WASHINGTON — U.S. Central Command has asked the Army to prepare for the possibility that an additional 25,000 troops may be needed in Iraq if the security situation there continues to deteriorate after the transfer of sovereignty on June 30, NBC News has learned.
Paul Wolfowitz, in an interview with “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, wouldn’t confirm but did say that “CENTCOM has plans to deal with whatever may confront us.”
“We all understand that the next six months are crucial,” he says. “The next step [after the transfer of power] is the elections, as part of U.N. resolution 1546.”
Below is a partial transcript of his interview:
On threats like Al-Zarqawi’s
A recording purportedly made by the mastermind of bombings and beheadings in Iraq threatened to assassinate Iraq’s interim prime minister and fight the Americans “until Islamic rule is back on Earth.”
Paul Wolfowitz: We know the enemy, which is al-Qaida, and the killers of Saddam’s regime, made an alliance with each other. Their target right now is create as much chaos as they can.
The way to stop efforts like this is mainly with American and Iraqi forces. The main subject in my meeting with Iraqi leaders, is to accelerate the plan to build an army and police, and what they’re planning to be the Iraqi national guard.
The longer term goal has been to get Iraqis to the front lines. And these people are ready to fight and die for their country. Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was nearly axed to death in the past, and the president’s predecessor died through a car bomb. They’re all very heroic for taking up their posts.
The most moving thing was this Kurdish woman, who was from Mosul. Her sister was assassinated because she was working for the U.S. When she was asked why she’s still working for us, she said, “My father said you musn’t retreat in the face of evil.” It’s impressive how many are willing to stand in the face of evil.
Unbalanced media coverage
Wolfowitz: There was a recent showing of the real prison abuses that took place in Abu Ghraib, under Saddam’s regime. You don’t see that being reported.
We’re down in Basra, and said when the pipeline broke, the media put out reports that there wasn’t going to be any oil. But nobody covered the fact that the pipeline was being fixed, and that it was fixed in five instead of 10 days. Same holds true for violence in the region. Violence is terrible, and they should be covered. Violence is the biggest problem in the country. But the media picture seems to be unbalanced. And a lot of sergeants in Iraq say that what they’re dealing with is not what’s been described in the media
Balance is an important part of the story. It’s a tough story to cover, a tough place to be in, but there’s a lot of good news, including the bravery of these people leading the government.
“Insurgency” in Iraq
Wolfowitz: Let me clarify that it’s not an “insurgency.” It’s led by the same people in Iraq that were fighting before the fall of Baghdad, who were led by Saddam till his capture. Now they’re led by Al-Zarqawi. It’s not an insurgency in sense of uprising. It’s a continuation of the war by people who won’t quit. There isn’t insurgency because of crime and the quality of life… there’s crime in Baghdad because of insurgents.
We’re doing reconstruction in the middle of the war. The only agenda the enemy has is to block that progress. It’s a weakness for us, but they [terrorists] have nothing positive to offer.
Iraq’s terrorism connection
Wolfowitz: Iraq should be part of the campaign against terror. The president laid that out correctly within a few weeks after 9/11. He said that our enemy wasn’t just al Qaida, but states that supported them, and terrorism.
The president went to the U.N. early on, and on September he laid out a whole agenda on the concerns and issues we had with Iraq. There was weapons of mass destruction, their support for terror, and terror against their own people.
WMD became the focus. The U.N. resolutions were the last and final chance [for them] to come clean. To be clear, the resolution wasn’t for us to prove that there were stockpiles, but that he had to come clean and be transparent. He was lying about what he had, and he was defying instruction to come clean. Even David Kay, who is advertised to believe that there are no WMD, will say that Saddam was in violation of this resolution. No one doubts that he had the capacity to build them. It’s what the Clinton administration, Bush administration, the American intelligence community—all taught us. Everyone believed that his programs were more than what they seemed to be.
And you have to remember, there was time to move and hide stuff, and there was systematic looting that went on right after the fall of Baghdad.
We know he’s had them, used them, knows how to build them, and he never gave up on that, and would cheat and defy U.N. inspections.
On the 9/11 commission report
Wolfowitz: We are more than just after al Qaida, but also terrorists. Look, it’s not that the administration doesn’t agree with the findings of the 9/11 commission. It’s more that the 9/11 commission report does not agree with the "New York Times presentation" of the 9/11 commission report.
There are many connections between Saddam and Al Qaida. In 1992, 1993, Saddam and al Qaida made an agreement not to attack each other and support each other. You do not consort with Bin Laden and al Qaida if not for this purpose.