Dual Loyalties

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Monday, August 02, 2004

Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends

Kansas City Star | 07/10/2004 | Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends: "Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends

By SCOTT CANON
The Kansas City Star

OMAHA, Neb. — Administration critics often single out Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as an ideologue who cherry-picked intelligence to argue for invading Iraq.

As a report in Washington on Friday blamed the CIA for suggesting Saddam Hussein kept chemical and biological munitions and was closing in on a nuclear bomb — weapons that have yet to materialize — Wolfowitz said, “I'm concerned any time our intelligence is seriously wrong.”

Yet the conclusion by the Senate Intelligence Committee that the anti-Iraq “groupthink” was wrong about weapons of mass destruction doesn't undercut the basis for the American invasion, he said.

“If you wait until all the dots are connected, it's probably too late because you've already been attacked,” he said.

Given Hussein's refusal to give in to the United Nations' resolutions demanding weapons inspections, the brutality of his regime and his history for developing and using chemical killers, Wolfowitz said, the war was more than justified.

“The president took a broader case (than just weapons of mass destruction) to the U.N.,” he said.

Wolfowitz said Iraq is on course, albeit a violent and unsteady one, toward democratic autonomy. In a speech to Omaha business leaders, he said the handover of sovereignty has Iraqis optimistic that their fate is truly their own.

“I think they're starting to believe that we didn't come to get their oil,” he said.

By handing over authority two days early to avoid violent disruptions, Wolfowitz said, “we had the unintended effect that they saw that the Americans are so eager to get out. … That's good.”

That's bound to create a new sense of responsibility among rank-and-file Iraqis for the future of their country and less sanctuary for terrorists, he said. Iraqis now feel “they're no longer an occupied country,” Wolfowitz said. “I believe that makes a tremendous difference.”

More than 150,000 American and other foreign troops currently patrol Iraq. In talking with reporters after his speech, Wolfowitz said that he might have made an “overstatement” in saying Iraqis did not feel their country was occupied.

“But they feel things are moving toward a real Iraqi government,” he said. “They're giving the benefit of the doubt to the new government.”

He defended the Bush administration's tailoring of foreign policy toward the war on terror, describing it as “the most serious war we have ever fought,” even as he conceded that it might seem nebulous.

“It may be hard to tell when the war has ended, but it clearly hasn't ended yet,” Wolfowitz said. “It will be won when they stop attacking. … It may peter out.”

The Pentagon policy-maker said he was surprised at the strength and resilience of the post-combat Iraqi insurgency.

The insurgents' determination — and safe harbor — will fade as an Iraqi government gains the trust of its people, Wolfowitz said.

“The Iraqis' future is clearly in their own hands,” he said. “The big challenge now will be to pull off elections at the end of this year or the beginning of next year in the face of an evil enemy … I think those (insurgents) are going to lose support.”

To reach Scott Canon, call

(816) 234-4754 or send e-mail to scanon@kcstar.com."

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