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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 > 2003 > April

Interview on ZDF-TV of Germany

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Brussels, Belgium
April 3, 2003

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome to Old Europe, as we now say. The place has changed a bit, politically speaking. This is how the term ‘Old Europe’ came up. Do you feel that in your conversations the ambience is not quite the same as it used to be before the big conflict?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is for me. I have known all the ministers that I met today for quite a bit of time now. Especially, Joschka Fischer, my German colleague. We’ve been working together for two years now. We’ve done many things together, whether it was Afghanistan, expansion of the Alliance. We’ve had some disagreements recently, especially over Iraq. But an Alliance as strong as ours, as resilient as ours, can deal with disagreements and move on. So, as we move on with this issue of Iraq and get beyond the conflict and into the reconstruction and the creation of a democratic Iraq that is serving its people, and not building weapons of mass destruction, whether you call it ‘Old Europe’ or ‘New Europe,’ the transatlantic alliance, the transatlantic family will come together again in the rebuilding process.

QUESTION: There is now the big question about the U.N.’s role in the future of Iraq. We have heard the word about the ‘emerging consensus.’ That sounds very nice. But Germany and others clearly want to have the U.N. in the driver’s seat, in control, in the leading the role. This is not what you intend, or is it?

SECRETARY POWELL: We don’t know what the role exactly will be of the U.N. yet, and it is premature to start describing it as being a central role, or in the driver’s seat, not in the driver’s seat, because it suggests you are excluding someone else when you say it that way. The U.N. must be a partner in this effort. The U.N. will have a major role to play. And we will be working with our colleagues in the coalition, and our colleagues within NATO, within the European Union and especially with the Secretary General, who will have something to say about this, with respect with the exact role to be played by the U.N. The role of the U.N. will ultimately be determined by the Security Council resolutions that are passed, authorizing the role. So there will be discussions and no doubt there will be debate in New York as to what authorities are required and what the role of the U.N. should be. So this is the beginning of a dialogue -- not the beginning of a fight, the beginning of a dialogue -- to determine what the appropriate role is.

But as I said, and I’ve said this several times, the coalition that went in, that was willing to put at risk its young men and women, and lost lives, paid a great amount of money to conduct this campaign and also paid a political price for this campaign as well. We are committed to making sure that that sacrifice and that investment is not lost. We believe we have to play a very significant, perhaps a leading role, in order to make sure what replaces this corrupt, rotten regime is a democratic system that is responsive to the needs of its people and will reflect all of the people of Iraq, and will use the treasure of Iraq, its oil, to invest in the people and not invest in weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: I hear what you are saying. What many people in Europe will hear, through your words, is this is how the new partition of labor will be: America is looking for its Allies, is going its course with or without Allies, any number that’s available, and be it zero. And then the U.N.’s role is to go in as a good Samaritan and clean up the mess. That’s all they can do. America is already looking at its next destination.

SECRETARY POWELL: That’s absurd. It’s an absurd, simplistic, shorthand response to what people think we’re doing. In fact, we went to the U.N. in the first place with respect to this problem. It was a problem that belonged to the U.N. for twelve years -- this terrible regime that tortures its people, that developed weapons of mass destruction, that used them against its own people and then invaded its neighbors on two occasions. And we finally said to the United Nations, “If you would be relevant, if the international community would be relevant, we must deal with this.”

This is not a regime that will simply roll over and play dead. It will fight back. It will try to avoid consequences. So we got a very strong resolution passed. Unanimously. Fifteen to zero. And when it became clear to a number of members of the Security Council that it was time to apply those serious consequences, we took it back to the U.N. And the U.N. said, “Well, can’t agree on this.”

But 1441 made it clear – it was more than sufficient authority. Now there were some members of the Council who said, “We’ll veto anything.” And there were others of us who felt we must move forward. We must remove this danger to the world. Especially this regime that developed weapons of mass destruction and might actually allow some of these weapons to fall in the hands of terrorists. We will not apologize for this. We believe that we did what is right and we recognize that there is a great deal of opinion, especially in Europe, that thinks this was not the right approach. But I hope we will change this opinion, when everybody sees that after this conflict we’re not leaving it to be swept up by the United Nations. We are going to work with the United Nations and work with the international community. And guess who will be the major contributor, who will pay the most money to help the Iraqi people to get back on their feet. It will be the United States, as always. Europeans --

QUESTION: So you are paying the most money? Then that’s a promise?

SECRETARY POWELL: Europeans, especially Germans, should recognize the American record, our history. Our history is not one of getting involved in conflicts just for the sake of it. We get involved in conflicts because there are major issues at stake that have to be resolved, unfortunately, by force of arms. But when you look at our history for the last sixty years, every time we found ourselves in this position, we did not just get up and walk away. We did everything we could to put in place a better system, a better society, than that which we had to go in and fight. And we will do it again this time.

In Kuwait, we fought to save a Muslim people that had been invaded by another Muslim people, Iraq, and we gave Kuwait back to its --


SECRETARY POWELL: -- rightful rulers. Its rightful rulers. Are you defending what Iraq did by invading Kuwait.


SECRETARY POWELL: But the way you just posed that question, they were the rulers. The people of Kuwait were happy with their rulers. Iraq said we don’t care, we’re invading. We restored Kuwait to its rulers - its rightful rulers – and let them find their transition into a democratic form of government, as their people choose.

We went to Kosovo, another very controversial war, in order to save Muslims, in order to protect Muslims. And we went to Afghanistan in order to deal with the terrorist threat that had caused such destruction in the Untied States on 9/11.

And what have we done? Have we decided to make Afghanistan an American colony? No. We spent a huge amount of money and we are putting our young men and women on the line, every day, to put in place a form of government that was decided upon by the Afghan people. And we are helping them to rebuild and reconstruct their society. That pattern is the American pattern. We’re very proud of it. It’s been repeated many times over, and it will be repeated again in Iraq.

QUESTION: From you and from your colleague, Secretary Rumsfeld, came very strong warnings the last couple of days, vis-à-vis Iran and Syria, not to interfere, stay out of Iraq and stop their business of dealing with terrorists and the Iraqi regime. Are they the next ones on the list for --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, there is no list. There is this common perception in Europe that there is this list of enemies and we are going to go down one-by-one and invade them all in some predetermined order. This is not the case. The President is not looking for places to go invade. The President has made it clear that he has many ways of dealing with regimes that, we believe, are not following international standards. So, sometimes political actions are appropriate, economic actions, use of our intelligence assets. Sometimes military force is appropriate. But we are not looking for wars to get into.

It’s fascinating that we are now trying in a multilateral setting to deal with the problem of North Korea and here we are criticized for not acting bilaterally or doing something directly.

And so we have many tools available to us but it does not mean the United States has constantly looking for places to go to war. But is there something wrong with telling a nation such as Syria, or a nation such as Iran, that we know they are developing weapons of mass destruction, that we have evidence against Iran with respect to nuclear weapons. And these are nations that we know – we know, everyone knows – they are supporting terrorist activities. Is it inappropriate for us to call this to their attention and tell these nations they should stop engaging in these kinds of activities? Or should we just put our hands over our eyes and pretend they are not doing such things and not hold them to any kind of account? I think we should speak out when we find nations that are supporting terrorist activities.

QUESTION: Watching the clock, we have to get to the actual scene today in Iraq. We have heard that American troops have entered the so-called “red zone.” Your General Brooks has said there are intelligence information that Iraqi forces may be authorized to use chemical weapons, once that stage of the war is reached. Should that happen, what will be America’s response?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I don’t know that these will be used. These are reports. I don’t know if these reports are accurate or not.

QUESTION: But if they are?

SECRETARY POWELL: No chemical weapons have been used. The United States is well on the way to achieving success in this command. I am sure that our commanders will keep right on pursuing the campaign the way they are currently planning it. We have trained our soldiers for many years how to fight in such environments and I’m sure that we will be able to fight in that environment if it occurs.

QUESTION: So that will not be a violent response, using all weapons in the arsenal, as has been said?

SECRETARY POWELL: You’re taking me down a logic train that appeals to some people, that the United States will use weapons of mass destruction in return. We, in two weeks, have penetrated deep within Iraq. We’re on the outskirts of Baghdad. We are about to bring this regime down in the not-too-distant future and we will do it with the forces and the measures that you see in the battlefield now.

We never take any option off the table, but I cannot imagine we would prosecute this war in any way but the way we see it being prosecuted now. And the so-called “red zone” is nothing but intelligence reporting. I don’t know if it’s true or even if it exist.

QUESTION: Do you foresee a time when relations between Germany and America will be as deep, as warm, as heartfelt as, let’s say, two years ago to be safe?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh. I’m sure. We understand that Germany has been a friend of the United States for the past half century. We have shared values and shared history. We’re doing many things together in many parts of the world right now. Afghanistan, the expansion of NATO, the assistance given in moving our troops to the Iraqi theater, the support you’re giving us to protect our facilities.

We are friends and will remain friends. This has been a difficult period for both of us, but I’m sure we will work our way through it.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


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