Interview on Danish BroadcastingDeputy Secretary Richard L. Armitage
Interview by By Mr. Kim Lassen
October 20, 2003
(10:51 a.m. EDT)
QUESTION: The question that people right now ask me, when I talk to people at home --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You just said you hadn't been home.
QUESTION: No, but I still speak to people at home.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Of course you do.
QUESTION: And what they ask me often is, "How does the American Government think things are going in Iraq?"
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we'd say it's a mixed picture, but -- certainly the security teams -- about 80 percent of the country, we feel is more or less benign and somewhat pacified. About 20 percent, particularly the so-called Baathist Triangle, is still troubled.
But we're at higher amounts of electricity being provided to the nation than the case prewar. You've got universities and schools all open, clinics opened everywhere. So I think as a general matter, most people, I think their life has gotten better. But I'd be foolish to tell you there's not rocky patches ahead.
QUESTION: What are the most important or the biggest obstacles ahead, do you think?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think the biggest obstacle, clearly, is people who are still using violence and explosive devices and ambushes to try to undermine the security of the situation. Perhaps the second biggest is that all of us underestimated the extent to which Iraq had become a criminal regime: Getting around sanctions and all that stuff for the last 12 years has made it a really, really a kind of a lawless atmosphere. And coming to grips with that is a really tough thing.
And finally, I think we have to solve the problem of unemployment: 65 or 70 percent of the Iraqis are still relatively unemployed, and that can't be maintained for the long run, and that's why reconstruction efforts take so -- or loom so large for us.
QUESTION: But when there are problems, when there are security problems, is that because it is lawlessness, as you say, or is it genuine opposition against the ruling of America?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's -- the ruling of Americans, I think, we've made clear, particularly in the most recent unanimously passed resolution at the UN Security Council, is temporary in nature, and the sooner we can leave, the better. But we don't want to leave a situation in which lawlessness and security conditions aren't more under control.
The violence against us comes from -- against the coalition -- comes from several different areas: one, of former regime loyalists. Clearly they have an interest in undermining us. Some of it is from foreign fighters. There are a certain number of foreign fighters who have infiltrated in -- I'm not saying they're al-Qaida, but they certainly are terrorists. And third, I think there is the criminal element who find it very inconvenient that laws and the rule of law may come to take place of, or get in the way of what they've been using as a criminal enterprise for the last 12 years.
QUESTION: Now looking towards Madrid, the EU said during the week that they are going to pledge something around $230 million.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: That's what I saw.
QUESTION: Your initial comments on that amount? It's not a lot.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It depends on how it's applied. I'll let each nation speak to their own contribution. I'd note that there are other nations, like the Japanese, who have stood up for 1.5 billion in grants and, at least I've heard rumors, of perhaps another announcement at Madrid in a couple of days.
The British were terrific, stepping up for $900 million, the Spanish allies for 300 million. So I'll let the EU speak to their own contributions, but we also look for some nations, if they so desire, to give bilateral contributions.
This is not about supporting the United States. This is supporting Iraq and Iraqi people.
QUESTION: What are you looking for in a country like Denmark?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I noticed that, as I've been informed, Denmark had a rather healthy contribution that suggested something along the lines of $45 million, which bespeaks, I think, the generosity of spirit of the Danish people.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you how you envision the future of Iraq? I mean, the next year, what do you think will happen there?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we'll continue along with the Iraqi Governing Council to bring Iraqis more and more to the front, make the ministries more productive on a day-to-day basis, continue to work on the security atmosphere while keeping the territorial integrity of Iraq, continue to work with Iraqis to bring them more into the international community. And in this regard, some of the recent announcements and decisions of the OIC and even the United Nations to allow a delegation to take part in the deliberations -- at least observe them -- is a step in the right direction. That's what you can expect for the next year.
QUESTION: And I guess, I mean, this must be of extreme importance for your government to make this thing right.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We don't want to fail. And we're not going to cut and run and we're not inclined to do that. We want to get it right. It's a matter of importance, we think, for the whole Middle East as well as for the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: One of the things that has been discussed -- been discussed a lot -- also before this war was the use of this preemptive action. Is there in the government a discussion, now that you have seen Iraq, what happened there -- things are still evolving -- but do you think the Iraqi war would influence the use of that doctrine?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think every war influences, to some extent, any other military action a greater or lesser degree. At best we want to learn the lessons from each military conflict.
The question of preemption is one that's very interesting to me. In the National Security Document of President Bush, it was one or two lines in a 20-odd-page document. For Americans, preemption has always been an option. In fact, President Bush 41 used it in Panama back in the late '80s, early, or late 1989 I guess it was. So there was nothing new or particularly sexy about it, but people want to talk about it a lot.
QUESTION: Yeah, but there are also people within the government and people who support the government who say this is a very important part of U.S. foreign policy, isn't it?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think the ability, particularly after 9/11, to protect oneself, if necessary, preemption is one that every government would have. For instance, if Denmark knew that you were under imminent attack, perhaps you would strike out to save yourself. So preemption is not something that should be seen as unique to the United States. It's an arrow in the quiver of every nation. Hopefully we can get the international atmosphere in such a more benign state that this would not have to be considered, but I don't think you'd discard it.
QUESTION: But going back, then, to my initial question, do you think the war in Iraq has changed the way that people in the -- within the Administration look at the use of preemption?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think that we learned some lessons for it and perhaps the criticisms that have been leveled about the need to have better prepared for it are lessons that would be learned; but no, I think that preemption is as it was -- an arrow in our quiver -- just as I believe it's an arrow in the quiver of most nations.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: That's a good question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on October 22, 2003