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U.S. Must Defend Freedom, Not Just Oil, Expert Says

(Washington, DC--July 25, 2002) A former director of the Central Intelligence Agency told an RFE/RL audience yesterday that the United States must be uncompromising in its defense of freedom, particularly seeking freedom for the people of the Middle East.

Noting that the United States is too often perceived as interested only in defending oil supplies, James Woolsey, an acknowledged expert on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the present Iraqi regime, said that "the U.S. must go back to its roots" and wage a whole-hearted military effort, in what he termed "this Fourth World War" which "has to be a war for freedom -- a war on behalf of the people of the Middle East" so that they can have a chance to live "in decency."

Woolsey said that the U.S. has the capability to defeat the "three groups which are at war with the United States": the mullahs of Iran, Islamist fundamentalists inspired by the Wahhabi movement of Saudi Arabia, and Saddam Husseyn's Iraqi dictatorship. The mullahs "are losing their grip on Iranian society", he said, "their days are numbered and the regime faces the same situation as the Kremlin did in 1988 and Versailles did in 1788." The Islamist fundamentalists, symbolized by Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization, will be "cleared out country by country", Woolsey said. But the "fascist" Ba'ath Party of Iraq, led by Saddam Husseyn, can only be defeated by a combination of U.S. air power, U.S. troops, indigenous forces and defections.

"This regime will not degrade gracefully", Woolsey said, "there is no Gorbachev of the Ba'athist Party" with whom to negotiate arms control or the destruction of chemical weapons. Woolsey noted that the likelihood that Husseyn will succeed in building a nuclear weapon grows with each passing day. "Given the continuing threat [Iraq poses] to the states of the region", Woolsey believes the U.S. will have the necessary support for military action against Saddam Husseyn's regime.

Woolsey also lamented the failure of the first Bush administration to remove Saddam Husseyn from power during the Gulf War 11 years ago. Woolsey said, "It is the single greatest stain on American honor for the last 20 years that we encouraged the Kurdish and the Shia peoples to rise in rebellion against Saddam Husseyn," and then did nothing to support the rebels, "not even [blow] up the bridges or keep the [Republican] Guard from flying their helicopters." He noted that before the rebels were "massacred by the Iraqi Republican Guard" they were succeeding in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The proceedings of the James Woolsey briefing are available as on-demand audio on RFE/RL's website.