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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 > October

Interview on NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 26, 2003


(10:35 a.m. EST)

MR. RUSSERT: Joining us now, the Secretary of State Colin Powell. Your reaction to this brazen attack this morning?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, I deplore it and I regret the loss of one American life and others who were injured. I’m glad Paul Wolfowitz and Jim and the others are safe. But Jim’s report kind of says it all. There are many good things going on in Iraq: the people who did embrace Paul Wolfowitz over the last 24 hours in Baghdad. We opened one of the main bridges connecting one part of the city with another part of the city; and we’re extending the curfew so people can stay out longer. People are on the streets. There is life returning to the city.

But we still have a dangerous situation, as we saw again in this attack and other attacks, where there are remnants of the old regime and some terrorists who do not want to see democracy, do not want to see the people enjoying a better life. And so we have much work ahead of us and we will not shrink from this work. We’ll have to get the security situation under control at the same time we’re moving forward on reconstruction and at the same time we’re moving forward on creating Iraqi security forces – a new military, police forces, border patrols, militias. All of that is going to be necessary to put down this threat.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, Mr. Secretary, if you just look at the numbers, it appears the security situation is getting worse. General Sanchez, the ranking man on the ground for the U.S. military, said there are now 35 attacks a day. During the war, in March and April, we lost 143 Americans. Since May, when the President said major combat was over, we’ve lost 208 American; 1,111 Americans have been wounded since May.

How are we going to get control of this country from a security standpoint?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we’re still in the conflict, and I don’t think the President ever sought to minimize that. But there are no major battles taking place. We are in this insurgency sort of situation, where people strike and run, and it’s a much more difficult security environment. As General Sanchez says, the number of incidents have been increasing, and what we need is more security throughout the country. But that security really has to come not just from American or coalition troops, but from bringing up these Iraqi forces that Paul Wolfowitz and all of us have been talking about, the kinds of forces I just touched on – a new army, police force, people who know the neighborhoods, know who shouldn’t be in a particular place, and who will have better access to the kinds of human intelligence you need to deal with these sorts of threats.

So it’s a challenging period that’s ahead of us, but I’m also confident in our ability to deal with it.

MR. RUSSERT: General Sanchez said that the resistance is well organized. You heard Mik talk about the sophisticated attack this morning. Here is some video that leaders of the resistance released, proudly showing a picture of Saddam Hussein. This is how bold they are now. How can it still be at that level, and here we are in October?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because there are still people who do not want to see happen what has happened, and that is that this regime really is gone. And they can hold all the pictures up they wish to of Saddam Hussein, but he is not coming back in person. Of this, I am sure.

And we knew this would be a challenge, and that’s why we have kept a large force present there, and that’s why we are accelerating the development of Iraqi forces.

MR. RUSSERT: But we were told prior to the war that we would be greeted as liberators, and this resistance, at this level, was largely unexpected, wasn’t it?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn’t expect it would be quite this intense this long, but Paul Wolfowitz was greeted as a liberator when he went north. I was greeted as a liberator when I went north and in the parts of the country that I visited about a month or so ago. People are pleased, happy throughout the country, that Saddam Hussein is gone. Do they wish to see total sovereignty restored to Iraqi leaders? Of course, they do. Do they hope the Americans will leave soon? Sure, they do. But they also know that, right now, we are the source of security and we are the source of reconstruction efforts.

And so we will get through this period and we will stand up a government that the Iraqi people can be proud of, a government that will lead this country into a future that is based on democracy and living in peace with its neighbors.

MR. RUSSERT: As you well know, the President asked Congress for $87 billion for Iraq, and 20 of that 87 would be designated to reconstruction, the other for military work. Your goal was to raise $56 billion from around the world, 20 from the United States. You went to a conference in Madrid. You got $4 billion in grant pledges, $9 billion in credit, if you will, or loans. We’re still very short of the money necessary to reconstruct Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: That’s not exactly right. We did not go to Madrid, to where the conference was held, to raise $56 billion. This is something the press has put out, and it’s not right. $56 billion is the total amount that UN and other agencies, World Bank, have determined Iraq will need over a period of time. There are many ways to deal with that need. $33 billion you just touched on – what the United States is prepared to do in grants and other kinds of loans made available at Madrid.

Iraq will also be a source of funds for its own reconstruction. Beginning in the year 2005, we believe and are quite confident the oil revenues, in addition to operating the government and the country, will provide $5 billion a year toward reconstruction. And so, in this period through ’07, there is at least $15 billion of oil revenue that will be added to the 48, and we’re up close to 50. Other countries have not been heard from. And it doesn’t mean that every single item on the $56 billion list of needs will be dealt with in the first three years.

So this conference in Madrid was very successful. The people who are writing it off, only a few billion dollars had come forward as a result of the conference – the conference came together, the international community came together, and $13 billion – some grant, some loans. The World Bank and IMF were the biggest contributors, but they’re banks. They give loans, not grants.

MR. RUSSERT: The French, the Germans, the Russians – nada, nothing.

SECRETARY POWELL: They chose not to give any funds above what minimum assistance they may have provided in one form or another. I hope that as they reflect on the success of that conference and on the needs of the Iraqi people, and on what their interests might be in the future, they would be more willing to make a contribution in the future.

MR. RUSSERT: The Administration will not go back to Congress for any more money for reconstruction for Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are no plans whatsoever to ask for any more supplemental money. Now, in our normal budget requests for the upcoming years, there may be some sums in there for our needs in Iraq. But in terms of a big, shall we say, slug of money for reconstruction efforts, the $20 billion in the ’04 supplemental is all we’re asking for.

MR. RUSSERT: As you know, a big debate about weapons of mass destruction. They have not been found. You had talked, leading up to the war, about aluminum tubes that Saddam may have been using to reconstitute a nuclear program. No evidence of that. People now refer back to February of 2001, when you made a comment about Saddam and his capability, and I’m going to show it to you and give you a chance to talk about it:

“Frankly, the sanctions have worked. Saddam has not deployed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”

It appears you were right back then in February of 2001, and yet the American public and the world was told something much different leading up to the war, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that were a risk to our country and the world. You felt otherwise in February of 2001.

SECRETARY POWELL: In February 2001, take the last sentence first. He did not have significant military conventional capability to threaten his neighbors because we dealt with that in the first Gulf War. What I said in the first part of that phrase did not say he had none. I did not think he had a significant capability, but he did have a capability. And everybody agreed with that assessment: foreign intelligence sources agreed with it; the previous Administration, President Clinton and his Administration agreed with it; the United Nations agreed with that assessment year after year, resolution after resolution. And the information we presented earlier this year, and the presentation that I made before the United Nations on the 5th of February of this year, was the best judgments that were made by the intelligence community -- all members of the intelligence community of the United States coming together. And it was a judgment that was shared by a number of other countries around the world.

On the aluminum tubes, our agencies still have an open mind as to what they are. And when I made my presentation, our judgment was that they were usable for centrifuge purposes, but I also noted that there was a difference of opinion on that issue. And I think as Dr. Kay finishes his work, and as the Senate and the House complete their intelligence work, and George Tenet finishes his own internal assessment of how they did it and what the assessment looked like, we’ll get to the truth of it.

MR. RUSSERT: If, in fact, the intelligence was wrong, we should know that and find out why.

SECRETARY POWELL: If the intelligence was wrong, and people, knowing it was wrong, presented it as right, that is bad. But that is not what happened. I am absolutely convinced that the assessments we were given by the intelligence community reflected their best judgment based on the information they had available to them. And before I gave my presentation on the 5th of February this year, I sat out at the CIA, with George Tenet sitting next to me, and his deputy John McLaughlin on the other side of me, and all of their analysts who are responsible for this material, and we went through what they knew, what they believed, and how they had put that information together.

MR. RUSSERT: If their best judgments were wrong, we should find out why.

SECRETARY POWELL: If their best judgments were off, let’s find out why they were off. And maybe they were on. We will know the truth to all of this in due course.

MR. RUSSERT: Your colleague at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, wrote a memo which has been leaked, and I want to refer you to it: “With respect to global terrorism, the record since September 11th seems to be we’re having mixed results with al-Qaida.” He goes on to say, “Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrases, or schools, and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?”

And he went on and added this: “It is pretty clear that coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.”

Now, that is a much different public presentation than we have been hearing from the Pentagon and from other Administration officials about how difficult the war on terrorism, specifically Iraq, is. It is going to be a costly, long – as he says – slog.

SECRETARY POWELL: The President made it clear from the very beginning that this was going to be a long, hard campaign against terrorism. If you go back to the President’s speeches after 9/11, he made it clear that it wasn’t going to be simply going after the Taliban and that would take care of everything; all we had to do was knock out the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said it was a global war against international terrorism, and we had to be prepared to fight it for a long period of time. And yes, it is expensive.

We are killing terrorists. We are rolling up huge components of the al-Qaida organization, but not all of them. And we do have to concern ourselves with the fact that there are still terrorists being recruited and trained who will come after us. And so we are in for a long, hard test of will, and we have to be prepared to meet that test -- we and our friends. We’re not alone in this. We have many coalition partners. The President met with many of them during his Asian trip last week. I met with many of them during my trips.

MR. RUSSERT: North Korea. The President is now saying that he would be willing to tell the North Koreans he will not attack them militarily. We would have, in effect, diplomatic relations. We would have economic aid and assistance provided. They, in turn, would stop developing a nuclear program. Based on their previous record, how can you trust the North Koreans?

SECRETARY POWELL: We would only enter in an agreement that can be verified. The President has made it clear since the beginning of this situation last year that he had no intention of invading North Korea, no intention of attacking North Korea. And North Korea listened to these assurances, and we’ve been doing diplomatic dances for the last year. And in the last several days, after the President, once again, reaffirmed his position with President Hu Jintao of China and other leaders in Thailand last week, the North Koreans have responded, at least through their press agency, as well as being in touch with U.S. officials last Friday, to suggest they wish to pursue the ideas that the President has put on the table. I think this is a positive development, and we’ll be discussing it with the other parties in the six-way talks.

MR. RUSSERT: Are we close to an agreement?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I wouldn’t – no, I’d never go that far with this account. But I think this is a step in the right direction, and it is an acknowledgement that the President’s diplomatic policy is now starting to bear results.

MR. RUSSERT: It’s a breakthrough?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am reluctant. I tend – I try not to hyperbolize things. We are still in for long days and nights of discussions and negotiations, but I think this is a very positive step forward.

MR. RUSSERT: I think you are uniquely qualified to talk about the following. You were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. You are also now our chief diplomat, trying to tell the world that this is not a crusade, a war against Islam. I want you to respond to this, if you would:

“Over the last two years, General William “Jerry” Boykin spoke of Islamic extremists hating the United States because ‘we’re a Christian nation,’ and added that our spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” He said that President Bush is in the White House because God put him there and that we in the army of God have been raised for such a time as this. Discussing a U.S. Army battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told an audience, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

SECRETARY POWELL: General Boykin is a man of faith, and I respect his faith; but, however, as the President has said, we are not involved in a war against Islam. We are not placing our God against anyone else’s God. We are all sons and daughters of one God. And so these kinds of expressions I don’t think reflect the President’s policy, certainly do not reflect the Administration’s policy.

MR. RUSSERT: Should he stay in his current position?

SECRETARY POWELL: Secretary Rumsfeld is the one who will make that judgment, and I believe he has an Inspector General looking into General Boykin’s statements.

MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of State Colin Powell, as always, we thank you for your views.


Released on October 26, 2003

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