Paul Wolfowitz: 'We Stand and Fight'

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, October 28, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: No one in the Bush administration has believed more strongly that Iraq, despite three decades under Saddam Hussein (search), was uniquely suited to becoming a modern democracy than Paul Wolfowitz.

Members of Congress, visiting Iraq lately, have spent their nights in Kuwait City, venturing into Iraq only by day. Not Paul Wolfowitz, who was in his room in Baghdad's al Rasheed Hotel (search) on Sunday when a barrage of six missiles struck the building. Paul Wolfowitz joins me now.

Welcome sir.


HUME: Glad to have you back on a couple of accounts.

Tell me about where you -- I mean I know you were in your room. What you were doing, what happened at that moment on Sunday?

WOLFOWITZ: Well, I heard this loud explosion. It sounded like something had gone off in the distance.

HUME: In the distance?

WOLFOWITZ: Well, it sounded that way. I mean and I went...

HUME: You were one -- as it turned out, you were one story above.

WOLFOWITZ: It hadn't hit the hotel yet.

HUME: Oh, it hadn't. I see.

WOLFOWITZ: What you first hear is, it turns out, the sound of the rocket exploding and igniting. And I kind of stupidly started going to the window to see what was going on. And I had this great security guard, who was in my room, almost like that pulled me away, got me across the hall.

HUME: Before the rocket hit?

WOLFOWITZ: I think after the first couple had hit.

HUME: What did it feel like? Did the building shake?

WOLFOWITZ: I was not exactly focusing on whether the building was shaking. I was focusing on following his instructions, getting across the hall. Once the shooting stopped, we had a great team that secured all of our stuff. We checked and made sure that everyone -- we accounted for everyone in our party. We were ready to stay up there. And then somebody said, no, the building may be on fire. So we headed downstairs.

HUME: Using the stairs, the elevator had to...

WOLFOWITZ: Stairs -- had to use the stairs. And then, of course, you discover there were some serious wounded. And fortunately, we had a flight surgeon with us. I made sure he went to attend to one of them; and mostly figured out how to start going about our business because it's very important. We had important work to do and I was going to be damned if they were going to scare us away from that.

HUME: I must tell you, if I had been in that hotel, I'm sure I would have been scared to death. How did you feel?

WOLFOWITZ: You don't have much time to be scared. I'll tell you, the strongest emotion came when somebody told me that one of the guys had died. You get a pit in your stomach when that hits you.

HUME: I can imagine.

WOLFOWITZ: But you know, it's all over. I mean you don't feel any greater danger afterwards than you did before. It is those few minutes when it is going on and then it's the casualties after. I must say visiting the casualties in the hospital was actually inspirational. I thought I might be going to console or comfort five British civilian, three American civilians, one American military...every one of them believing in the mission that had gotten them hurt badly.

HUME: What did they say?

WOLFOWITZ: The Brit, I asked him if, among other things, if he was in a lot of pain. He said no. And I said like, either you're lying or it's your stiff British upper lip. He said well, actually I have some American blood in me, which I enjoy.

I got to the end, an American colonel, who I guess was the most serious injury. He had an oxygen mask on his face. I asked him where are you from? He said you mean where do I live or are you asking about my accent? And I said well, I hadn't noticed your accent but now that you mention it, both. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, but he grew up in Beirut, Lebanon (search).

HUME: Wow.

WOLFOWITZ: So I said I well, guess it was worse in Beirut? He said yes. And I said how do you feel about building a new Middle East (search) and he gave me a thumb's up. And then asked the nurse to prop him up without the oxygen so that we could take a picture together. It's just an amazing spirit.

The CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, a mixture of military and civilians, all agencies, State Department -- there's one State Department secretary among the wounded, a Labor Department employee among the wounded, a Department of Defense civilian among the seriously wounded. By the way, there was somebody from Kosovo, somebody from Italy, who was lightly wounded and walked away.

This is a Sunday. One of their close comrades had just been killed and they were back at work. It's a wonderful, defiant, heroic spirit and hundreds of thousands of heroic Iraqis fighting alongside them.

HUME: Do you think you were a target, personally?

WOLFOWITZ: I don't think so. Look, what they were targeting...

HUME: Do you think that they knew you were there?

WOLFOWITZ: I have no idea. But what these criminals, and I say criminals not in the ordinary sense of criminals, but criminal minds, the criminal remnants of the Ba'athists regime and their terrorist allies. What they are doing, as the president said today, is they're targeting success. They're trying to scare us out of Iraq.

The reason Iraq is a dangerous place today is because there are people who can't stand the thought of a free and peaceful Iraq. And I agree with the president. It is the same mentality that attacked us on September 11, 2001. They believe that we're weak, and we're scared and we'll run. They hit-and-run. We stand and fight.

HUME: The American people, it strikes me, seeing these dismaying accounts of all this violence in recent days, which on the surface, looks like it's successful. In the sense that it's getting a lot of attention, people are dying and bloody and ugly and seems chaotic over there. What are they to make of that? Why should they not conclude that we, you know, don't have either the forces or the plan or whatever in effect to deal with this?

WOLFOWITZ: Brit, 3,000 people died in New York on September 11 and another 115 at the Pentagon; does that mean that our country is chaotic and falling apart? No, it means a criminal gang can figure out how to kill people. Timothy McVeigh (search) and his single partner killed 150 people at Oklahoma. Unfortunately, it doesn't take a lot of people to do this. It takes a lot of people to fight them.

And we are steadily increasing the number of Iraqis on the line, risking their lives, sacrificing their lives. I don't know the exact number. A week ago, it was 82 Iraqis that had been killed in the line of duty fighting terrorists and Ba'athists. I imagine that number is up, approaching 100 now.

I met a police chief whom I had met back in July. Ten days after I met him, he was shot in the leg, capturing three former Saddammists and he showed me this ugly Arabic newspaper that attacks him with an ugly cartoon on the front and he said I'm proud of this. I mean there are Iraqis that are standing up and fighting for a future freedom and they're proud of our help, they're grateful for our help and they deserve our help.

And since you've given me a soapbox here, let me say as the president said today, part of that help needs to come from the Congress. And we are very grateful that both the House and Senate acted so quickly to pass the supplemental request. It is crucial to winning this war and we hope -- I'm sure the conference committee people will report out a final bill soon.

HUME: Back to the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere. Is it time to change tactics to, for example, re-impose the curfew on Baghdad?

WOLFOWITZ: Those are tactical judgments, which I have really got to leave to commanders in the field. On some of these things, you may take three steps forward and one step back. But the steady direction is forward. And the thing that is most impressive in terms of forward progress to me, and maybe it's particularly with my Defense Department perspective, is steadily growing the numbers of Iraqis that are fighting.

HUME: Are they trained, in your view? They've been trained pretty quickly. Are they adequately trained, in your view, for the mission of doing something that you pointed out earlier in this interview is not hard to do? That is to say, to mount a deadly terrorist attack from in hiding or...

WOLFOWITZ: It's just in the last few days they have -- I haven't taken a full inventory. They stopped one terrorist attack. They captured one device before it even went off. When the attack took place on our hotel, the two first people on the scene were two Iraqi Facility Protection Service people.

From the accounts I've heard so far, and you can get a whole story put together, they may have chased those criminals away before they could fully arm the device. They were wounded when shrapnel came down from off the wall. So there are a lot of Iraqis with basic military training. And it turns out with about three weeks of additional training; they can be a very effective civil defense force.

HUME: What about reconstituting the army? Is it too late for that?

WOLFOWITZ: We don't need tank units or artillery nits. What we need are the kinds of formations for standing up in the civil defense corps. And you can stand those up a lot quicker.

When Iraqis go on the street, they have a lot of advantages over Americans, even though we may be better at soldiering and we may be better equipped and better trained. They speak the language, they know the neighborhood, they know how to read the culture. The really impressive thing is when we work together with them.

HUME: Paul Wolfowitz, glad to have you back. Glad you're still with us. Thank you very much for coming in.

WOLFOWITZ: Always glad to be with you.

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