At the end of his talk there was this question and answer session, after which Dr. Wolfowitz receivedan honorary plaque.
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, speaking
at Georgetown University on October 30, 2003
.. with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you said that you
need more UN resolutions, that you need to respect communal
universal human rights, the Geneva convention, etcetera, and
I was wondering if this applies to Israel as well. You have
the chief of staff coming out that saying that Israeli security
policies towards Palestinians are harmful to Israeli security and
to Palestinians. They violate Geneva Convention 53 and tons of
other human rights of these Palestinians. So I'm wondering if
the President as you said is ready to make decisions of the
magnitude needed for change? Is he ready to make decisions in
the Israeli Palestinian conflict that will lend greater support
to the Palestinians and ask the Israelis to stop these policies
that are detrimental to the Palestinians and adding to the
hopelessness that may be at the root cause of these suicide
Obviously there's a great deal that has to change on both sides.
You cited some things that Israelis have to change and you could
make a longer list. You could have talked about settlements, for
example. The President has talked about settlements, he's talked
about the wall, he's talked about the suffering of Palestinians
under Israeli occupation. There's no question that the President
is prepared to put pressure on the Israelis to change. There
also has to be change on the Palestinian side. And I really do
believe that the single greatest obstacle is terrorism. If the
Palestinians would adopt the ways of Ghandi I think they could in
fact make a more (laughter) - just very quickly - I believe the
power of individuals demonstrating peacefully is enormous but in
any case I think what the President has set out and what Secretary
of State Powell has set out seems to be at this point the best way
forward. And I do have to say contrary to what you may have heard,
foreign policy is made in the State Department and I need to be
very careful of getting in the way of Secretary Powell's diplomacy.
I think its pointed in the right direciton. I do believe as I
said in my remarks, that the solution unfortunately has been
awfully clear for a very long time. It came, it seems to me,
tragically close at [...] at getting to that solution.
It began to look in early this spring as though we might once again
be along that path and this time with the active support of major
governments in the region. The bombings and the violent response to
the bombings in the last couple of months has certainly been a great
setback and we've got to get it back on track
Hi, in Richard Newstadt's book about presidential power, he talks
about the President's ability to use presuasion as his true leverage.
Given your different vantage points and different administrations,
particularly with wartime presidents, how do you assess President
Bush's ability to persuade the nation and other foreign leaders
that their main goal is in the best interest of Muslims in the war
Obviously we still have a long way to go. But I believe we've
done some remarkable things over the last ten years for which the
world ought to be giving us more credit. Under three different
administrations. If you stop and think about it, I think it's
seven times since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, that the
United States has put young men, American men and women, into
combat and near combat situations in order to defend people from
aggression or tyranny or war and [..] starvation. I'm counting
the liberation of Kuwait, the liberation of Northern Iraq, later
in 1991 the ending of the starvation in Somalia, the actions in
Bosnia that brought an end to that horrible civil war, the
intervention in Kosovo has brought an end to the repression there,
the liberation of Afghanistan in 2001, and now more recently in
In every case we happen to have been advancing the cause of a
majority of the muslim population, and Americans have died and
been wounded for those causes. We also think we are advancing
the security of our country, but I think we deserve a little
more credit for that. How we go about getting it, I'm not quite
sure but I think that one of the challenges you mentioned,
trying to persuade people in the middle of wartime is a difficult
thing to do. The action in Kosovo, even relatively mild as it
was, was enormously controversial until it was successful. I
think as we move forward a year or two from now when people look
back on this, and my friends in Indonesia who now are so critical
of what we are doing in Iraq, have a chance to actually visit Iraq
and hear from Iraqis what's been done for them and what they're
doing for themselves. I think that opinion will begin to change.
But other things have to happen as well.
You mentioned the Arab Israeli issue. that is obvious a key. But
finally, this particular battle of ideas ... is not only fought in
news media and newspapers and books and in public debates. It's
also taught in those madrassas I referred to, where poor children
are given a chance to get off the streets and study, but what
they're taught there is not real learning. It's not the tools for
coping with the modern world. It's the tools that turn them into
So I think, again, education, but in a way that we never had to
think about it so seriously it before, making funds available to
the thousands and thousands of moderate religious schools, and
this country isn't very good at supporting religious schools, we
have some constitutional difficulties there. But I saw in
Indonesia how what they there call [...] boarding schools had been a
vehicle of giving poor children a chance to succeed in the world,
teaching them that their religion is a religion of tolerance and
teaching them to respect other religions in their country.
So schools like that which don't get Gulf oil money, ought to be
able to get support from the rest of the world, that's part of this
battle as well. But let's go back and read our own civil war.
Persuading people in the middle of war is a difficult challenge.
Success, though, at the end of the day also persuades people.
Secretary Wolfowitz, with Iraq having been labelled as the central
front in the war on terrorism, and with much focus being put on
Iran I have the following question. The radicalization of Islam in
countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia can be traced to foreign
Wahabbi ideological influences. Should the global networks of
Wahabbism be confronted as perhaps one of the if not the core base
of the modernistic terrorism, and if so how?
Huge question. It's a good question. I may just bite off a small
piece of it, but I would question a little bit the present premise
that phrase the radicalization of Islam in Indonesia. It implies
that Indonesia's two hundred million Muslims have been radicalized
and I don't think that's the case. I could almost argue with you
that they have been radicalized in exactly the opposite sense by
the brutal attack in Bali in the fall of last year, just as Americans
were radicalized in the opposite sense by the attacks of September
More and more Indonesians, I believe, are accepting that their
country has a problem with extremism and terrorism and are standing
up against it. So, that radicalization, at least in the case of
Indonesia, I think applies to ... I don't want to guess at a number,
but suppose the number was as great as ... as 20,000. You can do
the math, it's a tiny, tiny percentage of the two hundred million
people in that country. But 20,000 people, and I don't think it's
anything like that, it just takes a few dozens of people to do the
Bali bombing or the Jakarta bombing and they're out there but the
Indonesians are getting much more serious about dealing with them.
I do think that the funding of extremism is not, though, just the
funding of bombers. It is the funding of schools that teach hatred,
of schools that teach terrorism, and to the extent that we can bring
influence to bear on countries, governors or perhaps even citizens,
who are putting money into those kinds of enterprises, I think we
should do so.
But I believe the stronger counter is going to be not cutting off
those sources of funds, much as I'd like to do it, but to be able
to channel support to the people who oppose them. And we're not
very good at doing that yet.
Analogies are dangerous and when people first made analogies
between this war on terror and the Cold War, my initial reaction
was to think they were completely different things. I think
there are some similarities, and I do think that one of them was
that during the Cold War, the people who said that the enemy was
anyone who called themselves a Marxist, whether they're democratic
Marxist or not, were obviously wrong. The greatest enemies of
totalitarian Marxism were the democratic socialists of Europe, and
we learned to work with them. and part of what we learned how to do,
although we did some things that we've now made illegal, and maybe
appropriately so, were to find ways of giving material support to
people who were on the front lines of those battles of ideas.
It does seem to me that its an odd situation, despite, obviously,
that both countries have a lot of money to pass around. But its
an odd situation where some of my friends in Indonesia, who were
exponents of moderation, have difficulty in this world getting
funding for moderate libraries and schools that can teach young
Muslims the true teachings of their religion. That the extremists
can go around the world and get large quantities without any
difficulty. It's not that lack the resources, we lack the means
to pull through. And that's a challenge that we need to work on.
Hi, Mr Wolfowitz. My name is Ruthie Kaufmann. I think I'm speaking
for many of us here when I say that your policies are deplorable.
They're responsible for the deaths of innocents (cheering) ..,
and the disintegration of American civil liberties. We are tired
[...] of being feared and hated by the world. We are tied of
watching Americans and Iraqis die and international institutions
cry out in anger against us. We are simply tired of your policies.
We hate them and we will never stop opposing them. We will never
tire or falter in our search for justice, and in the name of [...]
and the ideal of freedom, we assembled a message for you that was
taken away from us. And that message says that the killing of
innocents is not the solution but rather the problem. Thank you.
I have to infer from that that you would be happier if Saddam
Hussein were still in power. (applause) I wish you could have
come with me in July when we visited a little Marsh Arab village
called al Amara on the Iranian border. To get there you have to
fly over a desert the size of New Jersey. It is a man made desert
created by Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the Gulf War. For
thousands of years its been a lush marsh. The Marsh Arabs are
one of the oldest continuous human civilizations. They had figured
out how to get milk out of water buffalo, that by breeding a new
kind of water buffalo. It's not a small achievement. They produce
some very large percentage of the vegtables for the entire country.
They are a peaceful people, but they also provided the refuge for
the rebels who Saddam Hussein feared. So in the true traditions of
Nebuchadnezzar, he simply proceeded to wipe them out, by drying
them out, by creating an environmental catastrophe. There were
half a million Marsh Arabs in 1991. The estimates today are
somewhere between 40,000-200,000.
When we got off the helicopters, the population was overwhelmingly
women and children. The children's hair had that ugly rusty color
that indicates severe malnutrition. But they were smiling and
cheering and saying "thank you Bush" "down with Saddam" and
finally hopeful that they might have a future.
For most of the Marsh Arabs liberation was too late, but for those
people it came just in time. And I think you ought to think about
that. Their innocence as well. Far, far more innocence. This has
been a war that's been .. war is an ugly business. It is a brutal
business. A lot of the innocents died, by the way, because Saddam
Hussein put his weapons in hospitals and other places.
Its ugly and its brutal but the alternative was far, far uglier,
far more brutal. There is no question about that in my mind.
I'd just like to say that people like Ruthie and myself have always
opposed Saddam Hussein, especially when Saddam Hussein was being
funded by the United States throughout the eighties, and after [...]
for the United States increased aid to Iraq, we were there opposing
them as well. People like us were there. [...]
What do you plan to do when Bush is defeated in 2004 and you will
no longer have the power to push forward the Project for a New
American Century's policy of American military and economic
domination over the people of the world?
I don't know if it was just Freudian or if you intended to say it
that way but you said you opposed Saddam Hussein especially when
the United States supported him. It seems that the north star of
your comments is that you dislike this country and its policies.
It seems that the time to have supported the United States and to
push the United States harder was in 1991 when Saddam Hussein was
slaughtering those innocents so visciously. Look, lets, lets,
lets back off a little bit. You and I should both calm down a
This is not ideological, I don't believe. I think it is a moral
issue. I respect that you and the last questioner have deep moral
concerns. War is an ugly thing. I agree with that. But butchers
like Saddam Hussein are incredibly ugly. I've known a lot of
dictators fairly up close and personal. I take some pride in having
helped to get rid of Ferdinand Marcos. I tried to get some change
in Indonesia and I took some pleasure when President Suharto left.
To quote that famous vice presidential debater and to paraphrase
him from a few years ago ... Ferdinand Marcos was no Saddam Hussein.
Ferdinand Marcos was not responsible for the deaths of a million
Muslims. I don't think there's much question here about the morality
of having gotten rid of that regime.
I'd also think that it's worth stopping and thinking, from the
point of view of the Iraqi people - and I'm not saying that they're
the ones who should vote in our election - we should decide our
President based on who Americans think is good for the American
people. But I have to tell you that it sends a very unsettling
message to Iraqis, that our elections might decide their future.
When I visited the city of Najaf in July, met with the town
council, and, as I guess as most of you well informed audience
know, this is one of the few holy cities in Shia Islam. It was
pretty remarkable to be sitting with the town council, that
included one woman, a religious cleric as the head, and about 15
or 16 professionals for the most part in the rest of the group.
One of these professionals, I can't remember whether he was an
architect or an engineer, asked me a two part question.
Part two, I'll start with, borders on the paranoid. He said,
"Are you Americans just holding Saddam Hussein as a trump card
over our heads?" You may think that's paranoid but if you'd
been through what they went through in 1991, the suspicions of
our intentions went very deep. The fear of what can happen to
them if that regime comes back is ... palpable and enormous.
But the first question wasn't paranoid at all, in fact it was
pretty sophisticated. He said, "What's going to happen to us
if George Bush loses the election?" And I told him, as best I
could, and I still believe it, that at bottom, no matter how
far it is we get in our political debates, the American people
stay to a certain course. And if you look at the perseverance
we had over many years in the cold war, in spite of some [...]
fierce policy debates, the United States really did stay the
course. And I think I did a pretty good job, maybe not of
convincing him completely, but of convincing him that we were
with the people of Iraq until they succeeded. And I think this
Madrid conference, sent the message that its not just the United
States, its seventy countries in the world, and the fact that
Najaf is now under the direction of the Spanish brigade with a
Polish commander probably sends a good message.
But I have to tell you that then they hear the message that we
might not be there next year, they get very scared and that
fear leads them not to give us information about where the bad
people are, it leads them not to want to serve on the town
council, it leads them not to want to risk their lives as
policemen. There are thousands of Iraqis who are risking their
lives for a future of freedom for that country, and I think it
would be good if they got an unequivocal message of support
from this country. Thank you.
"Persuading people in the middle of war is a difficult challenge. Success, though, at the end of the day also persuades people."
Here's a transcription of the question and answer session
following Paul D. Wolfowitz's talk at Georgetown today.
I have only transcribed the questions and answers given after
the comparitively dry monologue, in which the Deputy Secretary
of Defense described his visit to Baghdad and the war from his
point of view. The same same terrorist mentality exists now in
Iraq, he said, as was responsible for the attacks on September
11th. He decried madrasses, presumably in Pakistan, which
turn children into terrorists: "what they're taught there is
not real learning. It's not the tools for coping with the
modern world. It's the tools that turn them into terrorists."
On a brighter note, Wolfowitz advocated peace between Israelis
and the Palestinians and promised that the President would be
putting more pressure on Israel. He also said that the war on
terrorism is not a war on Islam.