- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003


The Pentagon’s second-ranking official said yesterday that he does not believe a mounting U.S. military death toll will erode Americans’ support for restoring stability to Iraq.

“Iraq now is the central battle in the war on terrorism” and is vital for the safety of the United States, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The reports of deaths are terrible. Any American death is a terrible thing,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. “But I think the American public understand that when you’re fighting a war against terrorists, when you’re fighting for the security of this country, that sacrifice is something that you’d have to expect.”

In appearances on most of the Sunday talk shows, Mr. Wolfowitz continually linked the U.S.-led Iraq invasion and its aftermath with President Bush’s war on terror. At the same time, the defense official emphasized that intelligence dealing with terrorists is intrinsically “murky.”

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he was struck by Mr. Wolfowitz’s use of the word.

“Boy, it sure didn’t sound murky before the war,” Mr. Levin said. “There were clear connections, we were told, between al Qaeda and Iraq. There was no murkiness, no nuance, no uncertainty about it at all. … That’s the way it was presented to the American people.”

The Iraq operation was presented as an example of the Bush policy of pre-emptive attack based on intelligence showing a threat to U.S. security.

Mr. Wolfowitz did not say specifically that the Iraq campaign was the result of murky intelligence. But he said the congressional investigation report released last week blamed the administration for not discerning, from tidbits of evidence, the terrorist threat that was born out September 11. Critics are trying to have it both ways, he said.

“I believe we are still fighting terrorists and terrorist supporters in Iraq in a battle that will make this country safer in the future from terrorism,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Wolfowitz said he was not sure whether the upsurge in American combat deaths represented a trend or merely a spike triggered by the killing last week of two sons of deposed President Saddam Hussein.

There were 13 deaths in the seven days ending Saturday, in what was one of the bloodiest weeks of the war. Another soldier died yesterday.

“The sacrifices that our troops are making are spectacular. It’s difficult conditions, it’s dangerous conditions, and it takes a lot of ingenuity to figure out how to do some of these civil military things they’re doing,” Mr. Wolfowitz said on Fox.

“But it is a sacrifice that is going to make our children and our grandchildren safer, because the battle to win the peace in Iraq now is the central battle in the war on terrorism, and what these troops are doing — and they understand the mission — is something that’s going to make our country safer.”

Although he insisted the occupation was going well, Mr. Wolfowitz said: “I don’t want to paint a rosy picture; there are real problems. The security problem is real, and the security problem is making it difficult to solve other problems like getting the power and electricity restored.”

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