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Wolfowitz: U.S. Must Act Even on 'Murky' Data

"The nature of terrorism is that intelligence about terrorism is murky," Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war, said on the "Fox News Sunday" program.

"The battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terror," he said.

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". . . intelligence about terrorism is murky . . ."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz speaks on NBC's 'Meet the Press' July 27, 2003 in Washington. Wolfowitz defended the invasion of Iraq as an example of how the United States had to be prepared to act on 'murky intelligence' in its war on terrorism. Photo by Alex Wong/Meet The Press via Reuters
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Wolfowitz Says U.S. Must Act Even on 'Murky' Data

Sun July 27, 2003 12:01 PM ET
By Anton Ferreira

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on Sunday defended the invasion of Iraq as an example of how the United States had to be prepared to act on "murky intelligence" in its war on terrorism.

Wolfowitz was asked in several television interviews about widespread criticism that Washington's rationale for the war -- charges that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was collaborating with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group -- appeared to have been built on shaky foundations.

No such weapons have been found and little concrete evidence has been presented of an al Qaeda link.

"The nature of terrorism is that intelligence about terrorism is murky," Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war, said on the "Fox News Sunday" program.

"I think the lesson of 9/11 is that if you're not prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence, then you're going to have to act after the fact, and after the fact now means after horrendous things have happened to this country," he added.

About 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 when hijacked airliners were crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The United States blames bin Laden and al Qaeda for the attacks.

"If in 2001, or in 2000 or in 1999 we had gone to war in Afghanistan to deal with Osama bin Laden and we had tried to say 'It's because he's planning to kill 3,000 people in New York,' people would have said 'Well you don't have any proof of that'," Wolfowitz said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

"The lesson of Sept. 11 is that you can't wait until proof after the fact."

NEW U.S. STRATEGIC POLICY

The war on Iraq was launched in March after President Bush said the United States had adopted a policy of taking pre-emptive action against countries it believed were a threat.

Wolfowitz said it was wrong to think the United States could have continued a policy of containment against Iraq instead of going to war.

"Twelve years of containment was a terrible price for us," he said, citing the attacks on the USS Cole off the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000 and on the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

He said the Americans killed in those attacks were in the region as part of efforts to contain Iraq, and noted that their presence was one of bin Laden's main anti-U.S. grievances.

Wolfowitz declined to speculate on how close U.S. forces in Iraq might be to finding Saddam Hussein, but said the killing of his sons Uday and Qusay last week had led to a surge in intelligence tips from Iraqis.

This information could help in the hunt for Saddam and had already contributed to the discovery of 660 surface-to-air missiles over the last week, he said.

"I think what happened last week with the death of those two miserable creatures, is encouraging more people to come forward," he said.

Asked if the daily killings of U.S. soldiers in Iraq would erode support at home for Washington's role in Iraq, Wolfowitz said Bush had warned Americans that the war on terrorism would be a long one.

"The battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terror," he said.

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