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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > December

Interview on CBS' Face the Nation

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
December 2, 2001

QUESTION:  And the news this morning from Israel is even worse than we have been reading in our morning papers.  The morning papers tell of two attacks yesterday, now there has been another in Haifa.  Hundreds of people again injured in this latest attack.  Now more than 200 people injured and dead in Israel over just this weekend.  To talk about it with us this morning, the Secretary of State.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming.  I guess the first question must be, have you spoken to Yasser Arafat about any of this?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I spoke to Mr. Arafat on Saturday evening, right after the attacks took place.  And I told him that these are horrible acts of terrorism.  At that time, we only had the Jerusalem attack; the Haifa attack took place later.  And I told him that it was absolutely necessary for him to take positive action now.  It was a moment of truth.

Because these attacks were not only dastardly acts of terror against the people of Israel with the loss of life that you just suggested, but they were direct attacks against his authority, his ability to control the Palestinian Authority, and he had to respond and not just pick up the perpetrators, but take action to make sure that there are not other perpetrators from these organizations getting ready to commit further acts.

And so it is a moment of truth for Mr. Arafat.  We are there to help.  General Zinni is on the scene; General Zinni has talked to him.  We are prepared to try to get the two sides together to talk about a cease-fire.  We will not give up.

But at the same time, Mr. Arafat, I think, must act.  And let me take this opportunity to express the sympathy that all Americans feel for the families of the victims of these terrible acts of terror.

QUESTION:  What response did you get from him?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Mr. Arafat responded with an acknowledgement of what I had said to him and what General Zinni had said to him.  He said rather specifically that he has expressed his condolences and he is going to work on it.  And he acknowledged that these are attacks against him as well as attacks against Israel.  And I said to him, well, if that is the case, you need to respond accordingly.  This cannot be just, we'll round up some suspects and that will be the end of it.  He's got to go beyond that.  He's got to go after the organizations who are conducting these kinds of acts of terror and who are claiming credit for these acts of terror.

QUESTION:  Let me just ask you, in light of this, how can the United States now say to Mr. Sharon, who is in this country, you cannot respond to this?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No one said we were going to say that to Mr. Sharon.  We are going to have a conversation with Mr. Sharon this morning.  He will be seeing the President before he returns to Israel.  And we will get his assessment and we will discuss the whole situation with him.

I know the pressure he is under and I know the agony he must feel this morning.  We share his agony.  We share the pain of the Israeli people.  But we always have to keep in mind, where do we go now?  How do we make things better, not how do we make things worse.

QUESTION:  But the United States generally urges restraint on Israel after something -- has something changed here?  You're saying --

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, I am not saying we wouldn't urge restraint.  We are not going to tell the Prime Minister, who has been freely elected by his people to defend his nation, what he -- I don't know what he is going to do, and I don't know that he will share it with us.  And I know that the Israeli Cabinet is meeting now back in Israel with Mr. Shimon Peres and other leaders.  So I don't know what they might do.

But we always say to both sides, you better think about the consequences of what happens the next day or the day after.  Will your actions make things better; will your actions make things worse?  But we are not about to tell Mr. Sharon what he should do as a freely elected leader of a democratic nation.

QUESTION:  You have made some demands on Mr. Arafat, it seems.  Do you believe he is in control enough right now to do that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I believe that he has a level of control that would permit him to do more than he is doing now.  And in my speech in Louisville two weeks ago, I made it clear that the violence has to end, the terror has to end, the incitement has to end.  The incitement is as much a problem as anything else, where you have leaders among the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian leaders, and you have media outlets throughout the Arab world, which incite the people to this kind of action.  That also has to be part of it.

So we have put down clear markers -- the President has and I have, and all of my colleagues in the Administration have, that the violence and the terror have to end, or else you do not have a basis to move forward.

QUESTION:  Is there a timetable on this?  Are you giving him a deadline?

SECRETARY POWELL:  It is not for us to put out a deadline.  The deadline ought to be right now, stop now.  There is no need to take three or four weeks to do this.  Make it stop now and use all of your legitimate power, but more than that use the power of your position as the leader of the Palestinian people to bring this kind of action, this kind of violence to an end, and make a 100 percent effort and get as high a level of results as you can.

He can't control every single Palestinian zealot or somebody who wishes to commit suicide.  But he has to exercise more of the control that we believe he has.

QUESTION:  And if not?

SECRETARY POWELL:  If not, then the situation will not improve.  If not, we are not going to move forward.  If not, we are trapped.

QUESTION:  Does he have to go?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Please, Gloria, don't take me down these dead-end discussions.  Let's stick with it.  The situation is that, if he isn't able to do this, if he doesn't do this, then we are not moving down a path toward a cease-fire and a path toward getting into the Mitchell plan.  What we need to do is to get a cease-fire in place so the confidence-building measures can go on as provided for in the Mitchell plan, and then we get to negotiations.

At the end of the day, this is only going to be solved by negotiations, where the two sides come to the table in an environment of quiet, some level of quiet, some level of confidence that they can talk to one another, without bombs going off, without actions taking place that contaminate an environment of discussion and negotiation.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, the terrorist group Hamas is taking credit for this, apparently.  Is there a connection between Hamas and al-Qaida?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I don't know that there is a direct connection in this incident.  But, you know, all of these organizations are knowledgeable of each other.  But I don't have any information available to me this morning that there is some connection that would link the events of the September 11 or what's happening in Afghanistan to what Hamas is doing.  We have always identified Hamas as a troubling organization that participates in this kind of activity, and we have condemned their activities consistently over time.

QUESTION:  I guess the reason I ask that is I suspect there are a lot of people out there who are wondering in some way is Usama bin Laden behind these sudden attacks?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, Usama bin Laden has never done a single thing for a single Palestinian.  He has done nothing for the Palestinian cause.  He has used his hundreds of millions of dollars to foment terror and violence, and suddenly he tries to wrap himself in the cover of the Islam faith and he tries to wrap himself in the Palestinian cause.  And he has no claim to being able to do that.  He is a terrorist who does it for his own evil purposes.

QUESTION:  You have basically said this morning that Yasser Arafat needs to get serious.  Give me an example of what you would see happening in the Middle East that would say to you, he's gotten the message and he's trying to bring this to a halt.

SECRETARY POWELL:  The arrest of people who have been responsible for these kinds of actions and putting them in real jails, where they are not walking free several days later.  Going after the organizations and those activities within areas under his control where these kinds of people are being trained.  Going after the organizations that are preparing future suicide bombers and cracking down on them, and making sure that all those who work with him, the other Palestinian leaders -- it's not just Mr. Arafat; there are other Palestinian leaders -- stop the incitement, stop appealing to the passions that exist in the street.

The Palestinian authorities and leaders would say to you, well, the Israelis do things that are causing this situation to be the way it is.  It is easy to simply go back into mutual recriminations going back and forth.  And we've got to get out of that.  We've got to get out of that; we've got to get moving forward. 

That's why General Zinni is there.  He is ready to sit with security officials on both sides, not to just exchange charges but to exchange ideas, so that we can begin taking small steps that will cause this situation to start to improve and get us moving toward a cease-fire.

QUESTION:  Let's talk a little bit about the war in Afghanistan and that part of the war and how that's going.  How would you describe the state of al-Qaida right now?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Al-Qaida is under enormous pressure, not only in Afghanistan, but I think throughout the dozens of other countries in which it operates.  In Afghanistan, their options are being limited, as more and more territory passes out of Taliban control.  The Taliban is still hanging on in Kandahar and some of the southern provinces, in the mountains to the east and to the south.  But they are under enormous pressure.

The United States Marine Corps has now put a base in there, and that base provides a way of extending our operations and the operations of the tribes who are now rising up against the Taliban and al-Qaida, so they are under enormous pressure.  And I think it's just a matter of time before we achieve our objectives.

I don't know how much time that would be, but the President has not blinked on this.  He wants Usama bin Laden, he wants al-Qaida ripped up, and the Taliban has to be totally removed from power in Afghanistan because they did not make the right choice several months ago. 

And I am pleased that things are now also moving in Bonn with respect to putting in place a provisional government.  We are not there yet, but there has been some progress in Bonn in the last day or so.

QUESTION:  Do you have any sense right now of where Usama bin Laden is?  There are conflicting reports about that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, obviously, I don't know exactly where he is or I would be doing something else this morning with my friends at the Pentagon.  (Laughter.)


SECRETARY POWELL:  But we think he is still in Afghanistan.  And there is reason to believe that he is in the southern and eastern part of the country.  But his specific location, I don't know.  But you can be sure we are looking and we have quite a few ideas to pursue.

QUESTION:  If we have to go cave-to-cave to find him, will we do it?

SECRETARY POWELL:  We will do whatever is necessary to bring Usama bin Laden to justice or to bring justice to him.  And it's not just caves; there are other places he could be hiding, villages he could be quietly trying to hide in, and we will do everything we can to bring him to justice or bring justice to him.

QUESTION:  And what about taking Taliban leader Mullah Omar?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, he is somebody also I think who has to be brought to justice, and we have heard different reports about him trying to cut a deal, but there are no deals to be cut.  And we are in search of him as well.

QUESTION:  What does that mean, "there are no deals to be cut"?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, there have been some suggestions that he could plea bargain with one of the leaders within Afghanistan in some way, and suddenly launder himself in a way that would make him acceptable or allow him to leave the country, but we're not interested in those types of deals.

QUESTION:  All right, let's take a break right here.  We'll talk about all this and more when we come back.  Because the Secretary is about to leave on an 11-day trip, we want to ask you about that, too.  We'll be back in a minute. ( Pause.)

QUESTION:  And we're back again with the Secretary of State.  Mr. Secretary, one thing you touched on just a minute ago and we want to ask you a little more about that is the negotiations that are going on in Bonn, where they are trying to figure out how to form some kind of a government to govern Afghanistan once the fighting stops.  How is that going?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I think rather well at the moment.  The very fact that you were able to gather these disparate elements of Afghan society in Bonn and have them talk to one another and begin the process of forming a provisional government was, in and of itself, an achievement.  There have been ups and downs, but the reports this morning are somewhat encouraging.  I think the UN is about to put a specific proposal before the representatives who are there and, with some luck and with good will on all sides, we should be able to see the emergence of a 20- or 30-person provisional government that would go back to Kabul, start to form this government and an administration to go with that government, and then prepare for a broader political effort to widen the reach of that government.

QUESTION:  That raises a point.  There has been some talks about perhaps breaking up Afghanistan.  Where does the United States come down on that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I have seen those reports, but we are right now committed to one country.  I don't think we want to start seeing this country break into parts.  It's not viable right now as a country; it would be even less viable if you broke it into parts.  And I don't sense that anybody who has gone to this meeting in Bonn is interested in that.  And so we hope that it will stay together as one entity.

QUESTION:  Would the US be part of any peacekeeping force there?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, as you know, we have forces there now.  And we do not see a permanent role for the United States as military peacekeepers on the ground.  A number of countries have volunteered and we are very pleased at the response of our coalition partners.  And once the provisional government has been established and we get a better sense of what they may need and want in the way of international peacekeeping support and we figure out how to structure that, then I think there will be more than enough other countries willing to participate in such an effort.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, there has been an awful lot of talk lately about the next stage of this war, post Afghanistan.  And President Bush said this week that Iraq had to allow arms inspectors in the country or else.  What did he mean by that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, his position is the same as the international community.  And that is, under the provisions of UN Resolution 1284, the Iraqis have an obligation to let inspectors back in.  They claim they are not developing weapons of mass destruction and we think they are.  The only way to resolve it is, let's send the inspectors in. 

And I am pleased the Security Council this week, by a vote of 15 to zero, have essentially approved smart sanctions to come into effect several months from now.  But they also reaffirmed the need for inspectors to go back in.  When the President said he will find out, he will find out.  The President has made no decisions with respect to what the next phase of our campaign against terrorism will be.

We are still in the same game plan that we established a couple of months ago.  We are going after al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan.  We are going after the Taliban in Afghanistan.  We are widening our net against al-Qaida around the world. 

We are examining other terrorist organizations.  We are looking at those nations who, in the past, have sponsored terrorism.  We are watching Iraq because it has always developed weapons of mass destruction that are a concern to us.  But the President has made no decision.  And, moreover, none of the President's advisors, those of us who have the responsibility to advise the President -- myself, Secretary Rumsfeld, the Vice President, Dr. Rice -- none of us have made individually or collectively recommendations yet to the President as to what we should do in the next phase.

QUESTION:  So there are those, I'm sure, who are listening to you this morning that are saying, well, Secretary Powell just said, we believe that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction.  Why do we need to go through this business of inspectors?  Why don't we just go in now and take him out?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, the President has never lost any of the options available to him.  He will make a judgment in due course as to how to deal with the threat that continues to reside in Iraq.  But there is a way to deal with this that keeps the international community focused on this problem.  And that is to let the inspectors in.

And it was an obligation that Iraq had at the end of the war, and they were able to get rid of those inspectors in 1998, and the international community still feels -- and I think that it is important for those inspectors to go back in, as does the President. 

And so we believe he is developing these weapons.  We don't think he has been as successful as he would have liked to have been because the sanctions and the work we have done to keep him contained have been effective.  But, nevertheless, that inherent desire of his is there.

QUESTION:  But is there a time frame?  Does he have a deadline he has to meet to let those inspectors in?

SECRETARY POWELL:  His deadline was years ago and those inspectors are still not in.  We have not put any deadline against him now so that if he doesn't meet a certain deadline, something will happen.  The President retains all of his options and we will be examining it as we go forward.

QUESTION:  So if he lets those inspectors in, say, does that mean he is off the hook?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No.  If he lets those inspectors in, he is complying with what he agreed to as his obligation under UN resolutions.  The United States still continues to believe as a separate matter that it would be better to have a different regime in Iraq and, as you know, we have supported the efforts of opposition groups to begin organizing themselves for a change of regime in due course.  And, of course, you know, we maintain the no-fly zones and we keep a military presence in the region to keep him contained.

Regime change would be in the best interest of the Iraqi people.  It is a goal of the United States.  But the United Nations' goal is the inspectors and getting rid of those weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, how do you respond to the criticism that comes up from time to time, both within the Administration and from those on the outside, that you are too cautionary, that you are too reluctant to use military force?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, look at my record.  I was Chairman when we went into Panama on 48 hours' notice, and I was Chairman when we did Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  And to the best of my knowledge, the advice that I provided to the President at that time, President Bush, and to my boss, Secretary Cheney, and the work that we did with General Schwarzkopf succeeded.  And so it is one of these criticisms that is out there and people like to use it as a stereotype. 

We just went into Afghanistan without any disagreement from anybody in the administration, without any cautionary notes coming from the State Department.  We went into -- or from me.  We went into Afghanistan and we conducted a fine military operation, notwithstanding the criticism that comes from outside.  It's a part of being a policy official in Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  If you were Saddam Hussein, what would you -- should you be worried right now if --


QUESTION:  He should be worried?

SECRETARY POWELL:  He should be worried.  He is totally isolated within the international community.  He is one of only two or three countries in the world that is sticking up for the Taliban and Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida.  He is presiding over a despotic regime in a country that has been broken by 10 years of sanctions.  And he is just about completely isolated within the world.  Even the Russians have now taken a step sideways away from him.

QUESTION:  Secretary of State Powell, always a pleasure to have you.


QUESTION:  Good luck on your coming trip to, what is it, 11 countries?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Something like that.  I've been afraid to count.  But it's quite a trip coming up, but it's an important trip.

I'm going to Bucharest for a meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and then on to other stops.  But an important meeting in Moscow with President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov, to move forward our US-Russia agenda.

QUESTION:  Hope to talk to you about that later.



Released on December 2, 2001

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