives are intimidated into silence.

To put it mildly, these are not the actions of a regime that is actively cooperating with the requirement that it disclose all of its weapons of mass destruction.

More important, these are not the actions of a regime that has any legitimate claim to be ruling the Iraqi people. The fact is that while people march peacefully in Europe and here in the United States and elsewhere in the world against war, and while diplomats speak in the Security Council about our desire to avoid war, Saddam Hussein is waging war on his own people.

WOLFOWITZ: He has been doing so for decades, sometimes on a large scale, sometimes on a smaller scale.

But if it becomes necessary to use force to remove his regime, it will not be a war against Iraq. It will be a war to liberate Iraq.

(APPLAUSE)

As events have unfolded, our president has not flinched. He has been a model of moral courage.

During his press conference last week, he was crystal clear. The only acceptable outcome, the president said, is the one already defined by a unanimous vote of the Security Council: total disarmament.

The choice is not ours, it is Saddam Hussein's. If he will not disarm voluntarily, we will do it for him by force and his regime will join the Taliban in the dustbin of history.

(APPLAUSE)

As we sit here, a quarter of a million U.S. and coalition troops are on the scene and ready to get the job done. They are prepared to demonstrate once again that America's greatest asset what is general George Marshall called, "the best damn kids in the world."

(APPLAUSE)

In the event that force must be used, our deployment will have the support in one form or another of a formidable coalition. The number of countries involved will be in the substantial double digits. Might say some of them would prefer not to be named now, but they will be known with pride in due time.

No doubt you have heard a great deal about governments that are not part of our coalition. We still have hopes that they, too, will finally realize what is at stake and that time is of the essence.

But whether those countries join our coalition or not, they should understand one thing: the United States of America has the ultimate responsibility to act to ensure the peace and security of our country and our people.

(APPLAUSE)

Vice President Cheney spoke to your convention last summer and he said, "The entire world must know that we will take whatever action is necessary to defend our freedom and our security."

Of course we would like to have the unanimous support of all nations of good will and it is important for the United Nations to demonstrate that it meant what it said when it passed resolution 1441, its 17th resolution on Iraq since the Gulf War.

We do not want to see the credibility of the U.N. go the way of the League of Nations, which failed to act to stop the slide into World War II. Many of you served in that terrible war. You know firsthand what it cost the United States in terms of lives and treasure. You saw what it cost others around the world. Forty to 50 million people dead. Whole cities destroyed. Great nations laid waste.

Near its conclusion, President Roosevelt asked Winston Churchill how the Second World War should be remembered. Churchill replied it should be called the unnecessary war. Unnecessary, Churchill explained, because there never was a war more easy to stop.

For years the world had allowed the Nazis to build a war machine in direct violation of international agreements. For years nothing was done despite, the warnings of Churchill and others, and in spite of the fact that courageous leaders could easily have put a stop to that threat when it was still small and building.

Of course, there were those in the 1930s who, fearing war, as any sensible person must do, and eager for peace, opposed taking a firm stand. Tragically, their actions paved the way to a much larger war.

Today, we hear calls to give Saddam Hussein more time, but we should ask, how long should we wait and what are we waiting for?

Should we wait until the frontline members of our coalition are breaking under the strain of standing up to Iraq? Should we wait in the people inside Iraq who are ready to help us give up all hope? Or should we wait until Saddam Hussein finishes preparing weapons of mass terror, weapons that will further endanger our troops or which he can use on his own people as he has done in the past.

Those very weapons are the source of our concern. The issue is not about Iraqi oil.

WOLFOWITZ: If the United States had wanted access to Iraqi oil, we could have dropped our whole policy 12 years ago, lifted the sanctions and let Saddam Hussein have his weapon of mass destruction.

No, if there is going to be a war, it will be a war to disarm Saddam's weapons of mass terror. But it will also be, like wars that you fought in, a war of liberation, a war to secure peace and freedom, not only for ourselves, but for the Iraqi people who have suffered so long under one of the world's most brutal tyrannies.

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to spend an afternoon with hundreds of Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan. I wish you could hear some of their stories so you could appreciate what those people and their families have gone through and how much they and their relatives back in Iraq want to be freed of Saddam Hussein and freed of the offensive weapons that threaten to terrorize the Middle East and the world.

Over and over we hear reports of Iraqis here in the United States who manage to communicate with their friends and families in Iraq, and what they are hearing is amazing. Their friends and relatives want to know, "What is taking the Americans so long? When are you coming?"

In a meeting last week at the White House one of these Iraqi- Americans said, "A war with Saddam Hussein would be a war for Iraq, not against Iraq." Another leader at that same meeting, (INAUDIBLE), told us, "Please stop the war that is going on inside Iraq, the war that Saddam Hussein has been waging against the Iraqi people for years."

His plea reminds us of something John F. Kennedy, another VFW member and a hero of World War II, once said: "The mere absence of war is not peace."

The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberators. They know that America will not come as a conqueror. Our plan, as President Bush has said, is to remain as long as necessary and not one day more.

And the Iraqis also recognize that the economic and political reconstruction of their country will be difficult. It will take their best efforts, with the help of the United States and our coalition partners. But they are driven by the dream of a just and democratic society in Iraq. In conclusion, I would like to ask for your continued support. The war on terrorism is a tough and dangerous business. It is a war we did not seek, but it is also a war that we cannot avoid.

I would ask you to keep our men and women in the armed forces in your prayers. You have been there, you know the risks; you also know the stakes.

Winning this war will require courage on the part of many. Courage is a virtue that enables some people to go above and beyond the call of duty, the courage to act without regard to one's own safety, even in the face of mortal danger.

General Omar Bradley described it as the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.

In truth, as you know much better than most, courage is the capacity to overcome fear, not the absence of fear.

And I can tell you this: The young people in the U.S. armed forces today are as courageous and dedicated and well-trained as any men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States.

I want to assure you, like you and the other predecessors whom they admire, they are prepared to act with extraordinary courage. They showed the world what they're made of in Afghanistan, and if asked, they will take the fight to Saddam Hussein. They will get the job done.

I would ask you and all Americans to give them your full support and let them know that the people of the United States are with them today and every day. We owe it to them. And as you know from your own days in uniform, they need to know that the country is behind them.

I thank each of you for what you have done in the past and for being here today in a show of solidarity. May God bless you, may God bless our men and women in uniform, may God bless America.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: The words this morning coming from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking before a very receptive crowd, and preaching to the choir this morning there. That's the VFW hall that he's addressing this morning in Washington. You heard the deputy defense secretary say that Saddam Hussein's regime is going to join the Taliban in the dustbin of history. The Taliban of course being the regime in Afghanistan that was brought down by the coalition of forces there in the fight in the war against terror.

We expect we'll be seeing homeland security chief Tom Ridge come out and address the crowd as well.

One thing we learned from the deputy defense secretary's words is he says there is going to be a coalition of nations joining the U.S. in any war in Iraq, if there is one, and he says the numbers are going to be in the substantial double digits. But, he also said that many of those allies don't want their names used just yet. We have to learn some more about what all that means.

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