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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Interview by Enric Gonzalez of El Pais (Spanish newspaper)

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary For Political Affairs
Washington, DC
August 29, 2002

(9:45 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: After September 11, the US managed to create a coalition which was fragile but somehow workable. Who's clearly not cooperating with the coalition, with the war on terror? What countries are not cooperating with the US one year after September the 11th?

UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: When you say that a coalition was created, I don't think that a coalition got established in the diplomatic sense. The coalition which was established was one of people horrified by what happened on the 11th of September. Ninety countries lost citizens on the 11th of September, and so I think the world gathered together to say no to terrorism.

And this is not a coalition that has meetings and issues communiqués or gets together in Geneva. It is a coalition of countries that say, "We have to do something about terrorism." When you look at the countries, 90 in all now, that have arrested terrorists, almost 2,500 terrorists, $135 million dollars worth of terrorist financing has been taken out of the international system thanks to UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and other efforts between countries like Spain and the United States, these are things that countries are doing all together. And so I think it's been extremely successful. Is every single country doing everything they can? No. And we have tried over this past year, as have other countries, to make sure that everyone is doing all the things that they can.

QUESTION: But the New York Times reports today that -- I think the New York Times -- that the UN is preparing a report and that the financial side of the war on terrorism is not working as well as was thought.

UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: I would make a couple of points. One is, I think that everybody -- Spanish people, Americans -- have to recognize the enormity of this problem; that there is money flowing all around, and without money, there really can be no terrorism. So when the Security Council voted for UN Security Council Resolution 1373 last year and countries like Spain did so much to support it, the success so far, I think, has been quite great. $135 million dollars is not a small amount of money.

What The Washington Post reported on this morning was a draft report. So we'll have to see what the draft is. But I think your readers and you would recognize that, is that once the resolution was passed and once the huge amounts of money were taken in, this was clearly going to get harder because the terrorists were going to get smarter and the pursuit would get more difficult.

So if you were to ask me, "Do you think it's harder today to get at terrorist finances than on the 13th of September," I would say sure, because terrorists are not stupid people. And so they are making it harder for all of us to do what we need to do in law enforcement and in tracking down this money. But we're going to keep at this. And countries like Spain are going to be increasingly important.

QUESTION: Concerning the role of the US fight against terrorism, the US has been criticized as unilateralist with imperialist tendencies and so on by the European allies and other countries. What can you say about that?

UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: First let me try to deal with this question of imperialism. I reject that charge, with all due respect. I do not believe that the United States, certainly in its history, and certainly since the 11th of September has moved -- has gone about the issues of terrorism in any imperialistic way whatsoever. Indeed, if you look at what President Bush has done in terms of organizing the world to fight against terrorism, he said this isn't just a military issue, it's an issue of bringing the whole world together to recognize that we have to do differently.

I would refer you and your readers to what President Bush said in Monterrey, Mexico earlier this year, opening the Millennium Challenge Account. I think nothing could be farther from an imperialistic vision than the President's speech in Monterrey talking about good governance, talking about increased assistance, talking about more democracy. And so I think the imperialist charge is an old-fashioned one. It doesn't fit with today's reality.

On the question of unilateralism and multilateralism -- again, this is just my perspective and you and your readers will have to come to their own conclusions -- I think the actions of the United States since the 11th of September have been multilateral. What was one of the very first things that we did? We sought help from our NATO allies, including Spain. That's a multilateral organization. We sought help from the United Nations, and the United Nations very strongly came out against terrorism in a number of very important resolutions. That's a multilateral organization.

Secretary Powell, on the 11th of September, was sitting in Lima, Peru at a meeting of the Organization of American States, a multilateral organization. So I think we have tried our very best to use all of these multilateral organizations.

I will give you another example that Spain is involved in. I believe that on counterterrorism and many other issues, relations between the European Union and the United States have increased vastly. Think of the new cooperation in, among interior ministers, justice ministers, law enforcement, the way that the European Union is listing countries and individuals as terrorists, along with the United States. These are multilateral efforts.

I think the idea somehow that the United States has gone unilateralist is not right. I would also argue to you that that isn't right in terms of the military action we took in Afghanistan. All NATO members have participated in some fashion in Operation Enduring Freedom. Fourteen of 19 allies actually have forces deployed in or around Afghanistan.

If you look at the composition of the international security force in Afghanistan, what could be more multilateral? It's headed by Turks, there are large numbers of countries involved in it, and so I think all of these areas show that we're very interested in doing this work together. So with all due respect to your question, I don't think either premise is right.

QUESTION: Sir, why do you need to meet, I think it's next week, to talk about or to try to or guess why there's an anti-American feeling in certain parts of the world, and what's your idea about that? Why is that feeling, that anti-America feeling --

UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: I can't explain it. I mean, I have my theories about this, but I know the meeting next week is a sensible meeting and one designed to help us listen to other points of view. We are a country that lives in this world, wants to live in this world, shares values with many, many people in this world, including, I would argue, with the Spanish people. If there's a misperception of us somehow, then we ought to know that. And maybe there's something we can do about it.

So I think this conference that's being hosted by our -- by the State Department, actually, is a perfectly sensible thing to do. And, you know, people have talked to us a lot about doing a better job and telling our story, and so that's what we're going to try to do.

QUESTION: Iraq is being presented as a terror problem -- Vice President Cheney, I think it was, that terrorism was not only a problem of groups, but countries. And Iraq is causing serious differences between the US and the allies. And the Department of State is presented as closer to the allies than other parts of the US Government. Is there any kind of difference? Are there differences between the State Department and other departments?

UNDERSECRETARY GROSSMAN: Our job and the job of everyone in our government is to support President Bush's policy. President Bush's policy, as he has said on any number of occasions, is that the Iraqi people and the world will be better off when Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge of Baghdad. That's the President's policy and everyone supports it. I think as Mr. Boucher said yesterday from the podium let's not forget that Secretary Powell called for regime change early in his tenure as Secretary of State.

We support the President. That is our job and we're proud to do so. Is there a debate in the United States and in Western Europe, and I'm sure in Spain as well, about what to do about Iraq and Saddam Hussein? Of course there is. And one of the great things about our country, about Spain and the United States, is we're democracies. I think it would be much more difficult if you were asking me why no one ever talks about Iraq, why no one ever talks about the options, because I think that in a democracy, if you're going to have a foreign policy and you're going to have any kind of policy, that policy ought to be debated and it ought to be supported by people.

So this causes me really no anxiety whatsoever. These are important issues and people ought to talk about them. I'm sure people are talking about them in Spain.

If I could just make one additional point, I want to reiterate the point that President Bush has made and Vice President Cheney made in his speech, that the President has not decided his course of action, and in our country he's the only one who can make such a decision. He was elected President. So I would just refer you and your readers to the very clear statement of the President that he wants to consult with the allies, he wants to consult with his friends, he wants to consult with the Congress, and he's not made a decision yet about what particular plan of action he wishes to take.

QUESTION: Do you ever think that sometimes the US administration is sending, like, mixed signals to the allies when Vice President Cheney says there's no time to lose, President Bush says I'm a patient man, and so you never know if war is for next month

or --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think that part of the answer to that question, as President Bush said with Secretary Rumsfeld the other day, is that maybe because this is August there's just been a frenzy of press reporting on this. And, you know, that's life. That's life in democracies.

What we are trying to transmit to our allies, though, is a sense of the threat from Saddam Hussein. Again, I would refer you to the Vice President's speech and Secretary Powell's remarks and others' remarks. There haven't been weapons inspectors in Iraq in four years.

When you ask me whether we are a unilateralist country, I say to you this is not a problem between Iraq and the United States. Iraq agreed in 1991 to UN Security Council Resolution 687 and 688. In 687 -- not to the United States, to the United Nations -- Saddam Hussein said he would disarm. I don't think there's anybody in the world who believes that Saddam Hussein has disarmed these past 11 years. And so that's not just a matter of Iraq-US. That ought to be a matter for all of our allies, European and others, to say wait a minute, here's somebody who looks at a UN resolution and just decides he doesn't care about it.

So these are not unilateral questions. These are multilateral questions. These are questions that Saddam Hussein poses a threat, in our view, not to the United States alone, but to the international system. The disarmament of Iraq, how Iraq treats its own people, all of these things are not issues for the United States; they're issues for Spain and for all members of the United Nations and for the United States. That's the message we're trying to convey to our European friends.

QUESTION: Then related to this question, do you think that, in any case, the US and the allies will need another resolution of the UN, or the present resolutions that have been approved are enough to justify any course of action?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I have to go back. Our President has not chosen a course of action. That's a very important point. I think Resolution 687 and 688 are very powerful documents. Other than that, I can't speculate because I can't meet the premise of your question since our President has not decided on a course of action. When he does, we'll then make some decisions about the tactics. But I think it's important for your readers to recognize that 687 and 688 are living documents. They're powerful documents.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.

Released on September 11, 2002

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