WASHINGTON – When rockets hit the Baghdad hotel he was staying in, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) ran to the window to see what was going on. A security guard hastily pulled him back and told him what to do.
"I was not exactly focusing on whether the building was shaking," he said Tuesday, recounting the deadly attack. "I was focusing on following instructions, getting across the hall."
Wolfowitz, interviewed on the Fox News cable network, confessed only to "a pit in your stomach" during the assault on the Al Rashid Hotel (search) that killed a U.S. lieutenant colonel and wounded 18 other people. Several rockets struck the hotel that is home to many U.S. military and civilian employees.
He said he didn't have time to be scared. But when he appeared at a news conference later, he was shaken up.
Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the war that ousted Saddam Hussein (search), arrived in Iraq on Friday for a three-day visit.
Once the shooting stopped, he said, a team secured his party's belongings and made sure everyone in the group was OK. It was then he discovered there were some seriously wounded.
Wolfowitz later visited them in the hospital. He called the visit "inspirational," saying everyone he met there believed in the mission.
A badly wounded American colonel, who had grown up in Beirut but lives in Arlington, Va., gave Wolfowitz the thumbs-up when he was asked: "How do you feel about building a new Middle East?"
"It's just an amazing spirit," Wolfowitz recalled.
Wolfowitz said he doesn't know who the terrorists are who bombed the hotel, but he knew very well what they were up to.
"They're trying to scare us out of Iraq," he said. "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."
When asked whether he thought tactical changes needed, such as reimposing a curfew in Baghdad, Wolfowitz deferred to commanders in the field.
President Bush has blamed both loyalists to Saddam and foreign terrorists for the attacks in and around Baghdad, including the rocket barrage at the hotel.