Memo: To Sen. Robert Byrd [D W.Va.]
From Jude Wanniski
Re The Vanity Fair Interview
Dear Senator Byrd: When you gave that speech two weeks ago on how the truth will eventually come out about our pre-emptive war with Iraq I bet you didn’t think it would be coming out this soon. Here we have the architect of the war, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, actually admitting that the reason the administration focused on Saddam having “weapons of mass destruction” was that it was the only reason all the policymakers could agree upon. The other two reasons were Saddam’s “support for terrorism” and his “criminal treatment of the Iraqi people.” As David Broder of the Washington Post noted yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press, he himself believed the President’s rationale and did not believe he could have gotten the support of the Congress or American people if it were for the other reason’s cited by Wolfowitz.
Wolfie blabbed during the course of a lengthy interview by Sam Tannenhaus for the July issue of Vanity Fair. I’ve never believed Wolfowitz thought Iraq still had WMD, if it ever did, but that he was misleading the President in order to get the war he wanted. The President then went to Congress for its support for the one and only reason to disarm Saddam of his WMD. The President promised you and your fellow Democrats that he would do this through the United Nations and that he would only use force to disarm Saddam if diplomacy failed. And then he would send both houses of Congress letters certifying that diplomacy had failed. That he did immediately before he began bombing.
The Pentagon is now putting out the story that Wolfowitz was taken out of context in the Vanity Fair article, but you can read the Pentagon’s own transcript in full. There is no doubt you and the other legislative representatives of the American people were being deceived into voting support for the war. The Pentagon still doesn’t seem to understand that disarmament was the ONLY reason the Congress was given for backing a pre-emptive war – because the Pentagon could not persuade the other administration policymakers that the other reasons cited by the warhawks were valid. It’s now becoming clearer to everyone by the day that diplomacy did not fail and that France was absolutely correct in its arguments at the UN Security Council that weapons inspections should continue. President Bush may have believed God was telling him war was the right thing to do, but it was only Wolfowitz. You can note that I described in a February 20, 2002 e-mail to Rep. Henry Hyde as “a second-class Beelzebub.” I’m thinking of promoting him. After all, his war added at least 25,000 Iraqi dead to the total attributed to US policy there, with American and allied servicemen adding hundreds to that toll, and still counting.
The entire transcript is available at the Pentagon website
The controversial remarks are now ricocheting throughout the world press, are contained in the excerpt that came near the very end of the interview. I’ve left in several paragraphs that are related so you will see the complete context.
Q: And then the last question, you've been very patient and generous. That is what's next? Where do we stand now in the campaign that you talked about right after September 11th?
Wolfowitz: I think the two most important things next are the two most obvious. One is getting post-Saddam Iraq right. Getting it right may take years, but setting the conditions for getting it right in the next six months. The next six months are going to be very important.
The other thing is trying to get some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I do think we have a better atmosphere for working on it now than we did before in all kinds of ways. Whether that's enough to make a difference is not certain, but I will be happy to go back and dig up the things I said a long time ago which is, while it undoubtedly was true that if we could make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue we would provide a better set of circumstances to deal with Saddam Hussein, but that it was equally true the other way around that if we could deal with Saddam Hussein it would provide a better set of circumstances for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue. That you had to move on both of them as best you could when you could, but --
There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.
I don't want to speak in messianic terms. It's not going to change things overnight, but it's a huge improvement.
Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into --
Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- hold on one second - -- there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two... The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.
Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia --
Wolfowitz: I was. It's one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don't understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.
I understand what they're thinking about. I'm not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It's as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed.
The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting -- the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check -- I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they'd say that's not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.
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As you surely note from this excerpt, Senator, Wolfowitz is oblivious to the import of what he is saying. I've known the man for 30 years and believe his intentions are always good, by his own lights, but we know what road is paved with good intentions. It really is up to the Senate, I think you agree, to address this issue with a thorough investigation, to make sure it never happens again that we war on a sovereign nation because of misrepresentations of this kind.