Today's date:
Fall 2003


Isn't Dracula -- He Won't Be Back

Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy secretary of defense, is widely considered the chief policy architect of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. On July 7, he spoke with Los Angeles Times correspondents Doyle McManus and Esther Schrader for NPQ/Global Viewpoint. Excerpts follow.

Washington -- We put a lot of thought into planning to repair oil fields that we expected to be devastated. We put a lot of thought into how to put out oil fires in the north which would have poisoned the whole environment with hydrogen sulfide. We even prepared contracts for those eventualities.

We also made preparations to feed hundreds of thousands of displaced persons it was feared would be the result of large-scale urban fighting.

None of these things happened because, in the first couple of instances, the enemy didn't have time to react before they were basically undone, and in the second instance because we managed to bring them down without the kind of "fortress Baghdad" disaster that had been so widely predicted.

That we moved so quickly left some problems in its wake, but it also saved a lot of Iraqi as well as American lives. In hindsight, I would not for a minute go back and say, "Gee, we should have gone slower so we could have had more forces built up behind us to control areas that we went past."

A lot of CentCom's planning regarding law and order assumed that we would have an effective indigenous police force more or less intact, and that we would even be able to enlist some significant numbers of Iraqi military manpower to help with the security task. Those are assumptions that turned out not to be accurate.

One ought to be clear that planning in a situation like this is not putting together a railway timetable or an exact itinerary. When you get to a situation like we have today, you inevitably have to make some judgment calls. Clearly one of the things that is now getting a lot of priority is training an Iraqi police force.

Again, if the war had been longer and bloodier, we wouldn't have so many surviving remnants of the old regime. But I wouldn't make that trade-off.

This is like a large gangland operation that hijacked a whole country for three decades. There are thousands of bitter enders from that group -- not a big percentage in a country of 20 million, but not small, either -- who are clearly hopeful that they can somehow drive us out. They're not going to succeed...

To some extent we're still dealing with a legacy of 1991 [when rebellious Iraqis expected American help after the Gulf War, but then Saddam cracked down - ed.] because Iraq is a country where people believe that Saddam is like Dracula, that he has the capacity to keep coming back from the dead. And they need to be convinced of American staying power.