Interview by Turkish TVSecretary Colin L. Powell
April 2, 2003
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, thank you very much for being with us. First of all I would like to ask these questions that you have been criticized, not doing any diplomatic mission visits before the war started. And this you, I think, the first visit after the war to Turkey, to Ankara. What is the urgency and importance of this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you do have to remember that I had a chance to meet with your prime minister and Mr. Erdogan at the end of January in Davos. And so even though I hadn't been to Ankara, I have been in close touch with Turkish leaders throughout this period of time as well as receiving Turkish delegations in Washington, so I have followed this very, very closely.
The reason I wanted to come here now is that now that the campaign is underway to liberate Iraq and I don't have to spend as much time at the United Nations, I thought it was important to come to Turkey, to come to Ankara, meet with the leaders and reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Turkish relationship, a very strong partnership and alliance that exited for many years.
It has had some strains recently. There was disappointment that your parliament did not vote for the package on the first of March, but we're getting beyond that now. There are new opportunities for cooperation, new opportunities to work together in Northern Iraq, to stabilize that part of Iraq, and new opportunities to help with the rebuilding of Iraq: the humanitarian aid that will flow into Iraq as this conflict comes to an end.
QUESTION: I will come to details of the, this agreement today. But before that, you said that campaign is going in Iraq, in southern Iraq, in northern Iraq, some commentary said the campaign is not going well because you may have some difficulties that you were not expecting. So you need the Turkey's assistance on that step of the war. Is it true?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, every campaign has things that happen that you don't expect. That's what war is about. The important point is do you adjust? Do you adapt? Are you flexible enough to modify your plan and keep going? And that's what our commanders have done.
They've been at this campaign now for two weeks today, or a little -- one day short of two weeks and we have uncovered huge sections of Iraq, which are now under our control. We are increasingly isolating the regime. We are taking out units of the Iraqi army day-by-day using our airpower and we're advancing on Baghdad.
We've covered the oil fields in the south and they now are under our control. They've been captured and they'll be safeguarded for the Iraqi people. We have stabilized the situation in the north. A lot of the concerns were expressed about refugee flows or terrorist activity coming out of the north -- that is not happening. And so I think we've accomplished a lot in two weeks' time.
And now we are, as we say in the military, shaping the battlefield and closing in on Baghdad, closing in on Basra, and it's just a matter of time until we prevail, until we win. Every day the Iraqi army is becoming weaker and every day coalition forces are becoming stronger.
QUESTION: May you tell me if requests from Turkey until now, until these days --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no. We've made requests of Turkey and Turkey has been forthcoming. We've made an overflight request and the parliament approved that overflight request and the parliament approved that overflight request and we have been using Turkish airspace to assist in the campaign.
And then as the campaign got underway and we introduced more forces into the north, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, we now have new requests that we have made of Turkey that will allow us to support that unit in the north, which really is for Turkey's security and benefit, as well. And in our conversations today, we found ways to facilitate the supply of those units in the north and also to facilitate humanitarian goods going into northern Iraq.
And so Turkey has been quite forthcoming. This additional request that we have placed on it as a result of the campaign unfolding, when, you know, we would have liked to have seen the 4th Division, a rather large division, come through here. But the parliament said no, so that's a decision of a democratic government. We went back, got overflights, a lot of other areas of cooperation and now, I think, we're cooperating quite well. And the agreements we made today will facilitate that cooperation.
QUESTION: So your additional requests will be met completely by the Turkish Government? You agreed to them?
SECRETARY POWELL: That is what we've (inaudible). Yes, we agreed on that. Now, details have to be worked out, but there are no longer any political obstacles to providing that support to our units and support, also, to humanitarian organizations: the World Food Program, United Nations organizations that will be helping the people of Iraq and in turn helping Turkey and Turkey's security.
QUESTION: Many of the people said that this is the main aim of this visit is to repay the damage to the relations of, between two countries after the refusal of Turkish Government motion in the parliament. So how big the damage was after the refusal of the motion and it was repaid today?
SECRETARY POWELL: It was a disappointment. We were, frankly, expecting and hoping that the Turkish parliament would approve our request and would see the necessity for it. And so there was disappointment within American political circles, both in the Congress and in the Administration. But we knew we had to move on. We knew we had to deal with other issues. And so after taking a look at what our needs were, after changing the plan of sending the division to the south, we asked for overflight and your parliament provided that for us, a sign of friendship and support, and now the additional request that we have made to support our forces in the north are being accommodated by the government. And so I think the relationship is back on track.
QUESTION: Back on track? You think so?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I don't think it ever went completely off track. There was --
QUESTION: What was the (inaudible) on that day?
SECRETARY POWELL: There was disappointment. We were hoping for a successful vote and for a few hours we thought there had been a successful vote that turned out not to be the case. We were disappointed.
QUESTION: And a little surprised also?
SECRETARY POWELL: The thing about, a little surprised, yes. We knew it would be a close vote. The government had made it clear to us that this was going to be a difficult issue for the parliament and so when the first reports came that the vote was successful, we were happy. But then we learned it was not successful. We were both surprised and disappointed. But you know, disappointment comes in any relationship from time to time. The important thing is the relationship is strong enough to withstand disappointment and not go off the road into a ditch, but to be put back on the tracks from before.
QUESTION: After you heard the decision of Turkish parliament, of course it was important for you, I think, but important for the President Bush. Of course you talk with him about that. What was the first reaction of the President? Anger? Disappointment? Resentful? What?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're disappointed, but the President understands the important relationship that we have with Turkey and he was anxious to let Turkish leaders know that there was disappointment, but he was also anxious to move forward. Turkey is a democratic nation of the kind we hope to see created in Iraq and you have a political, you have a parliament that is freely elected, you have political imperatives and you have public opinion; and that all was reflected in the vote, and so we respect that. That's what we expect from a democracy such as Turkey, but we move forward. You don't linger in the past and, you know, wring your hands about something that you can do nothing about. You move on.
And so we changed our campaign plan and then we came forward with a new series of requests with respect to overflight and the government took that to the parliament. I credit the government in both instances in difficult political circumstances taking it to the parliament both times. Three times.
QUESTION: You, of course, discussed the Turkish demands for the entering northern Iraq if there is any cause. You said today there is no cause now and the airlifted U.S. Forces stabilized the region. If there is any cause in the future and the Turkish army would like to enter to the region, what is the reaction of the U.S. Government?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, right now there is no cause. I think both sides agree that --
QUESTION: If there is in the future --
SECRETARY POWELL: I understand. If, in the future, a problem arises, what we discussed today was that we would analyze that problem, try to get early warning if something is wrong, something is not going well, and begin consultation with the Turkish sides. Hopefully, we will be able to contain the problem without the need for Turkish troops to come across. But Turkey is a sovereign nation and I can never say to Turkey, "No, you can't do what you believe is necessary for your own security."
Right now I'm pleased that the situation is stable and we probably will not see a set of circumstances arise where this would be a problem. Now, we are working out coordination mechanisms so that if that ever should become a problem, we would know how to deal with it and it will be done in full coordination with the Americans. So I don't think there is going to be a problem and I don't want to, by my answer, suggest that there is a problem.
QUESTION: Our last discussion, not as Minister of State but the ex-Chief of Staff, its army general, did you, surprised far as the resistance from the Iraqi people in the Iraq army troops in the south of Iraq. Is it a mistake?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no mistake. Our units went into battle. They didn't go in to have a parade. They went in expecting resistance and we found resistance and we are dealing with that resistance. So no good commander or soldier ever goes into battle thinking that there is not an enemy on the other side that is trying to destroy him just as you are trying to destroy that enemy. And so there are always surprises that come along. There are always things that happen that you weren't expecting. That's what war is about. The real test is are you flexible enough to respond? Are you flexible enough to adjust your thinking and your planning and your actions to deal with things that suddenly come up that you had not --
QUESTION: Baghdad will be difficult?
SECRETARY POWELL: I beg your pardon?
QUESTION: Baghdad will be difficult?
SECRETARY POWELL: Baghdad will be -- it's a difficult mission. We hope that the Iraqi regime will realize the futility of their situation and we hope that the regime will crack as we encircle Baghdad as we slowly peel away and destroy its defenses and it will not be necessary to do street-to-street fighting throughout Baghdad. We hope that is the case. One way or the other, though, we will remove this regime and we will create a better set of circumstances for the Iraqi people.
We will help raise up a democratic form of government that will use the wealth of Iraq, its oil, to benefit its people.
QUESTION: Will Turkey be on the table --
SECRETARY POWELL: Turkey most certainly, Turkey --
QUESTION: In the reconstruction of Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: Turkey will most certainly have a role to play in the reconstruction of Iraq, the humanitarian support of Iraq and I'm absolutely confident that as a new government is formed --
QUESTION: In the political reconstruction of Iraq, Turkey will be on the table?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm trying to answer that. As a new government is formed and it is raised, you can be sure that Turkish interests will be considered. Turkey is part of the coalition. It has been one of the willing members of the coalition, and we will consult very closely with our Turkish friends as we go forward because, frankly, Turkey is a neighbor and Turkey, frankly, as a result of this democratic experience and tradition will be a terrific model, a wonderful model for the new leadership in Iraq to look at as to how one creates a democratic system within a Muslim country.
QUESTION: I know we don't have any time, but my last question is about your personal feelings when you see on television the civilian casualties, especially the children, then you go in the press conference with the foreign minister today, there was some news about the bombing of a maternity hospital in (inaudible). What do you think about that? Personal feelings as a human being?
SECRETARY POWELL: We regret any loss of innocent life. No army in the world is more careful than the American army with our coalition partners, especially the British and the Australians, in surgically picking targets so that we do not cause harm to innocent civilians. No army is more careful.
Now, that is not to say that there won't be accidents. That is not to say that mistakes won't occur. It is also not to say that others aren't shooting in the area. I mean, the Iraqis are shooting; they are firing missiles into the air that will come down somewhere. I don't know about this particular incident or what happened. But any loss of innocent life is a tragedy for all of us. But let us remember the cause of this. The cause of this is a dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein who would not comply with his international obligations, who for 12 years kept on developing weapons of mass destruction, kept on suppressing people. Saddam Hussein has killed more Muslims inside of Iraq that any other cause of death inside of Iraq.
He has tortured people, he has mutilated people, he has put them in prisons. He has starved people to death because he has not used the money coming from the Oil-for-Food program to take care of his people and so let's not lose sight of the cause of this current problem in this current conflict. It is Saddam Hussein, a man who has gassed his own people, a man who has been responsible for the worst kind of atrocities the world has ever seen, a man who has invaded him Muslim neighbors, a man who has shot missiles at neighbors and at countries far away. He is the cause of this problem and the sooner he is removed and this regime is put into the dustpan of history, into the trashcan of history, the better off the Iraqi people will be, the better off the Turkish people will be, and the better off the region and the world will be.
QUESTION: Despite of the crimes of Saddam Hussein before, the anti-Americanism base spread out around the world, it will be difficult for the United States after the war basically --
SECRETARY POWELL: Very well because we are people who always come in peace. Look at our experience over the last 50 years. Every country we've found it necessary to use military force in can now look back and say, "Force was used, but look what the Americans helped us build. Germany, Japan, Italy, Kuwait." We restored Kuwait to its rightful owners, leaders, after who invaded them? Saddam Hussein. Not America, Saddam Hussein. We helped Kosovo protect Muslims. We went into Afghanistan because we were attacked on 9/11, but we removed a horrible regime and put in place a Muslim regime back in Kabul that is representative of its people and we are helping to build it up so that we can leave. We don't come to take over anyone. We come to bring peace, we come to bring stability, and I think once we have done that once again in Iraq, the world will understand that this was something that had to be done.
Thank you very much.