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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 > 2002 > February

Be Heard: An MTV Global Discussion With Colin Powell

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 14, 2002

MR. YAGO:  I'm Gideon Yago of MTV News.

MR. NORRIS:  And I'm John Norris, and were are here in Washington, DC, and we want to welcome all of you to, "Be Heard:  An MTV Global Discussion with a man who is America's chief ambassador to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.  That world has, of course, grown even more complex in recent months, and now you are going to have the chance to question the Secretary on a whole range of issues, from the war on terror to the Middle East, to AIDS, to India and Pakistan, to even a few more personal matters.  It's a lot of ground to cover and, in fact, we will be covering a whole lot of ground.

MR. YAGO:  Exactly.  Since today's discussion is literally going to span the globe, our MTV colleagues in six other countries join us, lending the forum a very welcome international perspective.  Young people in Brazil, India, Russia, Italy, Egypt and the United Kingdom, along with our very own audience here in Washington, DC, will all have an opportunity to get some answers from Secretary Powell.

But before we hear what our global audience has to say, let's take a quick trip around the world to meet our fellow correspondents, starting with Edit Bowman in London.

MS. BOWMAN:  Hi, Gideon.  How do you do?  We have a [inaudible] people here in London from all over Europe, from Ireland, from Sweden, from Norway.  We've had a couple of people phone in from Asia today, all pensive with some very great questions.  But over to Caze in our own Sao Paolo in Brazil.

MR. CAZE:  Welcome to Brazil.  Here were are in Sao Paolo with 35 young Brazilian guys, an Argentine and a Colombian one which are longing to ask a question to Secretary Colin Powell.  But before, let's go to Russia and talk to our colleague, Mr. Vasily.

MR. VASILY:  Thank you.  Thank you, Caze, and previat from Moscow.  Vasily here in Moscow, and it's an honor to be part of this worldwide forum.  The studio audience is raring to go.  We're all ready with the questions.  We can't wait to start.  And it's over to Victoria in Italy right now.

MS. CABELLO:  Thank you very much, Vasily.  We're here in Milan and I have, you know, a studio full of people from all over that are really anxious to ask quite great questions today.  So I can't wait to join you later.  First, it's over to Lara in Cairo.

MS. MATER:  Thank you, Victoria.  I am Lara and I'm here in media production city in Cairo.  Everyone here is very excited to be taking part in this unique event.  It's a first for MTV and a first for Egypt.  Let's go now to New Delhi.  Are you there, Cyrus?

MR. BROACHA:  For you, Lara, for you I'm there 24 hours a day.  I'm Cyrus, MTV India in New Delhi.  Behind me, 35 people, and they've got 35,000 questions.  Simple math will tell you that's more than two each, so I don't want to waste any more time.  Let's have a great time here and let's also find out some truths.  Let's talk straight to Gideon.  Gideon.

MR. YAGO:  Thanks a lot, Cyrus.  Well, now that we've all introduced ourselves to Secretary Powell, we thought it would be a pretty good idea to introduce Secretary Powell to all of you.  Here now is a quick look at what he does and who he is.

The following segment was shown:


One. He’s a first.  The first African-American National Security Advisor; the first African-American chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; and now, the first African-American Secretary of State.

Two.  He’s a general, retiring with four stars on his shoulder and 3-1/2 decades of Army experience under his belt.

Three.  He’s a role model.  When he retired from the military he built one of America’s largest youth volunteer organizations, helping more than 10 million children.

Four.  He’s a fighter.  Before September 11, Powell was the lone voice for international cooperation in an administration with an America-first attitude.  The terrorist attacks hit the reset button on American foreign policy, but Powell’s calls for caution and global teamwork are still at odds with the more aggressive Defense Department.

Five.  He’s a star – popular all across the political spectrum, the subject of 20 adoring biographies – he’s even got his own GI Joe doll.  Polls showed Powell would’ve been a favorite for president in 1996 or 2000, but he wouldn’t run.  Why?  You’ll have to ask him.


One.  He the boss’s right-hand-man – literally -- as the highest-ranking of the president’s 14-member cabinet.  Each cabinet member, chosen by the President and confirmed by Congress, advises the president on a single topic.  Secretary Powell’s in charge of foreign affairs.

Two.  He makes the U.S. look good, directing more than 45,000 diplomats and foreign service workers all over the world.  They have one basic mission – to represent U.S. interests abroad.

Three.  He solves problems.  People close to Powell say that’s what he does best -- managing big crises.   What’s he gonna do?  Well, you’ll have to ask him.


One: Aiding Afghanistan.  The UN says the country needs more than $1 billion in support, and Powell’s helping to find it.

Two:  Eyeing the Axis.  He’s watching Iraq, Iran and North Korea while telling armchair warriors who want to attack right now to just be patient.

Three:  Healing the Holy Land.  He has to help Israelis and Palestinians find a way they can go back to the peace table.

Four: Soothing the Subcontinent.  He’s shuttled between India and Pakistan, trying to persuade them to pull back from the brink of nuclear war.

Five:  Keeping the coalition.  From Europe to Russia, from Saudi Arabia to Japan, he’s got to keep together anti-terror partners with an assortment of agendas.  How?  You’ll have to ask him.


MR. NORRIS:  And on that note, it is time to meet the man in person.  Please welcome the Secretary of State of the United States, Colin Powell.


SECRETARY POWELL:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

MR. YAGO:  Thank you much, so much, for joining us today, Secretary Powell.  Now, obviously no one topic has been more on the hearts and minds of citizens here in America than September 11 and its aftermath.  On that note, let's begin our questions with Lila.

QUESTION:  Hello.  My name is Lila, and I'm 18.  As a young Muslim American woman, I was wondering how you felt you could deal with the issues of tolerance.  Previous to September 11, I did not consider myself a Muslim; however, after witnessing all the misrepresentations and misconceptions, I decided to explore my faith, and now I have a new sense of pride. My younger brother, however, and his peers seem lost.  They do not know whether they should embrace their ethnicity and religion, or hide it in fear of discrimination or racism.  How do you think we should deal with that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I think the answer is very simple.  I am glad that you have embraced your religion and you've gotten to know more about your religion since the 11th of September, and I hope your younger brothers do the same thing because Islam is a wonderful religion.  It's a religion that teaches peace.  It teaches taking care of those of our citizens who are less fortunate.  It talks about finding a way that makes the world a better place.  And so it is a wonderful religion.  It is not a religion of violence.  It is not a religion of taking innocent lives.  And it should be embraced, and you should be proud of it.

We are proud of all the many Muslim Americans who are here in the United States.  President Bush went out of his way to reach out to that community.  And we also want to say to Muslims around the world our campaign against terrorism is not against anybody who is of the Muslim faith; it's against those individuals who are terrorists, who kill innocent people.

When you look at where the armed forces of the United States have fought in recent years, we went to Afghanistan to protect Muslims; we went to Kuwait to protect Muslims and give Kuwait back to the Kuwaiti Government.  And when you look at what we did in Kosovo, we went to Kosovo to protect Albanian Muslims.  So I think the United States has demonstrated through its actions, through the openness that we have in our society, that we respect all faiths.  That is what makes this country great.  We are a respecter of all faiths.

So practice your faith and help your brother see the wisdom of embracing the faith of their fathers and mothers.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, we're going to check in with our London studios for our first question from there from a young person standing by with Edith.  Edith.

MS. BOWMAN:  Thanks, John.  Yeah, we have Edith here who has our first question from the U.K.  She is from Norway.  Edith, what's your question?

QUESTION:  Hi.  Hello, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION:  I'm wondering, when I talk to my friends about the U.S., we think about how do you feel about representing a country commonly perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Seen as what?

QUESTION:  As the Satan of contemporary politics.

SECRETARY POWELL:  Satan?  Oh.  Well, I reject the characterization.  Quite the contrary.  I think the American people, the United States of America, presents a value system to the rest of the world that is based on democracy, based on economic freedom, based on the individual rights of men and women.  That is what has fueled this country of ours for the last 225 years.

I think that's what makes us such as draw for nations around the world.  People come to the United States.  They come to be educated.  They come to become Americans.  We are a country of countries, and we touch every country, and every country in the world touches us.

So, far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector.  We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression.  We defeated Fascism.  We defeated Communism.  We saved Europe in World War I and World War II.  We were willing to do it, glad to do it.  We went to Korea.  We went to Vietnam.  All in the interest of preserving the rights of people. 

And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do?  Did we stay and conquer?  Did we say"  "Okay, we defeated Germany.  Now Germany belongs to us?  We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us"?  No.  What did we do?  We built them up.  We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul.  And did we ask for any land?  No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead.  And that is the kind of nation we are.  So, far from being the Satan, I think we are the protector of a universal value system that more and more people are recognizing as the correct value system:  democracy, economic freedom, the individual rights of men and women to pursue their own destiny.  That's what we stand for, and that's what we try to help other countries achieve as well. 

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, for our next question we'd like to go to Moscow with Vasily, who is standing by. 

VASILY:  In Moscow, a question from Dimitri Kuckov.  Go ahead, please.   

QUESTION:  Welcome, Mr. Powell.  Hello, Mr. Powell.  President Bush and President Putin have signed an agreement in which they pledged to support fighting against terrorism.  A lot of citizens of our country suffered from terrorists in Russia.  Oftentimes, the world community calls these people fighters for freedom.  In such case, what is terrorism and how can we classify it?  What does it imply? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  First of all, let me say how pleased we are that President Putin and the Russian people are aligned with us in this campaign against terrorism.  It meant a lot to America for President Putin to be the first world leader to call President Bush after the events of 11 September.   

Terrorism affects all nations.  It's not just something that the United States has to worry about.  Every civilized nation has to worry about it.  What is terrorism?  Terrorism is the taking of innocent lives for a false political purpose.  And wherever we see that occur, no matter what the reasoning behind it, if it involves killing of innocent people for political purpose, I think we have to view it as a terrorist act.  If it means the overthrow of a legitimate form of government through terrorist action, a form of government that has been put in place by the people through free elections, that's terrorism.  So I think it's pretty clear to define what terrorism is and to identify it with those individuals and those organizations who practice such activities. 

And that's why I think we have been so successful in pulling this whole campaign together with nations all across the world joining with the United States to say that terrorism is wrong; those nations that practice terrorism or give haven to terrorists are going down the wrong path.  And to define evil as evil is:  people who will take the lives of other people, innocent people, in the name of a religion or a cause.  This is a false religion.  These are false causes.  And the world is coming together to fight this kind of action, this kind of terrorism.  And President Bush has made it a major hallmark, a priority of his administration, and we are pleased that President Putin and the Russian people are aligned with us in this grand campaign.   

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, we have another question related to the campaign on terror, and for that we'll go to Cairo and Lara, who is standing by there.  Lara. 

MS. MATER:  This is Abdul Kareem.  He's 21 years old and he's a student here in Egypt. 

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, what are the evidence that the U.S. Government hold against bin Laden and al-Qaida and that makes bin Laden/al-Qaida as the first suspects after the September 11 attacks?   

SECRETARY POWELL:  Right after the attacks on the 11th of September, we began to assemble information which pointed directly toward Mr. bin Laden and al-Qaida.  He had attacked us previously.  He had attacked our embassies, two of our embassies in Africa in 1998, and we already had an indictment.  We were looking for him for these crimes. 

And so we knew what his pattern was.  We knew what his method of operation was.  And as we began to develop our campaign, more information came in that linked the 19 young men who killed themselves in those attacks with al-Qaida organizations and al-Qaida cells around the world. 

And then as time went on, the case built up clearly, even though a number of people didn't believe our case, and then finally Mr. bin Laden allowed tapes of his conversations to be broadcast throughout the world and, in effect, he took credit for what had happened.  He took credit with pride for killing almost 3,000, as we now see the final number, almost 3,000 innocent people who were going about their daily lives.  Innocent people from 80 different countries.  It wasn't just Americans who were killed in the attacks in Washington and the attacks in New York.  There were people from 80 different countries.  Innocent people who meant no one any ill that day.

And he flew these planes, loaded with innocent people who were just trying to go visit relatives or go on business or go on vacation, and they all died because of this evil deed.  He admitted it.  He acknowledged it.  If he is not the person responsible, then why doesn't he step forward if he is still alive and defend his innocence?

But I think he has indicted himself as a result of the tapes that we have now seen, and we have a solid body of evidence that points directly to Usama bin Laden and to the al-Qaida organization that he heads, and which has cells throughout the world.  And those cells are now slowly being identified and people are being brought to justice so that they will not have the ability to kill innocent Americans, innocent Egyptians, innocent Russians, as a result of their terrorist activity.

MR. NORRIS:  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.  We have only just started to scratch the surface here in our conversation.  We still have more questions coming from India, from Italy, from Brazil, from topics about AIDS in Africa to Afghanistan.  So please stick around.  We'll be right back.

[Commercial break.]

MR. YAGO:  Welcome back to Be Heard:  A Global Discussion with Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Once again, today we are joined by young global audiences around the world. 

MR. NORRIS:  And when we say global, we do mean global.  The questions are coming in for the Secretary, not only from a variety of locations all over the world, but in a variety of languages.  Right now you're looking at the translation booths that are set up in our studios here in Washington, D.C..  They have been set up not only to communicate questions to the Secretary, but also then to translate the answers back into Russian, Arabic, Portuguese and Italian.

MR. YAGO:  Keeping on our topic of the war on terrorism, let's go to New Delhi to take a question there.  Cyrus.

MR. BROACHA:  [Inaudible] Mr. Secretary.  Cyrus here.


MR. BROACHA:  We at MTV India reach out to a lot of people.  We have a young man from Afghanistan, and I think you would like to listen to what he has to say.  His name is Turialay.

QUESTION:  Hello, Secretary Powell.  I am from Afghanistan.  My name is Turialay.  I came with my father and brother to India.  I lost my family, and my mom wanted to follow us to India but the Taliban killed them.  So I have one question from you.  Why before the September attack the American government didn't pay attention towards Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I think we were paying attention to Afghanistan.  We were deeply troubled at the actions of the Taliban regime.  And during the previous administration in the '90s, they were beginning to bring pressure against the Taliban regime through international organizations.  And as you know, President Clinton did take some military action against al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden, within Afghanistan.

But the full degree of knowledge with respect to the Taliban regime and what it was doing to its own people perhaps didn't get the level of consciousness it should have gotten throughout the world.  And so when the events of the 11th of September took place and we examined what we had to do, it became clear that al-Qaida was completely integrated with the Taliban.  And so we told the Taliban:  You have a choice.  You can either turn him over and start to change your regime, or your regime will have to go as well.  And they decided that they would take that risk, and now they have gone.

It has been my privilege to visit your country, to go to Kabul to meet with the new Interim Authority Chairman, Mr. Karzai.  And I hope there is a better future in store.  I am confident there is a better future in store for Afghanistan and for the Afghan people.

Whatever we should have done before that wasn't done, we can't turn the clock back, but we can now look forward.  And President Bush and the international community have made a commitment to your people that we will help with reconstruction.  We got $4.5 billion at the conference in Tokyo just a few weeks ago.  We will help raise a new Afghan national army to protect all the people of Afghanistan.  We will help raise a new national police force.  And we will help support the International Security Assistance Force that is there that will provide the security needed so we can bring in reconstruction forces, people who will build schools and help with the water supply and help restore agriculture and put in place a functioning government so that no youngsters such as you will ever have to tell that kind of story again.

We were slow getting off the mark, recognizing the nature of that regime, but that regime is now gone and there is now a new hope in Afghanistan for a better future for all the people of Afghanistan.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, there's a lot of concern that our military campaign and our military actions in Afghanistan are now going to spread to what President Bush is calling the "axis of evil" -- North Korea, Iran and Iraq.  On that subject, I wanted to get a question from the U.K.  Edith.

MS. BOWMAN:  I have Alexia here, who is Swedish.  She has a question for Secretary Powell.

QUESTION:  Well, thank you, Edith.  Hello, Mr. Secretary.  My name is Alexia and I was wondering whether the lack of cooperation in the war against terrorism by some of its key Arab allies has led the U.S. to evaluate its strategic interests.  And if so, are you prepared to act alone against Iraq or without the approval or support of the alliance?  Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL:  We are working very closely with our friends in the Gulf area and in the Middle East.  We are in very close touch with President Mubarak of Egypt, with King Abdullah of Jordan, and the leadership in Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states.  And they have all been solid partners in the campaign against terrorism within the limits of their ability.  What we have asked for, most of them, is political support, and we have received that.  They are all in the campaign with us, except for Iraq.  They have also helped us with chasing down the financial networks used by terrorists.  They are also helping us with intelligence exchange.  The Jordanians have put a field hospital into the northern part of Afghanistan in Mazar-e-Sharif and have provided medical support to thousands of Afghans who never would have had any access to medical support.

So I think we have done a good job of keeping the coalition together.  Many people said it would break up after a few weeks.  Well, it didn't break up.  It's still together because it still has a singular purpose which everybody understands, and that is to defeat terrorism.

With respect to Iraq and its membership in the club that is now called the "Axis of Evil Club," we are working with the United Nations to make sure that the sanctions regime that was put in place ten years ago remains in place.  And the reason for that is not the United States trying to do something to the Iraqi people; it's because the United States, in concert with all of our colleagues in the United Nations, believes, and we know for a fact, that Iraq is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction that they will use against their neighbors.  They have used those weapons against Iran in the past.  They have used chemical weapons against their own people.  Saddam Hussein has more than enough money coming through the Oil-for-Food program to take care of his people if he wouldn't divert the money to weapons of mass destruction.  So those sanctions will remain in place, and that shows the United States is working in a multilateral way.

But at the same time, we have to say to everyone we have, I believe, a clear understanding of the despotic nature of this regime, and we believe that the regime ought to change and ought to be changed.  And so the President is working diplomatically toward that end, politically toward that end, but he is also, as he said again yesterday, preserving all of his options.  Hopefully, we can work with all of our friends in the international community, but the President doesn't rule out the option of having to act alone if it becomes necessary.

We're not looking for wars.  There is no war plan on the President's desk this morning.  We are looking for peace.  We are looking for people to make the right choices, to bring a sense of comfort into the lives of their people, to bring security into the lives of people.  We ought to be educating kids, not training them for war.  We ought to take advantage of this 21st century.  And if only regimes such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran would come to this realization, and other regimes that are similar would come to the realization, that we'd have the opportunity for a much brighter world in this 21st century and move away from their policies of the past.

And so the President has spoken firmly and clearly about why he has designated these countries as having evil regimes, even though their people are just like any other peoples anywhere on the face of the earth.  North Koreans and Iranians and Iraqis are just like Americans, just like all the countries represented in Be Heard, in this show today.  They want food on the table.  They want a roof over their heads.  They want their kids educated.  They want healthcare.  They want a better future for their children.  And that is what we are trying to spread throughout the world as part of our value system.  And it's countries like Iraq, North Korea and Iran that is frustrating this worldwide movement toward democracy, dignity of the individual, and market economics, breaking down trade barriers so that people can earn a decent living through trading with other nations.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, Iraq, as it happens, is at the heart of the next question we have from Egypt, standing by in Cairo with Lara.  Lara.

MS. MATER:  I have Saif here with me.  He is 19 years old and he is Egyptian.  What is your question, Saif?

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, it is against the principles in the international community.  How can you explain to us the use of Egypt that you are punishing a regime by killing thousands of Iraqi children by depriving them of food and aid?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Except we're not depriving them of food or aid.  The United Nations Oil-for-Food program provides roughly $17-$18 billion a year of income to the Iraqi regime.  In addition, Iraq is participating in smuggling activity outside of the UN sanctions regime.  So they trade through Syria, through Jordan, Turkey.

We estimate that Saddam Hussein has available to his regime some $20 billion.  That money is available.  It was allowed to go back into the country in order to buy food, in order to buy medicine, in order to build hospitals, in order to build schools, in order to train teachers to teach the Iraqi young people.  So we are not denying the Iraqi people what they need.  We're not killing them.  In fact, if they are being denied a future, if they are being destroyed, if they are being not educated, it is not a result of the international community's actions; it's a result of the actions of their own leadership.  Saddam Hussein and his fellow leaders in Baghdad, who, rather than opening the country up to UN inspectors who can certify they're not working on nuclear weapons or chemical weapons and biological weapons, that's all he would have to do.  He refuses to do it and he refuses to use the money that has been made available him for the right kinds of purposes.  So he suppresses the Kurds in the north.  He suppresses the Shiites in the south.  And the people around his immediate circle do very well.  They live in palaces, and people are suffering in other places of the country.  The responsibility squarely rests on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime.  We stand ready to assist.  The United Nations stands ready to assist.  All of the moderate Arab nations in the region have been telling Saddam Hussein the same thing.  The Russians, the Chinese, have also told him the same thing.  Let the inspectors in.  And meanwhile, we will continue to work.  The United States will continue to work to improve the sanctions regime so that more money and more goods can go in for helping the people, and the children especially of Iraq, but not let that money go in to buy weapons of mass destruction or research and development towards weapons of mass destruction.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, we are going to have to take a break again, but coming up we're going to have more questions about India and Pakistan, and forging a deal for peace in the Middle East.  So please don't go anywhere.


[Commercial break.]

MR. NORRIS:  And we are back with "Be Heard:  MTV's Global Discussion with Colin Powell," where we are taking questions not only via satellite, but also via the Internet.  Gideon.

MR. YAGO:  That's right.  We asked our audience on-line to submit questions to be part of today's discussion, and Logan, from Washington State, wants to know, "Beyond military action, what is being done to address the root causes of terrorism and anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world, such as poverty, lack of education, lack of economic opportunity, and the absence of democracy?"

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, we're doing a number of things.  One, with respect to poverty, we work so hard with our friends in the region to break down trade barriers so that we can increase the level of trade between our two countries, or various countries.  We just completed the Jordan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that will speed up trade between us and our Jordanian friends.

I fully believe that the root cause of terrorism does come from situations where there is poverty, where there is ignorance, where people see no hope in their lives.  And we understand that, and we're working with all of our friends to do that.  We ought to make that understanding clear and to do what we can to improve their economies and allow people to begin rising up.

The other thing we're doing is we're undertaking a major public diplomacy and outreach effort.  That's one of the reasons I'm here today.  The United States has to do a better job of presenting our case of who we are, what we are, what our values system is to the Islamic world, and to nations around the world.  And so I'm investing a lot of time and money and effort in that, in the Department of State, and throughout the United States Government.  I think we have a great story to tell.  I'm very proud of my country, I'm proud of what we have achieved, and I'm proud of what we have helped so many people around the world achieve.  And it's a story we've got to do a better job of selling to the rest of the world.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, between the war on terror and the Palestinian-Israeli situation, which is at one of its worst points ever, it seems, obviously a lot of eyes are on the Middle East these days, and consequently we've got a lot of questions on the Middle East.  For the first one, we're going to go to London.  One question is standing by with Edith.

MS. BOWMAN:  Thanks, John.  Yeah, we have Oriana* here, who is Canadian, and she has a question on that subject.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Given that the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia, while it condemns the Taliban for the same actions against human rights, do you not think it's hypocritical to refuse prisoners of war the same rights that the al-Qaida don't have, while expecting U.S. personnel to be covered under the Geneva conference?

SECRETARY POWELL:  At our facility in Guantanamo, where we are keeping the detainees, all of those detainees, whether they are al-Qaida or Taliban, are enjoying the benefits of the Geneva Convention.  What we have said as a legal matter, those that were in the Taliban are covered as a matter of law, international law, by the Geneva Convention, and those that are al-Qaida, because of their terrorist origins and the terrorist nature of their organization, they are not covered as a matter of law under the Geneva Convention, but we are treating them as if they were, because we are a humane people.  We don't abuse people who are in our custody.  We have a responsibility for them.

Now, having said that, both categories, al-Qaida and Taliban, we believe are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status; we believe they are entitled to be called unlawful combatants under the terms of the Convention and generally accepted international law.  But the point about all of this is that whatever the legal arguments, and it can be argued either way, at the end of the day, we will treat all human beings that we are responsible for in our custody in a way that is dignified, without abusing them, without humiliating them, and making sure that they get the health care they need, access to religious activities, good nutrition, consistent with the Geneva Convention, although there are debates as to what we are actually required to do under the Convention with respect to Taliban and al-Qaida.

MR. YAGO:  Secretary Powell, for a question on Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we're going to go to Cairo.  Lara.

MS. MATER:  Thank you, Gideon.  We have a question here from Bedyah.  She's 24 years old, and she's Palestinian.

QUESTION:  Hi.  I'm Palestinian.  My question, Mr. Secretary, would the Palestinians have the right to return?  If yes, how?  If no, why?

SECRETARY POWELL:  The Middle East situation is one of the most difficult situations I have to work with every day.  I stay in close touch with the Israeli side, and I stay in close touch with Chairman Arafat and his closest leaders.  We are looking for a way to get the violence down so a cease-fire can begin so we can restore confidence between the two sides so we can get to negotiations.  We have to get to negotiations, because the current policies are not solving anything.  We have car bombs, we have shootings, we have response from the Israeli side; it gets us nowhere.  We have to get to a cease-fire, and then we are committed to moving forward to negotiations under the UN Resolutions 242, 338, Land for Peace.  That is the President's commitment, and it's my commitment.  The President is the first American President who ever said in an international forum he has a vision for a Palestinian state called Palestine.  That is our goal.

As we move toward that goal, once we can get the cease-fire in place, it is clear that one of the most difficult issues to deal with will be the right of return of Palestinians, Palestinian refugees, to where they originated from, or their families originated from.  This will be difficult, and it can't be solved now.  It can only be solved after confidence has been restored, after we have moved forward into solid negotiations.

A year and a half ago, when President Clinton was working this problem very hard, there were some ideas with respect to how one might deal with the question of a right of return.  Unfortunately, they were not able to get a deal at that time.  And so I hope that as we go forward into the cease-fire, into the negotiations, this most difficult of all questions, the right of return of the Palestinian people, will be dealt with in a way that will be seen as fair and equitable to both the Palestinians and to Israelis.  But it is the most difficult of all of the issues in the negotiations that are ahead.  Those negotiations will take place someday, because the situation we are in now just cannot continue this way.  We've got to find a way forward.

Thank you.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, unfortunately we don't have Israel as one of our satellite hookups today, but I believe we do have a young Israeli standing by with a question in London with Edith.  Guys.

MS. BOWMAN:  That's right, John.  Gilly has flown all the way in from Israel today.  Gilly, what is your question?

QUESTION:  Yes, I'm from Israel, and when I go out with friends, I'm very scared, especially after the last terrorist attacks that were made against kids in Israel, like the one in the disco in Tel Aviv and in downtown Jerusalem.  Terror is something I and my friends have to live with every day, and I just wanted to know, what do you think you can do to help that the kids in Israel could have a normal life, just like the kids in the United States and in Europe?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I want the kids in Israel, I want the kids in Gaza, I want the kids in the West Bank, I want Jewish kids and Palestinian kids to live in a society where they can go out on an evening and enjoy themselves with their friends, with a smile on their face, and not be afraid of any kind of violence.  I work on this every single day.  We have put in place a work plan, the Tenet work plan, named after our CIA Director, George Tenet, leading to the Mitchell Plan, which will restore the confidence that I spoke about a few moments ago, and get back to a negotiated settlement.

We're doing everything we can to persuade both sides, Palestinians and Israelis, that we have to get out of the cycle of violence in which we are trapped right now.  And I have been in close touch with Mr. Arafat's associates to see what we can do to cut out some of the terror incidents that we have seen -- eliminate them totally, not just cut them out, the kind that you described, that kill innocent children, who are just out for recreation on an evening, on a beautiful evening.

And so the goal that we all have -- I have, Chairman Arafat has, Prime Minister Sharon has, the international community has -- is to find a cease-fire, a way to end the violence so that we can go forward into negotiations.  We all have the same vision.  It is a vision, I think, of every single day of a Jewish state living side by side with a Palestinian state in peace and security, neither side threatening the other, with commerce going back and forth, with people respecting each other, with children exchanging views.  That is a vision I have.  I don't think it's an unattainable vision, but it's going to take a lot more work, and I devote myself and dedicate myself to that work every day.

MR. YAGO:  Once again, Secretary Powell, we're going to have to take a break, but coming up we'll have more discussion on the conflict in Kashmir, and the global AIDS crisis.  So please come right on back.


[Commercial break.]

MR. NORRIS:  We are back, and we are in the midst of a solid hour of Q and A with the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and right now we're set to move into a topic that really does reach into the lives of young people everywhere.

MR. YAGO:  That's right.  Secretary Powell, for two decades, AIDS has been a fact of life, obviously not just here in the U.S., but across the planet.  And for our next question, we're going to go to Italy.

MS. CABELLO:  Thank you very much, Gideon.  And ciao from Milan, Italy to Washington, obviously.  So I'm here with Daniela today, and what is your question?

QUESTION:  Hi, everyone, my name is Daniela.  As a young Catholic woman, I would like to know from the Secretary of State what he thinks of the Catholic positions on condoms, which is prohibited, and therefore, this condemns anyone who might be exposed to the virus.


SECRETARY POWELL:  I certainly respect the views of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church.  In my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection, and therefore I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active and need to protect themselves.  I think it's important for young people especially to protect themselves from the possibility of acquiring any sexually transmitted disease, but especially to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, which is a plague that is upon the face of the earth.

I've spent a lot of time working on this issue with my colleague in the government, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, and we formed a task force within the American Government to bring more attention to HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and created a global task force with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, which has already raised $1.7 billion to help educate people around the world about how to protect themselves and how to instruct their children to practice safe sex.

And so I believe condoms is part of the solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I encourage their use by young people who are sexually active.  You've got to protect yourself.  If you don't protect yourself, who is going to protect you?  And you're putting your life at risk when you are having sexual relations with partners who might be infected.  And you really don't know whether they are or they are not, do you?

And this is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Caribbean, and increasingly a problem in other parts of the world.  It was a major American problem and still is.  But we have gotten more control over it.  But now it is raging out of control in some parts of Africa, Caribbean, elsewhere -- China, India -- all of these nations will be touched by it, and it is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about it.  It's the lives of young people that are put at risk by unsafe sex, and therefore protect yourself.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, for another AIDS-related question, we've got a young person standing by down in Sao Paolo with Caze.  Guys.

MR. CAZE:  Thank you very much for the conversation opportunity, Secretary.  I have here by my side Jasa Maria, and she has got a quite interesting question on the issue.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I've actually been HIV-positive for 9 years, and for almost 6 years I've been in daily treatment with the so-called AIDS drug cocktail.  But I'm very proud to be from a country bold enough to break the patent stranglehold for AIDS medications.  But I'd like to know, why is the U.S. more interested in protecting patents than the lives of those who can't afford these drugs?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I'm pleased that you are able to get the medication that you need, and I'm well aware of the policies that Brazil follows.  The challenge we have in making those kinds of drugs more widely available at the lowest possible cost is that we have to, at the same time, protect the industries that develop these drugs.  There has to be some return on the investment that drug companies make in the research.

And so we have been working with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Annan, and he has been working along with us to talk to companies all around the world, and especially American drug companies, to do more to get the cost down, and to start breaking free of some of the patent constraints that we have been operating under.  And in the last several years, we have seen more and more drugs come onto the market, and the price has been dropping.

Even then, however, thought, for some parts of sub-Saharan Africa and other very undeveloped nations, no matter how low you get it, it isn't still low enough to be widely distributed.  And you really have to have a medical infrastructure in which to distribute these drugs at the same time.

So as part of our worldwide assault against AIDS, we are trying to get the price down as low as possible.  I would like to see it free, but as an economic matter, we haven't quite achieved that goal, and I'm not sure we will.  But we are doing everything we can to get the price down to where it is affordable, to change patent constraints in order to make it more widely available, to make it more generic, and to allow other countries to make these drugs in their own laboratories and facilities so that the price can get down to a point where everybody can have access to these drugs the way you have access to them.

I'm also proud that you are able to stand up there and speak the way you are speaking, because part of our work has to be to break down the stereotypes, to stop hiding the fact that you may have somebody you love, somebody in your family, who has HIV/AIDS.  There's nothing wrong with you.  You should be proud of who you are and what you are; you have a disease and you're dealing with it, and we can't let stereotypes keep people from talking about it, getting the treatment they need, and helping others learn how to avoid the infection.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, there's very few other places in the world, aside from India and Pakistan, that look so poised for cataclysmic conflict over the region of Kashmir.  On that subject, we're going to go to New Delhi for our first question with Cyrus.

MR. BROACHA:  Mr. Secretary, help me, I'm under a lot of pressure here.  I haven't had so many questions since I first met my mother-in-law.  [Laughter.]  And jokes apart, everybody wants to talk, but we're going to go to Vicas, and he's got a very poignant question.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, my name is Vicas Sharma, and I'm from Kashmir.  Now, I have lost many dear friends.  Over 35,000 of my people have died due to the ongoing terrorism problem in Kashmir.  Now, this number is a lot more than the casualties of September 11 attacks on the WTC.  Now, you ask us to exercise restraint, which has never been your policy.  Does this mean that the U.S. has double standards?  Also, is a U.S. life more precious than the life of an Indian?  Thank you.


SECRETARY POWELL:  There is no one life more precious than any other life.  An American life is not more precious than an Indian life or a Pakistani life, or a Kashmiri life.  That is part of our belief system.  Kashmir has been a difficult problem for 50 years.  We now see a situation where India and Pakistan have forces in close proximity to one another.  We have been deeply involved in making sure that this crisis situation does not explode into war between two nuclear-armed nations.  And the loss of life that could come about from such a conflict not only dwarfs what happened in New York City and Washington, it dwarfs what's happened in Kashmir over the last 50 years.

We also have been in touch with both sides to say, let's find a way, diplomatically and politically, out of this crisis situation with the two forces so close to one another, and once we have found a way out of this, then the United States wants to help the two sides enter a dialogue with each other, a dialogue where they can put all of the problems that exist between the two nations on a table, and where others can assist them in this dialogue.

And as I said to President Musharraf yesterday when I met with him, and as I also said when I spoke to Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh of India this morning, all issues have to be on the table, to include Kashmir.  But no life is more valuable than any other life.  Every youngster has parents who care, people who love that youngster, and their love is just as deep as the love of any other parent anywhere else in the world.

And so we are doing everything we can to defuse this situation, and to find a way forward so that we can bring peace to Kashmir in a way that both countries can accept, in a way that brings hope to the Kashmiri people, just as we have brought hope to the people of Afghanistan.  And we have indicated to both India and Pakistan we will remain engaged to try to deescalate the situation and get a dialogue going.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, time for a question from the Pakistani point of view.  And it seems like London is kind of our international hub today.  We've had questions from there from a Norwegian, an Israeli, and now a young Pakistani, who is standing by, I believe, with Edith.

MS. BOWMAN:  Yes, indeed, John.  Amir here is actually from Blackburn in England, but he has a question related to his background, his family.

QUESTION:  Hi, Colin.  My family is from Pakistan, and I feel closely involved with what has happened there recently.  It has been reported that many Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have escaped over the mountains into Pakistan, and possibly even bin Laden himself.  What is the U.S. going to do?  Is it going to go after them into Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL:  A number of them have escaped, and I'm very pleased that the Pakistani Government has cooperated with us in arresting them and detaining them, and making them available for interrogation to see what they know. 

We have been cooperating very closely with the Pakistani military authorities, and with President Musharraf, who made a bold choice last September to move away from the Taliban, to abandon the relationship that had existed between Pakistan and this evil regime.  And I think as a result of the bold choice that he made, Pakistan is now moving in a very positive direction.  And the United States is trying to help Pakistan as they move forward.  And Pakistan has been playing a very responsible role in the coalition, and they are helping to keep the flow of Taliban and al-Qaida from getting to safety through Pakistan.

But this will be done by Pakistan police and military forces.  We have Americans who are assisting, but this is a responsibility of the Pakistanis.  It is their country, and they are trying to exercise sovereignty over these areas, of course, where these Taliban and al-Qaida fighters may have gone.  We don't know where Usama bin Laden is, or whether he is even alive.  We just don't know.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, for one more question on the region, we're going to go back to New Delhi, where Cyrus is standing by.

MR. BROACHA:  Back here, not to be too flip, but young Artie is eating my ear off.  I feel like Evander Holyfield, so let's just give her the mike.

QUESTION:  Secretary Powell, as one of the self-touted true democracies of the world and upholder of free values, how is it that the United States is still hand-in-glove with a military dictator like General Pervez Musharraf, especially considering the abduction of Daniel Pearl, in which Pakistan is significantly involved?  Isn't it that the United States is placing strategic self-interest before these exalted values?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, I don't think so.  In fact, I'm quite pleased that in the speech that President Musharraf made on the 12th of January, he put his nation on a new course.  He's going after fundamentalism; he's going after extremism in his society.  He's going to use the madrass school system to educate youngsters, not in extremism, but in science, math and English, and the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century economy.  I think he has made it clear that there will be elections later this year for his legislature, and he has even expanded those election procedures so that you will not be penalized if you are a member of one particular ethnic group.

So I think he is taking his country in a new direction.  And we have spoken quite candidly to him that in due course, he will have to stand for election as well.  And he is putting in place a road map to move forward.  And the United States will be watching closely.  We want to work with him.  We want to have good relations, both with Pakistan and with India.  And I think the fact that we have come so far with Pakistan in just five months time is indicative of how much more we can do in the months ahead, working with President Musharraf to make sure that Pakistan becomes what he says he wants it to become, a secular nation that believes in the same universal human values that all of us believe in, and that will be moving to a democratic footing.

We are not unmindful of how he came to power, and we now want to help him with the transition back to a representative form of government, the form of government such as -- representative as the United States or as representative as India is, one of the great democracies on the face of the earth.

MR. NORRIS:  Secretary Powell, time for another quick break.  We've got a little time left, and a few more questions remaining on the war on drugs, on poverty, and a few of a more personal nature.  So that's coming up.  "Be Heard" continues, after this.


[Commercial break.]

MR. NORRIS:  And welcome back to "Be Heard:  MTV's Global Discussion with Secretary of State Colin Powell."

MR. YAGO:  We don't have a whole lot of time left, so let's jump right into things with Caze in Sao Paolo.

MR. CAZE:  Thanks a lot.  Back to Brazil.  This is Fernanda, 24 years old.  She's asking the next question.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I live in a poor country where 50 million people live in desperate poverty.  You said you were going to combat poverty because it was one of the causes of terrorism.  My question, shouldn't hunger be fought independently of terrorism?  I fear that a country like Brazil, that has nothing to do with international terrorism questions, is not included in your struggle against poverty.

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, you're absolutely right.  Hunger has nothing to do with terrorism, and in fact, some of the countries that we try to help with food are the countries that we have also designated as being evil.  North Korea.  We are one of the biggest providers of food to the North Korean people, while their government spends their money on things that they really shouldn't be spending their money on.  And so we always keep those kinds of programs separate from terrorism or our political agenda.  Our humanitarian work is quite different.

But the real solution to the problems of hunger is to solve the problem of poverty.  Poor people can't buy food.  So poor people need what?  They need a job.  And so what we work hard doing is breaking down trade barriers so that people have access to the world trading system.  That's why globalism, which sometimes has a bad name, should have a good name, because it's through globalism that we have trade agreements with nations, we let their products come into our country, we sell things to those countries.  What really brings dignity into the home of a poor person is wages, a salary, money that that person comes home with because of a good day's work or a good week's worth, money that that person can take to buy food, put it on the table.  And when you bring that food into the home and you bring clothing into the home because of your hard work, you bring dignity back into the family, dignity back into the home.

And so people don't want aid, people don't want a handout; they want to be part of a globalizing trading system where they have the chance to grow crops that can be sold, make products, make clothing that they can sell to the United States and buy things from the United States.  That's why the trading system has to be globalized and we break down these barriers.

So you're absolutely right.  Hunger has nothing to do with terrorism.  Hunger has to do with hunger, somebody who has an empty stomach.  And it is the obligation of those of us who have been successful in life, both as individuals and as nations, to help other nations, other individuals, other people, to do whatever they can to achieve a better life, and we have got to have more programs that provide economic assistance in order to get people to the point where they can feed themselves and their countries can take care of themselves, because they're part of a globalized trading system.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, finally we have got a question from here in our Washington studio.  It comes from Robert, and it has to do sort of with the war on drugs, doesn't it?

QUESTION:  My question is, do you think the attacks on September 11 are being trivialized by government propaganda campaigns, like those commercials during the Super Bowl, which blamed drug users for funding terrorist operations?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, I don't think it's being trivialized.  There is one aspect to it.  We can make connections between international criminal activities such as drug activity, which generates money, and that money can find its way into terrorist organizations.  Terrorist organizations don't take out loans at normal banks.  They don't do anything that earns income.  So they have to find their income usually through illicit means or likeminded individuals in other countries who will fund these activities.

And so we're hard at work to cut down these sources of funding.  And I don't think it is inappropriate to say that there is a connection between the kinds of money that comes out of illegal drug activity and the use of that money by terrorist organizations.  This is also the case in Afghanistan, where the drug cultivation that took place in that country, which now has been banned by the new leadership, to some extent was being protected by the activities of al-Qaida and was supporting the activities of al-Qaida.

MR. NORRIS:  Shifting gears yet again, Mr. Secretary, we're going to go back to Sao Paolo, where Caze is there with our next question.

MR. CAZE:  Back to Brazil.  I'm quit glad to introduce a Colombian fellow by the name of Nicholas who is asking the next question.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I'm Colombian, and my country, as you know, has many problems due to the drug traffickers.  The United States for many years now have been helping out with military assistance.  But the drug trafficking problem is not an exclusively military problem; it's a social problem, it's an economic problem.  Don't you think that the time has come for the United States to change its policy in light of the drug trafficking?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I agree with you completely that it is not just a military problem.  It's a problem of giving the people of Colombia better choices than to grow drugs, to grow crops that feed people as opposed to drugs that feed an American habit, a horrible habit among United States citizens that creates the demand for the kinds of drugs that are grown in Colombia and elsewhere, and it hurts your democracy, it hurts your people, it hurts your country that we have young people and old people in the United States who use these drugs.

So we are the source of that problem.  To attack that problem we have to go after the drugs as they are being grown, and our eradication efforts to that.  And there is a military component to that to the extent that we have sold Colombia, made available to Colombia, and provided to Colombia helicopters and the means to go after the crops.  But we're doing more than that, and the money that we're asking for next year, at least half of that money will go to democracy reform, to alternate crops, to other activities that have nothing to do with military or police activities, or military equipment, but because we know that we have to deal with the basic social problems that are faced by the people in Colombia and other Andean countries.

So you're exactly right.  It is more than a military problem.  And it is a problem that we here in the United States have given to the people of Colombia, because people, young people such as young people here in this room with me, and elsewhere throughout this country, use drugs that they shouldn't be using.

So we've got to stop the demand in order to save your country.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, since we focused so much on the world, we want to focus on you for the rest of our show.  I'm here with Natalie, who has a question for you.

QUESTION:  Hello.  I'm Natalie Koffield.  I'm a student at Howard University.  And in the New Yorker and in the New York Times Magazine, you were quoted as saying, "I ain't that black."  Could you explain the statement?

And also, what would you say to those people who look to you as a global and influential black leader?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, I said it that way because people say, well, how will you be able to be successful in my military career and in the other things I've done in life.  And I said that I grew up in a very diverse environment, and because I am not that black as a physical matter -- I am as black as anybody whose skin could be 20 shades darker than mine -- I consider myself an African American, a black man, proud of it and proud to stand on the shoulders of those who went before me.  But I know that because of my background and my upbringing, I'm probably more acceptable over the years to the white power structure that I was dealing with as I came up. 

Because, you see, Jim Crow and discrimination is not history to me; it's my life.  I was raised in the pre-civil rights period.  I've been thrown out of places because I was just black enough not to be served.  So I have no illusions about who I am or what I am.  But as I go about my job, what I say to people is I'm the American Secretary of State; I'm also black.  I don't say I'm the black American Secretary of State, because it implies, gee, is there a white one somewhere, you know?  [Laughter.]  No, I am the Secretary of State.  You take me as you see me, a proud American representing his country, and by the way, I'm awfully proud to be black.  And I want, as a black person, to be an example and an inspiration to not just other black youngsters coming along, but to all youngsters who may think that because of their background or where they came from or their origins, somehow they can't achieve their dream.  In our society you can.  And I'm an example of it, out of the South Bronx, immigrant parents; you know the story.  And I was able to achieve because there were people who were willing to accept me for what I was, treat me right, and allow me to demonstrate my ability.  And these were white people, black people.  These were people superior to me, people who worked for me, who trusted me.  And that's the message I've always tried to convey to young people.

MR. NORRIS:  Mr. Secretary, when we planned this show, we always knew we'd have way more questions than we had time for, and in fact, we are fresh out of time.  But thanks to all of you guys here in DC, all around the world.  Great questions.  All of our MTV International correspondents.  And, of course, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, thanks so much.  This has been tremendous.


Thanks to all of you guys for joining us.  We'll see you soon.


Released on February 14, 2002

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