What Were They Smoking? Paul Wolfowitz on Liberating Iraq

A few weeks before the invasion of Iraq, Melissa Block of National Public Radio interviewed Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz about what war would mean for Iraq. It’s a good interview, worth reviewing. Wolfowitz is of course now at the World Bank. Here’s a taster’s selection of quotes:

Block: At the United Nations yesterday there were envoys from Muslim countries warning of massive political instability in the region, of huge numbers of deaths and injuries as well as refugees.

Wolfie: Clearly some of the fears come from I think probably exaggerated notions of what may happen… But at the end of the day I think many of these governments understand that…that it will be an act of humanity [to] the Iraqi people, that it will be an act that will bring more stability to the region, not less.

Block: There are concerns, too, though about the rise of Muslim extremism in the region inflamed by the U.S. occupation of Iraq…

Wolfie: We’re not talking about the occupation of Iraq. We’re talking about the liberation of Iraq. We’re talking about the liberation of one of the most talented populations in the Arab world and perhaps the most long-suffering population in the Arab world. Therefore, when that regime is removed we will find one of the most talented populations in the Arab world, perhaps complaining that it took us so long to get there… basically welcoming us as liberators…. The Arab world is going to see that and it’s going to have a very big impact not just in Iraq but throughout the Arab world.

Block: The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia has been one of the most inflammatory things for al Qaeda and groups like that. That they see U.S. occupation or U.S. presence in that country as something that they must fight against. How would it be any different in Iraq?

Wolfie: The Iraqis are among the most educated people in the Arab world. They are by and large quite secular. They are overwhelmingly Shia which is different from the Wahabis of the [Saudi] peninsula… But the most fundamental difference is that, let me put it this way. We’re seeing today how much the people of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe appreciate what the United States did to help liberate them from the tyranny of the Soviet Union. I think you’re going to see even more of that sentiment in Iraq. There’s not going to be the hostility that you described…There simply won’t be.