The Wolfowitz interview

In attempted preemptive self-defense the Pentagon taped Paul Wolfowitz’s interview with Sam Tanenhaus, the author of the Vanity Fair article decried by Rocket Man below. The Pentagon’s public relations Web site has posted the transcript of the interview. Click here for the transcript. Here is the relevant passage:

“TANENHAUS: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden’s rage about that, which he’s built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there’s a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into–

WOLFOWITZ: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but . . . there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there’s a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. . . . The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it’s not a reason to put American kids’ lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there’s the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we’ve arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his U.N. presentation.”

In the issue of the Weekly Standard out this morning, Bill Kristol comments that what has occurred is “that Tanenhaus has mischaracterized Wolfowitz’s remarks, that Vanity Fair’s publicists have mischaracterized Tanenhaus’s mischaracterization, and that Bush administration critics are now indulging in an orgy of righteous indignation that is dishonest in triplicate.” Kristol’s editorial is “What Wolfowitz really said.”


The transcript irrefutably establishes that Wolfowitz did not say what he is said to have said. Moreover, everything he did say is scrupulously true and consistent with the Bush administration’s stated reasons for undertaking the removal of Saddam Hussein. But should Wolfowitz have given the interview to Sam Tanenhaus knowing it was to be used for an article in Vanity Fair? I’m sure that in retrospect Wolfowitz agrees with Rocket Man.

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