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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 > November

Interview on CNN's American Morning with Bill Hemmer

Secretary Colin L. Powell
As Taped on November 17, 2003
Washington, DC
November 18, 2003

MR. HEMMER: When you go to Europe, what's your message, not just to European leaders, but to the people on that continent?

SECRETARY POWELL: That the transatlantic relationship is strong, it's vital, and that the United States wants the people of Europe to know that even though we may have had disagreements in the past over Iraq, this is the time to move forward. Let's join together and help the Iraqi people build a better future for themselves. Letís join together once again to talk about that which pulls us together: a common value system.

The United States and other nations in the Western Hemisphere share with Europe a common belief in democracy, in human rights, in openness, in market economics. There are so many things that pull us together and have pulled us together over all these years that we have to remember these and refresh our memory from time to time, when we think things are coming apart over a particular issue.

MR. HEMMER: It appears it's a bit of a hornet's nest. You saw the polling out a few weeks ago. A majority of Europeans, 57 percent, believe the Bush Administration has made the world a more dangerous place to live. How do you defend that when you're hearing results like that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because what I will say to them is that it's not us who have made the world a more dangerous place to live. It's terrorists. It's those people who are determined to use terror as a weapon against all civilized nations. The Bush Administration is working hard to make this a more peaceful world, a more democratic world. When the President talks about democracy, he talks about freedom.

Yes, people -- some people in Europe anyway -- some nations in Europe, thought we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, but we did. And we are very pleased that that dictator is now gone, no more mass graves will be filled, and that we are helping the Iraqi people reach a better place in life where they can live in peace and freedom and not be seen as a pariah of the world.

Is it going to be difficult to get there? Yes. Are we taking casualties? Yes. Freedom sometimes requires that, doing the right thing sometimes requires that; and we're not shrinking back from the decision we made. The President is absolutely convinced, as are all of us, that the right decision was made; Tony Blair feels so, Mr. Berlusconi feels so, Prime Minister Asnar feels so, so many other leaders in Europe feel so.

What we have to do is convey to our population, those here in the United States and the population in Europe, that a decision was made that we believe was the right decision, others think it was not. But let's move forward now. Let's not debate that decision.

Let's come together, as we did in Madrid a few weeks ago. We got $13.3 billion in loans and grants added to the $20 billion that the United States Congress provided to help the people of Iraq, as we did with UN Resolution 1511: all 15 nations on the Security Council coming together in a unanimous decision to bless the approach we are now taking.

MR. HEMMER: It might seem like a pretty easy thing to say that on this side of the Atlantic. It appears to me that's a pretty tough sell today in most of these European countries, how you can only a few months down the road, after such contentious debates were held in New York at the UN Security Council, to now put that behind and move forward.

When you arrive in Europe, are you going to ask Germany, are you going to ask France for help? And if so, what do you think is the right contribution?

SECRETARY POWELL: They have helped in the sense that they have helped us with the passage of three UN Resolutions in a row on a unanimous basis: 1483, 1500 and 1511. Now, Germany and France have made it clear that they are not in a position to send troops to Iraq, and they have made it clear that they have done all they are able to do at the moment with respect to humanitarian aid and other kinds of financial contributions.

So I'm not going to spend a lot of time debating that, although I will make the case that the need is still great, and they ought to consider it as we go into the future. But, you know, what I don't want to do, and I'm not going to do, and frankly, they don't expect me to do, is re-fight this battle, because it is behind us. What we are all striving to do now is to come together to help the Iraqi people to achieve the better life that we have made available to them.

And what we have to do is defeat the terrorists, defeat the remnants of the old regime. The remnants of the old regime are not just fighting against coalition presence, they're fighting against a new Iraq. They want the old days back. The old days are not coming back. They're never coming back. We need the international community to come together again. We want the UN to be involved. We want everybody to realize that there is a stake now for all of us in a free, democratic, non-threatening Iraq, and that is achievable.

MR. HEMMER: The President last week called it a "power grab" right now, on both sides essentially, with the new authority trying to come in, and with the Baathist remnants still fighting for power in Fallujah and Tikrit and Baghdad.

For someone who is watching this interview who has a son or daughter in Iraq, why is that country worth dying for?

SECRETARY POWELL: The country is worth serving in, and perhaps sacrificing for, because we have come to the rescue, frankly, of 24 million people who have been suffering for decades. We were coming to remove a regime, and we did it, that was developing weapons of mass destruction that it was using against other human beings. I've been to Halabja where Saddam Hussein in 1988 gassed 3-5,000 people in one single day and put them in their graves.

Now to say to a family at Fort Campbell that just lost one of their loved ones in a recent helicopter crash or in other combat action that has taken place, or Fort Hood, or all of our other posts, serving in the military is a risky profession, and we regret the loss of any single life. It pains me, it pains the President, not like the pain that the family feels, but the family has to know that these young men and women are giving their lives in a good cause: the cause of freedom, the cause of democracy, the cause of a better world that their children will enjoy, the ones they left behind will enjoy in due course.

We will prevail over terrorism. We will prevail over these remnants that are not interested in democracy, not interested in freedom, only want power back. Power to do what? Power to waste the wealth of the country, power to put people within mass graves, power to oppress people and power to threaten other nations in the region. We're not going to allow that to happen, nor are our coalition partners.

We're not in this alone. There are 30 other nations that have troops there standing alongside of ours. The Poles have lost troops. The Italians have lost troops. The Spanish have taken casualties. And we're all standing together. We're all standing solidly behind the policy that we are executing because it's the right thing to do.

As I will convey to my European Union colleagues in Brussels tomorrow, most of whom are part of the coalition, and as the President will convey to the people of the United Kingdom, and I think to the rest of Europe during his visit with Prime Minister Blair and her Majesty the Queen later this week, the United States and Britain have stood tall on this issue, and we are the right side of history on this issue.

MR. HEMMER: To those who say that the process is now under way of cutting and running, of getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible, whether that's next summer or maybe the year after that -- even strong supporters of this Bush Administration have seen that right now, and they talk about it publicly and write about it almost every day. What do you say to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they can talk and write about it all they want. It's just not accurate. The President has made it clear, and Secretary Rumsfeld underscored the other day, as did Ambassador Bremer and as I do now, that we want to move the political process along so we can give sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. We think next June is as quickly as possible. We've said this from the very beginning. But even after sovereignty is returned, we expect that there will be a need for U.S. troops for a period of time after that, and we'll be there at the invitation of the new Iraqi government. We're not cutting and running.

MR. HEMMER: You say next June and some people say, "Okay, that's great.Ē Right now, you're moving up the timetable. Are there risks in moving too fast right now with the timetable?"

SECRETARY POWELL: There's always a risk of moving too fast. There's always a risk of not moving fast enough. Those of our critics who say, "You're not moving fast enough. You ought to turn over sovereignty tomorrow," my answer is, to who? To what? To what institution? To what legitimacy? And are you not setting them up for failure? That is moving too fast. Taking forever to get it done, where it looks like we don't want to leave, we want to stay, that's moving too slow.

So we have been trying to find the right schedule. I believe that the plan that the Governing Council came to a conclusion on this past weekend, with consultation with Ambassador Bremer and the rest of us back here in Washington, is a solid plan that says, let's move as quickly as we can over the next six months to put in place a government that will be seen as legitimate. It will reflect the will of the Iraqi people acting on the basis of a basic law, fundamental law -- interim constitution is another way to characterize it -- and then take the longer time necessary to complete a full constitution and have full elections that will arrive at a permanent government, not unlike the Afghanistan model.

MR. HEMMER: When you look at the leadership that right now is trying to take Baghdad into the future, do you see leaders emerge? I read some comments recently where you did not think that there was one person who was truly taking that leadership position. Most Americans know Ahmed Chalabi. I don't know if you consider him a founding father of the new Iraq. I don't know if you would even come close to putting him in the category of Thomas Jefferson. But is there a person right now who you believe can truly take that country forward in the way United States wants to see it go?

SECRETARY POWELL: This is going to be up to the Iraqi people to determine. The Iraqi people have started the process of rebuilding their political system with this Governing Council. Twenty-five people are on this Governing Council. Some are very, very prominent leaders in parts of the country. We're waiting to see, as they do their work, and as the cabinet ministers do their work, and as other leaders surface, we will see who emerges to win the game --

MR. HEMMER: There isn't one name that you --

SECRETARY POWELL: No. And even if there was one name that I had in the back of my mind, the last thing I would do right now is say, "That's who the United States says should become the head of this new country." This is for the Iraqis to decide.

MR. HEMMER: But it's okay to support that person, right?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I want to support anybody who, in Iraq political circles, who is prepared to commit himself or herself to the values that we believe are the right values, and the Iraqi people have said are the right values. The Governing Council laid out over the weekend the basic principles they're going to be looking at with respect to democracy, with respect to human rights. But the President has made clear from the beginning that we're not going to handicap the Iraqi people who their leader should be.

Now, democracy is not a simple system where you suddenly say, "You're in charge." It tends to be noisy. It tends to be confused. There tend to be power struggles. There tends to be debate. This confusion, this noise has a name: it's called democracy. We will see leaders emerge. Politics cannot stand a vacuum. In time, the right kinds of leaders will emerge.

What is important right now is to put a basic law in place that enshrine the principles of democracy, human rights, freedom, openness, free media, an independent judiciary, so that will be the basis upon which leaders will present themselves to the country and not just, "I got here first," or "I have more power than this guy does." Power has to derive from the people.

MR. HEMMER: One more question, if I could, please. I know I'm almost out of time here. Last February, you made a very strong argument before the UN Security Council about weapons of mass destruction. To date, the weapons have not been found, although there have been many mentions about a weapons program that's been discovered in Iraq. How concerned are you today that the trust of the American public has been fractured because of the lack of discovery of the weapons themselves, between the American public and the U.S. Government?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think everybody was hoping that suddenly a warehouse door would be opened and there it all was. It didn't turn out that way. But the information that we had provided to the American people, to the international community, to Congress, was the best information that the intelligence community had, not cooked intelligence. Before I made my presentation on the fifth of February, I sat out at the CIA with the Director, Mr. Tenet; the Deputy Director, Mr. McLaughlin; and all their analysts. We went over the best information they had. What I presented on the fifth of February represented that, and George Tenet was sitting there right with me. We were confident in it.

It's the same sort of information that President Clinton used in 1998 when he determined it was necessary to execute Operation Desert Fox, the bombing of these facilities. He didn't just bomb in the open desert. He bombed facilities that were associated with this program. Many other intelligence agencies and foreign governments that have credible intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion. For 12 years Iraq was given the opportunity to prove we were wrong. "All of your intelligence is a fraud." Well, they didn't take that opportunity, and they had to pay the consequences.

I'm confident when Dr. Kay finishes his work -- the head of the support group, the group that's looking for this material -- when he examines all the documentation that he has in his possession now, completes all the interviews that he will be conducting about people who have knowledge of these programs, you will see that there was a program to develop weapons of mass destruction.

MR. HEMMER: You're still confident of that?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will see how many of these dual use commercial facilities really were "just-in-time" chemical or biological facilities.

MR. HEMMER: Which means?

SECRETARY POWELL: Which means that they were all ready to get into the development of these kinds of weapons from whatever commercial applications they had once the sanctions had been relieved and once the UN had gone away. I can assure you that Saddam Hussein never lost the intention to have these kinds of weapons. He had them before.

The state of his program at the time we invaded, people can debate that while Dr. Kay does his work, but never believe that he gave up the intention. If we had ever just turned away and said, "Well, forget about it. Let's let the sanctions off. Let's leave him alone. The inspectors can go away," I can assure you that he would have gone right back in the track he had been on for all those years to have these weapons, and he would have been a threat to the region, a threat to the world, a threat especially if those weapons got in the hands of terrorists, and a direct threat to us as a result.

MR. HEMMER: Just to be clear, Mr. Secretary, I was not calling into question your own veracity. It was more a reflection of how you felt about how you convinced the American public, who still calls into question.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the American public understand that this is a difficult analytical effort. I don't think there's any question in their mind that such programs existed. What we're really debating is how real and present a danger was it in the form of stockpiles waiting to be used, and we didn't find those stockpiles waiting to be used, but we certainly found evidence that he was working on all three of these programs at differing, you know, levels of intensity and sophistication.

And I think the American people understand that we've got to give Dr. Kay the time necessary to root it all out, examine it, and give us his final report. His interim report certainly indicated that there were programs of a kind that we were talking about, that should have been of great concern to the world, and were of great concern to the President of the United States. President Bush acted on that concern, and he acted in accordance with UN Resolution 1441, which held Iraq to be in material breach for all of its past misbehavior, and said unless it cooperated fully, gave a full declaration of what it was doing now, it would be in continued and new material breach. As far as we're concerned, that was a sufficient basis for the action that the President and other coalition members took. The President of the United States, boldly standing alongside the Prime Minister of Great Britain and many other European leaders, and took action that I think history will certainly justify.

MR. HEMMER: Have a safe trip, and a successful trip, and thank you for your time. I hope we do it again, okay? I very much appreciate it.


Released on November 18, 2003

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