(Television interview with Bob Schieffer, CBS Face The Nation. Also participating was Dana Priest, Washington Post and Laura Logan, CBS News, April 6, 2003 - Transcript courtesy, US Department of Defense)
Bob Schieffer: Good morning again. We want to start with the situation in Baghdad. Just a few minutes ago I talked with our CBS News correspondent Laura Logan. She was in Baghdad before the war, left and has now made her way back there. We asked her this morning to just describe the situation.
Laura Logan: There's been an artillery battle raging on the western outskirts of the city. Today we've heard mortar, tank and artillery fire as well as heavy machine guns and multiple rocket launchers. This battle also continued through the night and there were air strikes. One bomb landed just a short distance from the -- our position in the center of Baghdad in the early hours of this morning. But throughout the night and throughout the day fighting has continued. Iraq's information minister today held a press conference just a short time ago in which he talked about American tactics. He said what the Iraqis have observed is that the Americans when they're pounded by Iraqi forces are retreating and as soon as the Iraqis stop -- they're sending small teams forward to areas like the airport where they're allowing themselves to be filmed for propaganda purposes only. He said -- Mohammed Sahid Al Saha, dismissed this as being meaningless military tactics and he said they were leaving the roads open for the Americans to do this so they could hit their forces when they did.
Bob Schieffer: Have you had any sign of Saddam Hussein himself today?
Laura Logan: Not today. But Iraqi television showed pictures of the president on television last night meeting with his two sons and other military commanders. There was also two statements read out on the Iraqi television and radio from Saddam Hussein. One of them was a message to the Kurdish people in the north not to support the coalition and to stay with the Iraqi people. The other was a message to the Iraqi people themselves warning them not to talk about things that they were unsure of because the statement said that it may appear they were spreading propaganda so they should be sure of things before they talk about them. The Iraqi government took journalists today to the southern outskirts of the city and area there where they had destroyed one U.S. tank that we were able to see. They claimed to have destroyed five others as well but they've been taken away so they could be used by Iraqi forces.
Bob Schieffer: And there you have Laura Logan just a few minutes ago, Mr. Secretary.
And joining us is Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz from the Pentagon. Dana Priest of the Washington Post is with us again this morning.
Paul Wolfowitz: I would start out by saying having reporters on the ground, able to transmit pictures back to us sort of puts the lie to what we hear from these spokesman for the Iraqi government, does it not? I mean it's almost laughable to see him make these statements and then see what we're seeing on television.
Bob Schieffer: I know. If it weren't a war and all the tragedy of war you'd almost think this is a Saturday Night Live skit. He's really the minister of propaganda and he believes half of what he is saying then he's really out of touch with reality.
How, Mr. Secretary, would you sum up the situation in Baghdad now? Are we in control? Who appears to be running the Iraqi side now?
Paul Wolfowitz: Well, if I could for a minute, just to put a little perspective on this.
Bob Schieffer: Sure.
Paul Wolfowitz: I think Americans have started to think of wars as short events. The last Gulf War was only six weeks. The Afghanistan War was only nine weeks, the war in Kosovo was only eleven weeks. That's not historical experience but we're only in the third week of this war.
There's been a lot of progress made. We have troops on the outskirts of Baghdad. We've now twice conducted armed reconnaissance inside the city. One tank, in fact, did break down and we had to destroy it. But we are establishing control over a large part of the country. But there -- this is a serious, dangerous business and some of the greatest dangers are still possibly ahead of us, particularly the danger of use of chemical or biological weapons.
Bob Schieffer: Well, do you think -- are we in control of most of the capital now, are we in control of the airport.
Paul Wolfowitz: Oh no, but we are in control of the airport and contrary to the minister of propaganda and we're not surrounded at the airport. We control the airport. That's a very important strategic position.
Bob Schieffer: Do you have an idea at this point who's running the Iraqi side of things?
Paul Wolfowitz: There's uncertainty about that. There are arguments back and forth about this latest tape as to whether it's the real thing. It's unusual, I must say, for Saddam Hussein to expose himself to his people that way.
What does seem, as best as we can observe it and you only can make guesses here, there doesn't seem to be any very effective functioning of strategy. Iraqi forces are moved in ways that make them targets for the coalition, they're not well coordinated in their moves and frankly, what is really tragic is this horrible regime is sending young Iraqis out to die for no reason whatsoever.
Dana Priest: Do you expect to set up an interim government in the places in the south that you've already or are going to assume have under your total control?
Paul Wolfowitz: Again, let me -- if I could say, I mean there's a lot of discussion about this. I think it helps to have some context. There are two things we're trying to balance here: One is, from day one we want to make sure that people have food and water and medicine and that the electricity functions. We've started some very significant steps in that direction, the areas on the south that we've got control of now. And that's got to be a coalition responsibility at least initially. But our goal is eventually to transfer everything to a government that represents Iraqi people and we have discussed with our coalition partners and with elements of the Iraqi opposition the idea of an interim authority that would be the bridge from this coalition administration to eventual Iraqi government. Those discussions are on going. The point at which we can establish an interim authority I think is going to depend on when there is a feeling, particularly among Iraqis, that those people that are still not yet free to speak up and express themselves, though more and more of them are, can join the ones who have been able to for many years now.
Bob Schieffer: Obviously there are discussions going on even within the administration about this and certainly in other countries about perhaps we should move as quickly as we can to internationalize this situation, to bring the UN in and operate under their umbrella. Is that a good idea or what is -- where do you think -- how do you think it ought to be organized?
Paul Wolfowitz: Well, I think the right goal is to move as quickly as we can, not faster than we can, but as quickly as we can to a government that is, if I can paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, of the Iraqis, by the Iraqis for the Iraqis, not to make them a colonial administration or a UN administration or run in any way by foreigners. But it's going to be a partnership of the coalition countries. The UN has an important role to play in that, not only the UN functional agencies, I think, but also the UN as a mechanism for mobilizing international support. And I think there's going to be a lot of international support for the effort of the Iraqi people to rebuild their country and to build a free country.
Bob Schieffer: What should be France and Germany's part in all of this?
Paul Wolfowitz: I think like everyone else they should see that there's an opportunity here to help one of the most talented people in the Arab world -- peoples in the Arab world -- to demonstrate to the whole world that Arabs are capable of establishing free and democratic government. And I think we all have a stake in the success of that.
Bob Schieffer: And we'll welcome their help and we'll invite them to come in? Wolfowitz: Yes, and I think more importantly the Iraqi people need their help.
Dana Priest: Can you conceive of a UN-run interim government like we have in Kosovo and we've had in other places or do you think the US needs to remain in charge until you can pass it to Iraqis?
Paul Wolfowitz: Well, Kosovo is a strange example because we're not quite sure how to treat Kosovo politically but it's not a model we want to follow of a sort of permanent international administration.
I think there's some relevant experience here, I don't want to overstate it, but in 1991 after the Gulf War, a month after the Gulf War, we went in with a coalition force that was US, British, French, quite a few other European countries, clear the Iraqi army out of the northern third of the country and left six months later and left it in the hands of the northern Iraqis, who've done a reasonably credible job of managing their own affairs.
The country as a whole is bigger and more complicated, it will undoubtedly take longer. But that should be the goal is to enable these people who as I said are talented, they're educated they -- it's a real country. It's not Kosovo, which has never been a country, it's not Bosnia, which was sort of patched together and it's in everyone's interest, particularly that of the Iraqi people to be standing on their own feet as soon as possible.
Dana Priest: So you imagine the US will stay in charge until you can pass it to an interim Iraqi government.
Paul Wolfowitz: Well, there are two kinds of in-charge, I think. One kind of in-charge is, you know, waters and sewers and food and medicine and we want to make sure those things are delivered to the Iraqi people effectively and we'd like it as quickly as possible to be done by Iraqis, but we want to make sure it's done and we'll do it until we're sure that they can do it.
But the other part of in-charge is determining the constitution of Iraq and how elections should be held and who the leaders should be and we're not in charge of that, no foreigners can be in charge of that. That has got to be a process that involves Iraqis. And we've had millions of Iraqis who have been free in the north, some 4 million who have been free and in exile, but there are some 20 million Iraqis who still live under the boot of this regime. And until they're free to express themselves we can't know who represents the Iraqi people.
Bob Schieffer: As you know there is some criticism that perhaps we have sort of picked out some Iraqis to run this government and that we intend to sort of install them there. Will that have any credibility with the rest of the Arab world or with the Iraqis themselves and if in fact is that the policy of the United States?
Paul Wolfowitz: Absolutely not. I mean we can't talk about democracy and then turn around and say we're going to pick the leaders of this democratic country. We have been in touch with many, many different leaders of the Iraqi opposition. There are some very courageous people who've been fighting for the freedom of Iraq in northern Iraq and living abroad and we're finding more and more people in the south -- the southern parts of Iraq who were leaders in the fight against Saddam over the years. It's got to be for the Iraqi people to pick their leaders and our goal is to try to create the conditions, particularly the security conditions where they can do that freely.
Dana Priest: But you're putting yourself in the position right now to choose an interim government. So who are you choosing for that interim government? It may be upon you in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.
Paul Wolfowitz: Well, we're not choosing and it's an important difference between interim authority, which is a transitional arrangement and even interim government, even if you put the word interim on it.
The other somewhat parallel situation is Afghanistan -- I don't want to say similar because Afghanistan is such a different country -- but once Afghanistan was liberated it was possible to hear from a wide range of Afghans and eventually in their own more traditional way with this Loya Jerga process expressed a consensus on, I think, a way forward. I think we're already starting to see some of that same process. As a matter of fact, we saw some of that process even before this war began in the way in which opposition elements began to organize. But, it's more than just the opposition that we've known before, it's also people that we're just getting to know now. The senior religious leaders in the Shia holy city of Najaf have just gone back and have started issuing what they call Fatawas, but these are Fatawas saying oppose Saddam and support the coalition. Those people are clearly going to have a voice in the future.
Bob Schieffer: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you something, because this is a question that I'm getting. Is our focus here to disarm Saddam Hussein, to find these weapons of mass destruction and then consider this a unique and grave danger that has been posed to this country and that we are there to remove that danger or is this step one in the wider war, what some people are calling World War IV, where we would confront the rest of the Arab world? What is our purpose here?
Paul Wolfowitz: I think the president has been clear from September 12th, basically, of 2001, since the horror of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon, that we've got to confront terrorism in a way we've never thought about it before and particularly this danger of the connection between terrorist networks and states that support terrorism and have weapons of mass destruction. And it's a new problem, it's got to be approached strategically, but I don't think it can be approached on a purely military basis. There's a lot that's unique about Iraq, including the unique circumstances -- 12 years of defiance of the terms and conditions of the cease-fire that was supposed to have ended the first Gulf War. So we need a way forward.
But it's also important, I think, to say that we would not be at war in Iraq if we didn't think there was a danger to the United States. But now that we are at war in Iraq, our goal needs to be more than just dismantling those weapons of mass destruction. I think if the Iraqi people can succeed in creating a government that represents them and demonstrates this possibility of freedom and democracy in the Arab world, it's going to have a -- I think it's going to be an inspiration for other countries in a way that's very positive. Not necessarily military at all. The power of the idea -- we've seen it in East Asia, the power of democracy in Japan has spread across Asia in places that had no use for the Japanese.
Bob Schieffer: Well, I hope you're right. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.
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