PAUL WOLFOWITZ AND VANITY FAIR….Compare and contrast. Here is how Deutsche Welle reported Paul Wolfowitz’s interview with Vanity Fair:

US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has admitted that the decision to wage war on Iraq was not based on the regime’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Wolfowitz, an outspoken hawk in the Bush administration and a key architect of the Iraq campaign, said in a magazine interview that the weapons issue was agreed on simply for “bureaucratic reasons”. He told “Vanity Fair” that it was something everyone in the administration could agree upon. Wolfowitz indicated that the real reason was that a toppled Iraqi regime would allow the withdrawal of US troops from Saudi Arabia thus removing them as terrorist targets. Seven weeks after the war, no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found in Iraq.

Is that what he really said? Yes and no. Here’s the relevant part of the interview:

Wolfowitz: There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed–but it’s huge–is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It’s been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.

I don’t want to speak in messianic terms. It’s not going to change things overnight, but it’s a huge improvement.

Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden’s rage about that, which he’s built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there’s a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into —

Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but….

There have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there’s a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two.

….The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it’s not a reason to put American kids’ lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there’s the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we’ve arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

Obviously, the German spin is pretty misleading. Wolfowitz didn’t say that the “real reason” for the invasion was removing troops from Saudi Arabia, nor did he say that WMD was just a pretext.

In fact, just the opposite. Wolfowitz did say that reason #3 was insufficient and reason #2 was too unsubstantiated to hang the case for invasion on. So for purposes of selling the war, they chose to emphasize WMD.

This is roughly how the U.S. media has portrayed it, so I don’t think Wolfowitz has been done any major disservice. In fact, if anything, I think it confirms the importance of WMD as a justification for war: Wolfowitz himself says the humanitarian argument is insufficient, and there are dozens of countries with terrorist ties as extensive as Iraq’s. It’s WMD and the willingness to use it that set Iraq apart.