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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 by European Editors

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

SECRETARY POWELL: Let’s get right to the questions. Who would like to start?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we just listened to your statement – a very optimistic statement – about your conversations with your European colleagues, but a lot of people in Europe feel uneasy with the plans of the American administration vis-à-vis the interim government. How do you think it’s possible to address these concerns? And how do you think its possible to put again the United Nations as the center of the process, as all your European colleagues certainly have told you they want as a precondition to participating in the rebuilding of Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We understand that the United Nations has to be involved. The President has been saying this all along, and the reason I came here today was to hear their views as to what they think the role of the United Nations should be. The United Nations has said clearly they do not want to be in charge of Iraq. Kofi Annan has said that clearly. So there is no competition for who is in charge, or responsible for Iraq.

We’re trying to make sure that we structure a role for the United Nations that is appropriate and proper, that deals with the provision of humanitarian aid, that endorses an interim authority when it is created, so that this interim authority is seen, internationally, as having an endorsement and legitimacy from the United Nations. And we will be working with our coalition partners and our friends in the Security Council to prepare the necessary UN resolutions that would do all of these things.

How we actually create an interim authority is something that we are working on now. I can’t get into specifics, but we want to get it started with people who have been outside and have been part of the external opposition who have worked so hard to get rid of this despotic regime. But we also know that it has to include people inside so that it is seen as representative and not something that is simply being imposed. Whether a conference is the appropriate way to do that, such as was done with Afghanistan, these are the kinds of issues we’re looking at and discussing with our coalition partners.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I represent a German paper, the government of which was part of the ‘Axis of Obstructionism’ or no-sayers. How serious is the rift? And will historians say at some point we have seen the disintegration of the old political institution called the West over this issue, and that the conclusion of this process which started with the fall of The Wall?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I was there when there was a Wall as a soldier. I was there as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when it cracked. I was there when it fell down. And I don’t know how many conversations I have been in about the end of NATO – the end of the transatlantic Alliance. In my conversations with my Russian general friends back when the Soviet Union was ending, they would say, “Well, look. We’re giving up the Warsaw Pact. Why don’t you give up NATO? Isn’t that a fair trade? We’re dissolving. We just had a meeting and we dissolved the Warsaw Pact, why don’t you guys go to Brussels and dissolve NATO?”

And I had a very simple answer to them. It’s hard. People keep wanting to join. You want to know what happened to all the guys that used to be in the Warsaw Pact that you dissolved? They’re all standing in front of my counter saying, “Please give me an application form.” Why? Because they want to be part of a security alliance that links Europe to the North American continent, that links Europe to the United States and to Canada. Why? Because they still feel a need for that strong transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe. It has not gone away because we have had a fight over Iraq. That is an enduring reality – the need for a strong link between the North American continent, Canada, the United States, Iceland and Europe. And that will be there for as long as I’m around. I’m not worried about that.

Germany and the United States have been the closest of friends and partners since the end of the war. We were there in 1945, after the defeat of Hitler to help Germany rebuild, to help Italy rebuild, to help Japan rebuild, to help so much of Europe rebuild. And we forged, in that postwar period, into a strong Alliance and strong bilateral partnerships.

I started my career in Germany, and I ended my operational career as a soldier commanding a corps in Germany. We are doing so many things together -- in Afghanistan, in the Balkans. We have watched as Germany has taken on additional responsibilities, went to the Bundestag and said we need to be a part of a broader alliance or broader coalition doing more things in the world. We are very appreciative of the support Germany has provided to our bases while we are moving troops to Iraq and other places.

So the friendship between Germany and the United States, and the United States and other nations that we have had disagreements with over this issue will continue. We’ll get through this. Europe will continue to grow under the umbrella of the transatlantic relationship and alliance and I have no fears about its future.

It’s not the first fight we’ve had. I mean, would you like me to enumerate the fights. Let’s go back to 1966, when….


SECRETARY POWELL: Voila! (Laughter) Remember, we got thrown out of Paris. “Go! Get out of here!” But guess what happened. The Alliance adapted.

This is a problem. We’ve had a problem with many issues over the years. This has been a problem. It’s a serious one. I don’t want to underestimate the seriousness of it. But at the same time, it’s not a deathblow or a death knell

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as the Frenchman here, I’m sorry. (Laughter) I would like to ask the same question. Have you made friends with your counterpart, Mr. Villepin, today? Is this over? Can we start again?

SECRETARY POWELL: I just finished meeting with Joschka Fischer and I met with Dominique earlier today.

QUESTION: You’re good friends?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, we are good friends. This had nothing to do with friendship. This had to do with business. That’s a mafia term. I don’t think I . . . (Laughter) It’s like out of the Godfather movie. This is not personal. This had nothing to do with friendship. We never stopped being friends. We never stopped talking to each other. We argued, we disagreed, we got mad, we fussed a bit and we fumed a lot. But we never broke the friendship.

We still have some debates and disagreements that we have to work our way through. But Dominique and I met this morning and Joschka and I met this afternoon. I talk to them on the phone very frequently and I look forward to seeing them. This is not a personal matter. This is business. We had a serious disagreement over a very, very serious situation, a very serious policy disagreement. But these kind of disagreements come and they get dealt with somehow, and then they go.

QUESTION: Who has power…?

SECRETARY POWELL: Was that the question?

QUESTION: Yes. Do you expect the situation now, enabling you to come back to some agreement on Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: What I am so pleased with, with respect to today’s meetings, is that there was a sense that it is time to come back together. And we can come back together, and we can join hands in interests again as we look to the rebuilding of Iraq. Rebuilding it not from this military campaign, but from more than two decades of destruction by Saddam Hussein. He is the one who has destroyed its society. Not us. We are rescuing its society and are going to build a better society.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, who has power for an interim administration? There has to be another interim administration between the Saddam regime and the interim administration of the Iraqis. How long will that be? How long with that process be?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are conducting a military campaign and, once we started that campaign, the military commander and the coalition political leaders bear responsibility for the ground that we are now occupying. So as the liberation effort continues, and we break the grip of this regime on all the cities, and as we remove this regime, we immediately have responsibility for security of the people, security of their property, security of the assets of the nation and for ensuring the stability of the country and the territorial integrity of the country.

And there’s no one else who could do that. You can’t give that to anyone. You can’t give that to the UN or the EU. It is the responsibility of the force that went in. It shouldn’t surprise . . . Wait a minute, I have to answer the question.

QUESTION: No, no. How long will it take?

SECRETARY POWELL: You’re interrupting my answer. I’m going to get there.

This is not a responsibility that can be given to anyone else, because we have the forces and we have the authority to do this. Now, we are anxious to, as quickly as we can, establish security and stability, make sure people are being fed, make sure we are rebuilding the infrastructure to deliver water, food and medicine to the people.

As quickly as we can, we want to begin shifting responsibility from the military to civilian ministries again that have now been reformed with our assistance. We have civil administrators and people who will be coming in to help these Iraqi ministries start to function again, without Ba’ath party leaders and without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. And then we will create, as you heard, an interim authority which, as soon as it demonstrates its capacity to act and to handle authority and responsibility, we want to shift more and more to them.

Meanwhile, the U.N will have developed its role and, under appropriate Security Council resolutions, will be performing a role.

Now, to your question, sir, I wasn’t trying to dodge it, but I can’t give you a precise answer. I can’t tell you today that stability will occur in a week or in a month. It is event- and situationally-driven. Yes, ma’am?

QUESTION: What’s going on again between you and Mr. Rumsfeld, I mean your colleague and you on the future of Iraq from an economic, a business point of view? And do you think you can get anything in a future Iraq? I mean, contracts for companies or Mr. Rumsfeld, or everything will happen as he wants, I mean, only U.S. companies get everything?

SECRETARY POWELL: That is not our position. The initial inflow of money going into the country will be coming, in the first instance, from the United States, through our Agency for International Development. Contracts are being let now, as quickly as we can, to companies that have the capacity to deliver what we need, run the port at Umm Qasr and things of that nature. As we get further into this, there will be European Union funds that become available, and the European Union will decide how those funds are spent. And then, in due course, as we get the oil system up and running again….

QUESTION: Energy system as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, but I’m thinking in terms of exported oil, which provides revenues. This is a wealthy country. And so as that revenue stream starts to come back and provides funds for the Iraqi government, then it will be up to the new Iraqi government, the Iraqi authorities to determine how they’re going to spend their money and where to award contracts.

So we are in the process of determining how we can make it clear to the world that there is no -- as some have suggested in some press accounts – that there is a blacklist of companies that cannot get contracts or awards. We are making it very transparent as to what needs we have through the Agency for International Development and how to place a bid against those needs for those contracts.

QUESTION: Talking about contracts and reconstruction, do you anticipate any difference in access to these contracts and projects for reconstruction of Iraq to the countries which supported American policy towards Iraq and others?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think what we will have to do is make sure that, as we use the money that belongs to the Iraqi people that we generated through the use of oil revenue, we put in place a transparent system and ultimately these are decisions that will be made by the Iraqi authorities.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. For the initial workup, we do not have any blacklist. Now how the contracts will be awarded and to whom, I’m not in a position to say because I’m the Secretary of State and all I own is AID.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, will you try to repair the damage done by the (unintelligible) and invite European companies between [sic] France and Germany….

SECRETARY POWELL: Nobody has not invited European companies. This is a process that is just getting started and so we will have to see how it develops as we go forward.

QUESTION: Sir, how surprised, if at all, are you by the lack of a popular uprising or showing of support for the incoming forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we will see more of that. There were some reports today, from Najaf I think it was, once people realized there that the grip of the Ba’ath party and the grip of the regime had been broken, they were very welcoming and expressed their welcome to coalition forces.

What we’re seeing in the South is that once Ba’ath party leadership is broken and once people are no longer fearful, they are coming out and they are starting to cooperate with the coalition forces. Coalition forces have started to hire them for jobs, are providing a secure water source of a kind they have not seen in years. I think they have been uneasy. They have been anxious -- are the coalition forces really here to stay? Or is it going to be something similar to what happened unfortunately in 1991? So I think confidence will develop once they realize that the grip of this regime has been broken forever, and a better life awaits them. Then I think that you will see a level of cooperation with coalition forces and other international organizations when they arrive.

MR. BOUCHER: We have five minutes and I think two people who have not had the chance to ask questions yet.

QUESTION: I still don’t understand the role of the United Nations. What will be exactly the role you foresee for the United Nations? Will it be only reconstruction or aid for the people or….

SECRETARY POWELL: It will certainly be that and it will also be the organization that has to provide an endorsement to the authority and, hopefully, an endorsement as well to what coalition efforts will be to support the authority.

But it’s premature to try to answer the question today of exactly what will the UN be doing. Kofi Annan was not at any of these meetings today. So this was a way by which we could discuss with our European colleagues what their views are. The real discussion, the real debate as to the exact role of the UN will take place at the Security Council in New York, not in Brussels.

QUESTION: This is a war against terrorism, but the list of countries that support terrorism is quite long. North Korea, Syria, Iran. What will you do when the war in Iraq is over? Should we expect other wars?

SECRETARY POWELL: This was a war against weapons of mass destruction. This was a war against a rogue regime that is also a terrorist regime that for twelve years had violated its obligations under a total of seventeen UN resolutions. Once again, even after the whole Security Council came together last November, fifteen to zero, and said, “Stop. Stop now. Immediately. Unconditionally. Without hesitation. No more fooling around. You’re guilty. You’re in material breach. Stop it.” And they still played games. And they tried to stretch it out. And they tried to break the will of the international community. And so we saw Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There is this perception in many parts of Europe, frankly, that now that the United States has done this, we’re just looking around for another place to go to war. It’s as if you don’t know our history. We don’t look for wars to go to. We do this reluctantly. You perhaps should look at European history first, for a preemptive action and nations that enjoy going to war.

And so we are not looking for wars to go to. We are looking for place that we can work with to solve the problem of HIV/AIDS, to solve the problem of famine, to solve the problem of economic growth, to solve the problem of sustainable growth. That’s what we really want to do. But we will not turn away from those regimes that are supporting terrorist activities, not after 9/11 we won’t. So we will say to the world…Syria supports terrorist activities. Iran supports terrorist activities. Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction.

It doesn’t mean, as the night follows day, that there is going to be a war with Syria, Iran or North Korea. In fact, what has been driving me to some distraction the last couple of months, is that we’ve been working so hard to have a multilateral approach to North Korea, and to engage the neighbors of North Korea – China, South Korea, Russia and Japan – in finding a solution. And the criticism I get all the time is “Why aren’t you unilaterally saying to the North Koreans, let’s talk right away?” And the other question I get is, “If you’re invading Iraq, why aren’t you invading North Korea?” It’s almost as if you’re disappointed.

There are many ways to deal with the problems that face the world. We want to deal with this problem here and now, put in place a better society for the people of Iraq. We will try to solve the other problems that exist in these rogue states and these states that support terrorism.

We also don’t want to lose sight of our broader agenda: the expansion of NATO, the expansion of the European Union and therefore the expansion of the transatlantic family. Going after HIV/AIDS, which is killing more people every month than any conflict that is taking place on the face of the earth. Famine, drought, horrible human circumstances that we need to turn our attention to. Making sure war does not break out between India and Pakistan. Making sure that the community of democracies grows and thrives around the world. Making sure we have stable relations with China and with Russia, two major other powers on the face of the earth. These are all part of our agenda. We’re not looking for places to go invade.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, here at NATO, what kind of role would you hope for for NATO in peacekeeping in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We don’t have an answer. We’ve made some suggestions. Could be stability operations, peacekeeping operations. We’ve also suggested it might be helpful in the search for weapons of mass destruction. What I’m pleased about today is that no one spoke out against such a role in the meetings that I was in. There was a willingness to consider a role for NATO in Iraq. Also, there was further willingness expressed today to consider a role for NATO in Afghanistan. We’ll see how that develops. Ambassador Burns will be following up on those ideas.

Released on April 5, 2003

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