This piece from the New Yorker is about a year old, and in that respect it offers some usefulness as a way to gauge Paul wolfowitz’s claims and expectations against the reality a year later. (The very last line of the article being the most poignant of those.) But less so than one might think, for an article subtitled “Paul Wolfowitz defends his war”. This article is more of a look into the man himself– how he came to where he is in his views, and how he operates “in the field” in present day. (Well, present day a year ago.) In this case, the reporter accompanied Wolfowitz on a multi-stop tour in Europe.
It’s long, and informative, and not hostile or incendiary– though it doesn’t give Wolfowitz a free pass, either. Just an in-depth look at neocon Paul Wolfowitz, in development, and in action.
Paul Wolfowitz defends his war.
by PETER J. BOYER
Issue of 2004-11-01
On the night of October 5th, a group of Polish students, professors, military officers, and state officials crowded into a small auditorium at Warsaw University to hear Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, give a talk on the subject of the war in Iraq. It was an unusually warm evening for October, and every seat was filled; the room seemed nearly airless. Wolfowitz began by joking that his father, a noted mathematician, would have been proud to see him in this academic setting, even as he was saddened that the younger Wolfowitz had pursued the political, rather than the â€œreal,â€? sciences. After a few minutes, Wolfowitzâ€™s voice, which normally has a soft tremble, grew even more faint, and his aspect became wan. For an instant, he seemed actually to wobble.
It had been a tiring day, preceded by an overnight flight from Washington. This was to have been a routine official trip for Wolfowitzâ€”a visit with soldiers in Germany and some bucking up of Iraq-war allies in Warsaw and London. The bucking up, however, was made a bit more complicated by developments within the Administration. The previous afternoon, as Wolfowitz was preparing to board his plane at Andrews Air Force Base, an aide had handed him a report containing some vexing news. Wolfowitzâ€™s boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had just delivered a speech in New York and, in a question-and-answer exchange afterward, had declared that he had not seen any â€œstrong, hard evidenceâ€? linking Al Qaeda with Saddam Husseinâ€™s regime. Rumsfeldâ€™s unexpected remarkâ€”undercutting one of the Administrationâ€™s principal arguments for going to warâ€”had already prompted press inquiries at the Pentagon, suggesting a bad news cycle ahead. Meanwhile, the Washington Post was preparing to report that L. Paul Bremer, the former administrator of the American-led occupation of Iraq, had faulted the U.S. postwar plan for lacking sufficient troops to provide securityâ€”affirming a principal contention of the Administrationâ€™s critics. In addition, the governmentâ€™s Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, was about to release a final report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; already the reportâ€™s substance was being summed up in headlines as â€œreport discounts iraqi arms threat.â€? And the Times had learned of a new C.I.A. assessment casting doubt on links between the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddamâ€™s regimeâ€”undermining yet another of the Administrationâ€™s rationales for the war.
Wolfowitz has been a major architect of President Bushâ€™s Iraq policy and, within the Administration, its most passionate and compelling advocate. His long career as a diplomat, strategist, and policymaker will be measured by this policy, and, more immediately, the President he serves may not be returned to office because of it. The Administration had been divided over Iraq from the start, and new fissures seemed to be appearing. The Poles sitting in the Warsaw audience, â€œnewâ€? Europeans who had cast their lot with America, might understandably have been concerned. The government in Poland, where public opinion has shifted against the war, faces elections next year, and will probably reduce its forces in Iraq in the coming months.
After his faltering start, Wolfowitz, nearing the midpoint of his speech, began to find his voice. He recounted the events of Polandâ€™s darkest days, and the civilized worldâ€™s acquiescence to Hitlerâ€™s ambitions which preceded them. When Hitler began to rearm Germany, Wolfowitz said, â€œthe worldâ€™s hollow warnings formed weak defenses.â€? When Hitler annexed Austria, â€œthe world sat by.â€? When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia before the war, â€œthe world sat still once again.â€? When Britain and France warned Hitler to stay out of Poland, the FÃ¼hrer had little reason to pay heed.
â€œPoles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes,â€? Wolfowitz said. â€œAnd, yes, I do include Saddam Hussein.â€? He then laid out the case against Saddam, reciting once again the dictatorâ€™s numberless crimes against his own people. He spoke of severed hands and videotaped torture sessions. He told of the time, on a trip to Iraq, heâ€™d been shown a â€œtorture tree,â€? the bark of which had been worn away by ropes used to bind Saddamâ€™s victims, both men and women. He said that field commanders recently told him that workers had come across a new mass grave, and had stopped excavation when they encountered the remains of several dozen women and children, â€œsome still with little dresses and toys.â€?
Wolfowitz observed that some peopleâ€”meaning the â€œrealistsâ€? in the foreignpolicy community, including Secretary of State Colin Powellâ€”believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, â€œPoland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as â€˜the stability of the graveyard.â€™ The so-called stability that Saddam Hussein provided was something even worse.â€?
Finally, Wolfowitz thanked the Poles for joining in a war that much of Europe had repudiated, and continues to oppose. His message was clear: history, especially Europeâ€™s in the last century, has proved that it is smarter to side with the U.S. than against it. â€œWe will not forget Polandâ€™s commitment,â€? he promised. â€œJust as you have stood with us, we will stand with you.â€?
Wolfowitz, who is sixty, has served in the Administrations of six Presidents, yet he is still regarded by many in Washington with a considerable measure of puzzlement. Read the rest of this entry »
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