Saturday, May 31, 2003

What they didn't notice Wolfowitz say
As debate continues over what Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz actually said in a Vanity Fair interview about the administration's highlighting of WMDs in Iraq, here are a few links that might be of interest. The Pentagon has published this transcript of what Wolfowitz said; the New Republic has this analysis of the exchange; Glenn Reynolds has this take on the thing, with more links; and Fred Kaplan in Slate deconstructs the whole weapons imbroglio

Meanwhile, George W. Bush doesn't see a problem. Of course the U.S. has evidence of Iraq's WMD program, he told Polish television, and the Washington Post reports this exchange with his interviewers:

"You remember when [Secretary of State] Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons," Bush said in an interview before leaving today on a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East. "They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two."

From my perspective, a more interesting passage in the Wolfowitz Vanity Fair interview is the one where he says:

There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.

What we see here is Wolfowitz buying into the utterly ridiculous argument that Bin Laden reacts to incentives, when it was perfectly clear from the Riyadh attacks a few weeks ago (which came after the Bush administration announced its military withdrawal) that whatever the U.S. does, Al-Qaida will not cease its anti-American operations. Very odd to see a senior official implicitly discussing carrots and sticks when addressing Al-Qaida, when the thrust of administration thinking on the matter since Sept. 11 has gone in a completely different direction.

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