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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 Pepe Carreno of El Universal

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Washington, DC
November 1, 2002

(10:50 a.m. EST)

PEPE CARRENO: Why should Mexico or any Security Council member vote for the American resolution or for the American position?

MR. GROSSMAN: Great. When you ask me why should Mexico or any other country on the Security Council vote for the United States resolution, I would give you three answers if I could.

First, because voting for the toughest possible resolution is the surest way to avoid conflict. The history of the last ten or eleven years proves that when Saddam Hussein believes that the Security Council is divided or weak, he takes advantage of it. But when Saddam Hussein believes that the Security Council is united and strong, he does what the Security Council asks of him. And so my message to you and to your readers first is that if you want to avoid conflict, like we do, then the Security Council should vote for the toughest possible resolution.

The second reason that I'd give you to support the US resolution is that it will strengthen the Security Council. The President spoke on the 12th of September at the United Nations General Assembly. What did he say? He said there needs to be an international solution to this problem. This problem is not a question of Iraq and America, it's a question of Iraq and the United Nations. And all countries -- Mexico, America -- who believe in the United Nations should be in favor of a strong resolution so we can strengthen the Security Council.

And the third reason, sir, that I would recommend that people vote for a strong resolution is that we ought to disarm Iraq. Iraq is in violation of its commitments, especially UN Security Council resolution 687, which called on Iraq to disarm. And we believe that an Iraq with nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, radiological weapons is a threat to his neighbors and ultimately to countries like the United States and Mexico.

So I believe that a strong resolution will provide three things for us. It will provide the way to avoid conflict, it will provide for a stronger Security Council and it will provide for an Iraq that has met its obligations to the United Nations. And I would say that that would be something in Mexico's interests and in America's interests.

PEPE CARRENO: Let me accept everything that has been said. Let me take everything that has been said about Saddam Hussein, not only in this interview but everything that has been said about his intentions, about his -- et cetera. But let me you ask you then, we want to say some question that is, that has been made here and let's talk about here. There are quite a few countries that have the same kind of intentions, that have leaders that are also sort of strong or thugs if you want to call it that way, so why Iraq and why not others? I mean, and let me complete that. There has been a lot of talk of what Iraq has or might have, but so far for many countries and for many readers, myself included, it is "Believe me," it is "Trust me," "He's this. He's that." "He has this. He has that," but there is not yet a convincing proof of evidence if you want to put that way except in the "Believe me" and his previous behavior.

MR. GROSSMAN: First, his previous behavior is not irrelevant here. The fact that he has attempted and succeeded over the years in stopping inspections, in diverting inspections, and the fact, sir, that there have been no inspectors there in Iraq for four years leads me to conclude -- and you may have a different conclusion -- but it leads me to conclude that he's got something to hide.

Second, in terms of proof, I believe that since it's not an American document perhaps the people in Mexico would think more of it. But I believe that the white paper that the British Government issued some weeks ago -- and I know it's still available and we would be glad to make it available to you -- was a very powerful statement not only of what the inspectors had found, but what they left behind; and all of the information shows that Iraq is reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction programs, it's rebuilding its factories and it is spending money all around the world to buy items that can only be used for production of weapons of mass destruction.,

And so I would hope that the Mexican people would join us in recognizing that the way to answer these questions is to get inspectors back and that the inspectors have to come back under a powerful regime so that they can't be diverted from places, they can't be stopped from going to places, the Iraqis can't grab the controls of helicopters as they have before and divert them from the place they were going to visit; inspections have to work not just because they are inspections, but because they have to disarm Iraq.

PEPE CARRENO: But at the same time, a lot of people, a lot of countries, I guess, in the background of the thought of a lot of countries is, isn't this some sort of white -- blank check for the US and -- not me -- in that sense, isn't this sort of setting a precedent for, for the future?

MR. GROSSMAN: No, sir. If that argument was true, then President Bush would never have gone to the United Nations on the 12th of September. I mean you are a reporter here. Think back to July and August when everyone was saying, "Oh, America is going to go on its own," "America will never go to the United Nations."

And on the 12th of September, what happened? The President of the United States went to the United Nations andsaid, "This is not a problem of America. It's not a unilateral problem. This is a multilateral problem. This is a problem that is owned and shared by every single country, and especially owned and shared by countries on the Security Council like Mexico and the United States." So I think all of our actions since the 12th of September, all of our actions since the 12th of September have proven that argument to be wrong, with all due respect.

PEPE CARRENO: Then also with all due respect, let me antagonize you just a bit.

MR. GROSSMAN: Please.

PEPE CARRENO: The internal politics in the US are such that an intervention in Iraq with the support of the US has a lot more support then, in unilateral terms. One could argue that there is a political need for President Bush to go to UN, domestically needed.

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, every country has its domestic politics, but I think -- again, you live here -- I think you would agree that all of the polls in the United States show that people are prepared to support our President in any case, but the numbers of that support go even higher if the United Nations will meet its responsibilities. So the President of the United States didn't go to the United Nations out of some political calculation of his. He went to the United Nations because this is a United Nations problem. And it's a problem that Mexico and the United States share as being both members of the Security Council at the moment.

PEPE CARRENO: Now, going into -- following that back, the President Bush has said that the US would go by himself, by itself, if needed be.

MR. GROSSMAN: Yes, absolutely.

PEPE CARRENO: Isn't that something like telling the rest of the world, "You do the way I think, or I'll do it my way?" I mean, it's -- the US is the largest, the largest power in the world.

MR. GROSSMAN: But again, I ask you to consider our actions since the 12th of September. Since the 12th of September we have been actively engaged we have been actively engaged with Security Council members, including with Mexico, in negotiating a resolution. And I would say to you with respect that had our intention been to act alone, we would not have spent the last six weeks making adjustments, compromising, talking to other countries. I know that Secretary Powell has been on the phone to Foreign Minister Castaneda on a number of occasions to talk about the views of other countries in this regard. And so I hear the charge that you make, sir, but I believe that our actions since the 12th of September prove them wrong.

PEPE CARRENO: But let me make a something from my own. This situation might create a precedent. So in a way, what ensures that representative of Brazil, or representative of Mexico, or representative of whatever country, that in five, ten, fifteen years another administration with less, let's say with not so much ideals as the Bush administration or not such a good intentions of the Bush administration, or any other country for that matter, is not -- would not use this as a precedent to act in a different way -- in the same way, but without the same reasons?

MR. GROSSMAN: But what is the precedent here? The precedent is a country, Iraq, that has since 1991 violated every single UN Security Council resolution that has been passed asking it to do its duty -- to do its duty to disarm, to do its duty to its own people, to do its duty to the Kuwaitis, so the precedent here with all respect is not about the United States. The precedent here, as President Bush argued on the 12th of September is, the precedent is that if we don't act as a Security Council multilaterally against Iraq, the message is not going to be about the United States. The message to all rogue states will be, " Security Council resolutions -- they don't matter." And that's the precedent I would think that the Mexican people and the Mexican Government would be most concerned about.

If we had wanted to act on this unilaterally, we'd have done so some time over the last 11 years, but we've not done that. And President Bush went on the 12th of September and said, "This is an issue for the Security Council." And for a country like Mexico, which currently sits on the Security Council, I think that the line President Bush used is, "Do we want the United Nations to be the League of Nations or the United Nations?" That's the question here. And if Saddam Hussein and countries run by people like Saddam Hussein can come to conclude that Security Council resolutions don't matter, that's the precedent I would think that other countries would be most concerned about.

PEPE CARRENO: Now, in Mexico there was -- correctly or wrongly -- the idea that the US is pushing or putting pressure on a number of countries, including Mexico, for that vote. You are negotiating, convincing or are you exercising some pressure?

MR. GROSSMAN: What we're trying to with all of the countries on the Security Council is persuade them of the very first sentence that I gave you -- that a strong resolution is the way to avoid conflict. And we are trying our very best in the most persuasive way that we know how to convince every country that the answer to this issue is to strengthen the United Nations and is to avoid conflict.

We want everyone to understand that we don't want to have a war here. But the way to avoid war is to pass a strong resolution. And we're going to use every one of our abilities to persuade people of that fact, of that belief.

PEPE CARRENO: If I may, and if you -- I don't know if you read Spanish or have you ever read the Mexican press, but our opinion writers are all aghast saying in things like, "Okay, we are getting pressured for -- Mexico might be 'punished' or pressured in a different way for not voting with the US. Or Mexico will not have these kind of dealings with the US if this happened or that happens."

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, that assumes that Mexico votes one way or the other. I think,as Secretary Powell has said, after the meetings between President Bush and President Fox, Mexico will have to decide how Mexico will vote. Mexico is a sovereign country. Mexico has to consider its own interests. But we believe that in the end, the Mexican Government and the people in Mexico will accept the argument that it is only a strong resolution which will avoid conflict, and it's only a strong resolution which will strengthen the Security Council. And for a country that's on the Security Council, Mexico, I would think those would be two big advantages.

PEPE CARRENO: Let's say Mexico votes in favor, or whatever the vote is, what is the impact, whatever the vote is in the US -- in the bilateral relation?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, I don't know. I mean, you're guessing about what Mexico might or might not do. Only Mexicans can decide that. I don't know.

PEPE CARRENO: Let's put it this way -- the relation would change if the vote is positive or would change if the vote is negative?

MR. GROSSMAN: I don't think it's worth speculating on that question because there's been no vote yet. As I say, I think what Secretary Powell said was right, which is that Mexico will decide its own interests and we hope in the end that Mexico will recognize that a stronger Security Council, no conflict and a disarmed Iraq is in Mexico's interests.

I recognize that you are writing for a Mexican audience and I speak for the United States, but the real answer to your question about impact is we want to have an impact on Saddam Hussein. We don't want to have an impact on America or Mexico or France or Cameroon. We want to have an impact on Saddam Hussein. And so I would say to Mexicans that the way to have an impact on Saddam Hussein is to vote for a strong resolution. That's the impact you want here.

It's like your question on precedent before. You know, the precedent we want is that rogue states shouldn't ignore Security Council resolutions. And the way to get it is to have an impact on the guy.

PEPE CARRENO: So there are -- let me ask the same question a different way. There are no consequences if there is a vote against and there are no consequences and no advantages if it's in favor, in the political terms?

MR. GROSSMAN: The Security Council resolution that we are seeking is, I think it would be fair to say, the highest priority in foreign policy of the President of the United States at the moment. And I can only speak for America. I can't speak for anybody else.

PEPE CARRENO: Okay. And speaking from the American side, your feelings of friendship would be enhanced or diminished?

MR. GROSSMAN: The highest priority we have at the moment is getting the Security Council resolution passed.

PEPE CARRENO: But let's put it this way -- there was a huge linkage between both countries. There was a huge --

MR. GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

PEPE CARRENO: -- trade, political, social relations. In Mexico some people feel that, for instance, things like that -- in Mexico and here, by the way, some people believe that in their last meeting, Mr. Fox and Mr. Bush were upset with each other because they did not get what they wanted from each other -- meaning Mr. Bush wanted Mexican support in the Security Council, Mr. Fox wanted something on the famous arrangement on immigration.

Is there any solid footing in there?

MR. GROSSMAN: The Secretary had said that Mr. Fox and Mr. Bush had a very good meeting. And second, this resolution, this resolution is about Iraq. This resolution is about the Security Council. And Mexico is a member of the Security Council. So Mexico has to make a decision here based on its interests, obviously, but also as a very senior member of the world community. That's Mexico's responsibility. And people seek to be on the Security Council, and they seek to be on the Security Council because they want to have an impact in the world. And Mexico has a chance right here, right now to have an impact on the world.

PEPE CARRENO: How are your negotiations with the French?

MR. GROSSMAN: We are working very hard on this. Secretary Powell has said that we can get this resolution accomplished and that's our goal. Our goal is to have a fierce, tough, strong resolution because as I said to you, that is what will avoid conflict.

PEPE CARRENO: One last question.

MR. GROSSMAN: Please, sir.

PEPE CARRENO: A lot of people here, I mean, including here in the US and abroad feels that what has the concern of why the Iraqis they should suffer for Saddam -- for punishment to Saddam? And, I mean, you have seen that even the American delegations going to Iraq and expressing their concerns for the Iraqi children, et cetera.

MR. GROSSMAN: Right. Well, first, in terms of the past few years, the United States, and I know Mexico as well, have been big supporters of the UN's oil-for-food program, which has spent billions in Iraq to feed people and get them medicine. And any diversions from that money really has been for Saddam Hussein -- 19 palaces, 20 palaces -- huge numbers of palaces, big, big, big palaces. And a lot of this money gets diverted to Saddam.

And second, again, with respect, your question and what people say implies that there will somehow have to be a conflict. And again, if I could just stress one thing to you and to your readers, is we don't want a conflict. The President of the United States did not go to the United Nations to declare war. He went to the United Nations to declare a purpose. And that purpose was to strengthen the Security Council and to disarm Iraq. And so if this could be done without conflict, and the way to do it is to have Mexico and the United States and other countries support a strong resolution, you know, maybe we could free the Iraqi people of Saddam without having to fight.

PEPE CARRENO: Well, who was the, was it an American president the one that said something like, "If you want peace, you need to prepare for war?"

MR. GROSSMAN: That's what the whole idea of deterrence is based on. We need Saddam Hussein and the senior leadership in Iraq to believe that the Security Council's united, that we are prepared to enforce the Security Council's resolutions and that if it comes to it, we would have to enforce them.

PEPE CARRENO: What is, if I may, and if you can, of course --

MR. GROSSMAN: Please.

PEPE CARRENO: -- the main argument that Mr. Powell has made to Mr. Castaneda?

MR. GROSSMAN: This one. That the best way to avoid a conflict, support the Security Council and disarm Iraq is to pass unanimously a strong, tough resolution. That is the argument.

PEPE CARRENO: No more questions.

MR. GROSSMAN: You've got another minute or so here, sir.

PEPE CARRENO: Oh, good. So let me ask -- let's put it this way. I mean, why, then, the US is preparing for war -- is making war preparations?

MR. GROSSMAN: Because we believe that Saddam Hussein and his senior leaders have to believe that if they continue to to ignore the resolutions of the United Nations that there will be consequences. If you pass a resolution that is weak or that is clearly not backed up by any threat of force, what will Saddam Hussein do? He'll throw that resolution in the trash.

And

PEPE CARRENO: One last question and to the degree that you can.

MR. GROSSMAN: Please, sir.

PEPE CARRENO: How could you define, or how do you qualify the US-Mexico relations at this point?

MR. GROSSMAN: They're excellent.

PEPE CARRENO: At this point?

MR. GROSSMAN: They are excellent. I mean, as you said, we have a huge bilateral relationship. We do hundreds and hundreds of things together. Is everything always perfect on every single day in any of these big relations that we've got? Of course not, but, I mean, my goodness, the US-Mexican relationship is an excellent relationship.

PEPE CARRENO: Thank you.

MR. GROSSMAN: Thanks a lot.

PEPE CARRENO: Thank you.


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