Shorly after 9/11, Paul Wolfowitz began advocating an attack on Iraq, establishing “what amounted to a separate government” to push for war. He invited journalists to secret meetings, laying out the foundation for his plans. Former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke recounts one particular meeting:
“I began saying, ‘We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.’ Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, said, ‘No, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.‘”
Last night on the Charlie Rose show, Wolfowitz denied being “an architect” of the catastrophic decision to go to war. “I’m not an architect of anything,” he said. Rather, he clarified that he was someone who was “closely associated with a controversial Iraq policy,” and that his involvement with Iraq is what doomed his reign at the World Bank.
Unlike Richard Perle, Wolfowitz revealed that he has not given up hope in the neoconservative dream of transforming Iraq through U.S. occupation. Comparing Iraq to El Salvador, Wolfowitz said, “El Salvador fought a terrible, terrible civil war for more than 10 years. … And today El Salvador is one of the most successful economies in Central America.”
But the U.S. never occupied El Salvador. While El Salvador grapples with problems today, it serves as an example of the fact that a long-term U.S. occupation is not a requirement for the democratic transition of a country.
Instead of learning the lesson of El Salvador, Bush is more interested in the Korean model. Yesterday, Bush said he envisions an occupation of Iraq similar to that of South Korea, where U.S. troops “have helped keep an uneasy peace for more than 50 years.”
WOLFOWITZ: Maybe it was — look, maybe I could have done it differently. Maybe I could have consulted more. Maybe if it weren’t me and somebody else doing it, look, I’ve said from the beginning…
ROSE: Somebody who’s not an architect of the war, and all that.
WOLFOWITZ: I’m not an architect of anything, but somebody who is not so closely associated with a controversial Iraq policy, yes.
ROSE: And has the — have we failed in Iraq?
WOLFOWITZ: I think we’re trying to do the right thing. I hope it will succeed. I don’t…
ROSE: Hope and we’re trying, and hope — I mean, there’s a reality on the ground there. And there’s a reality for Americans and there’s a reality for Iraqis. And it’s beyond trying and hoping, isn’t it? WOLFOWITZ: Well, that’s another whole subject. But…
ROSE: But give us some sense of, I mean, you know, you’re…
WOLFOWITZ: I still believe — and I think the evidence is strong — that the majority, great majority of Iraqis would like a peaceful, stable country. That what we’re fighting is not the majority of the people.
ROSE: Really? And is what we have done the best way for them to achieve that?
WOLFOWITZ: That’s another whole subject. There’s too much — no, obviously there are things that should have been done differently. But it’s a tough environment.
ROSE: Are you the least bit — the least bit believing that the things that you hope would accomplish would be accomplished? The least bit — in Iraq?
WOLFOWITZ: Oh, yes, the least bit. But…
ROSE: But not much more, or…?
WOLFOWITZ: I’m not here to measure. I’m not current on it. I, you know, El Salvador fought a terrible, terrible civil war for more than 10 years. I think 5 percent of the population was killed, which would mean a little more than 13 million people in the United States, and I think it finally ended in 1992. And today El Salvador is one of the most successful economies in Central America. I’m not saying that’s going to happen in Iraq. I’m just saying it’s a tough environment. It’s hard to know at this stage what the future is going to be like. But let’s also remember, there were no good choices there, given the regime that they had.