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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 > December

Interview on The Michael Reagan Radio Show

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
December 23, 2003

(5:20 p.m. EST)

MR. REAGAN: Mr. Secretary, how are you, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very well, Mike. How are you?

MR. REAGAN: I am fine. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and the family and just everybody.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you, Mike, and the same to you and your family, and to all your listeners.

MR. REAGAN: Well, thank you very much. And, of course, you just had surgery yourself. So you're fine?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm fine. I'm recovering at home. I had prostate cancer and it was successfully operated on. And the only thing I'd like to say to sort of sum up that is that all men should be faithful about doing the screening they need, and especially black men, we're more susceptible to it than white men, and I have regular screening, and that's what detected it.

MR. REAGAN: You know, it's interesting, and let's just talk about that for a moment. You know when my sister, Maureen, passed away from melanoma a couple of years ago, and I went to talk to my dermatologist, who I see once or twice a year, and he said the biggest problem he has with people is getting them in to see him.


MR. REAGAN: And the reason is, and I would imagine the same thing with the prostate cancer and going in for the screening, is people don't want to go in for fear that the doctor is going to tell them that they have the C-word. And he says the main problem is, if they do, normally it'll be the little c, but if they wait too long it becomes the Big C.

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, Mike, there's a lot of truth to that. People don't want to know that they have it, either that or anything else. But I'll tell you what, I don't fool with my health and I never have, because I don't ever want to miss an opportunity to protect me from something worse. So I have been always faithful about my health, and I recommend that to anybody who cares about living a long and productive life.

MR. REAGAN: Let me ask you about this last week or so for the Administration. Christmas has been like very day, has it not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, it's been a terrific week. With the capture of Saddam Hussein on the 14th, we sort of brought some finality to that horrible regime. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. We have to rebuild a society that's never known democracy before. We've got to create jobs. We've got to put in place a satisfactory political system.

But getting him out of the way means a lot -- a morale boost for our troops, psychological difference in the country, and now I think we're in the upswing. And our troops are fanning out. They're picking up more and more insurgents. But let's not mislead our citizens back here, Mike. There's still a lot of work that we have to do and we're all hard at work on it, the State Department, Defense Department, but it was a good hit, and then later in the week to have Libya make a sensible decision.

They looked at the fact that they were developing these weapons of mass destruction, and what were they going to get for them compared to the ostracism and the condemnation they received from around the world, and they said we're out of here, we want to get rid of this junk.

MR. REAGAN: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you, though, do you think, though, that, indeed -- you said the ostracism from around the world -- that, in fact, because of the -- this Administration and the resolve of this Administration that, in fact, Libya, Muammar Qadhafi, looked at this and said listen, as the President said, you're either with us or you're against us, and I don't want to be against this President and this Administration because he does exactly what he says he's going to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure that played a role, a significant role in his mind. As he looked around, he saw a President and an Administration that was committed to principle, that was going to deal with the issue of weapons of mass destruction, and a President that had lots of tools available to him. He had diplomacy. He had military force. He had the strength of coalition partners such as the United Kingdom, which was in the lead on these discussions with Libya, and I think Muammar Qadhafi has been trying to come back. He's settled the Pan Am 103 case.

You remember when his people were responsible for shooting it down. He settled that with us this year. And he took a look around and said I'd better get out of this box I'm in, and we're pleased that he did. As the President said last week, now let's see if we can build a more sensible relationship with Libya.

MR. REAGAN: Well, of anybody in the Administration, you go back quite a ways with Muammar Qadhafi. And I was reminded, of course, about all of that when all this came down last week because of my father's Administration, my father's toughness against Muammar Qadhafi. And I thought to myself, if my dad could, I think my dad would have a little smile on his face today about all of that news about Muammar Qadhafi finally saying, you know, it's time for me to join the world.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, Mike, he'd have a big smile on his face because he started this back when he decided that he had to strike at Qadhafi after the bombing at the Berlin disco, and it's taken a lot of years, and we've seen some more tragedy with Pan Am 103, but steadfastness of principle and using all the tools at your disposal has brought us to this point where Qadhafi is getting rid of that stuff. The international community will make sure of that. We will work with the international community. So diplomacy, force and diplomacy, they have to be married up and each used in the service of the other.

MR. REAGAN: Now with Syria, did I read that Syria now is going to be working in concert with our troops, in order to start closing off that border, their border, for the insurgents coming into Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Syria has been doing a better job working with our troops up in that area, on the border, but we want to watch the situation very closely. Syria still doesn't get it that they have to abandon support of terrorist activity. They've got to return any Iraqi monies that they might have in their bank, and they've started to take some minor actions in that regard.

And we're trying to persuade them that, you need to get out of the hole that you had been in for all these years, and you need to start getting rid of weapons of mass destruction programs, stop supporting terrorist activities which destabilize the region, and come out and start participating in the 21st century world that has benefits for you, if you will get rid of this kind of behavior.

The same thing with Iran, if I can, Mike. We've had some success with Iran, with our steadfastness of principle on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, with the help of several of our European partners and with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has now been more forthcoming, signing an additional protocol to the, what's the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and starting to acknowledge that it had programs that it had denied it possessed earlier.

So we are on a bit of a roll here, and we hope that the North Koreans are watching all of this, and realizing that others are getting smart, and it's time for them to get smart too.

MR. REAGAN: While that is all going on though, we still have the problems between the Palestinians and the Israelis. What is 2004 going to look like for them?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is the most vexing challenge that I face as Secretary of State, but we have a plan for them, and the plan flows from the vision that the President gave to the world on 24 June of last year, where he said he wants to see a Palestinian state created. But it has to be a Palestinian state under the leadership of people who will no longer allow terrorist acts to emanate from that Palestinian state, and who want to live in peace with Israel and not try to destroy Israel, and it has to be a reformed leadership.

We've had difficulty getting that reformed leadership up and moving, and we have a roadmap that the President blessed, along with Prime Minister Sharon, and then Prime Minister of the Palestinians at that time, Abu Mazen. We haven't made progress on that roadmap, but there is a lot of churning going on now. People are talking in Israel and on the Palestinian side about how they have to find a way forward.

So in 2004, we're going to be pushing on the roadmap. We're going to try get the parties to start talking to one another. I think there's a prospect of Prime Minister Sharon talking to the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, in the next few weeks, we hope. And we'll be making this a major priority along with the global war on terror, and along with making sure that we consolidate our victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then with all the other many items that are on the President's foreign policy agenda.

MR. REAGAN: It would seem to me, and I've said this on my show before, that one of the greatest problems in that area of the world is that any leader who would step forward -- I remember Anwar Sadat, one of the great leaders of the Middle East who stepped forward to make peace with Israel, paid for it with his life. How much does that play in the new leaders there in the Middle East, for fear that if they, in fact, reach out to the Israelis that Hamas, Hezbollah, whoever it might be, might also assassinate them?

SECRETARY POWELL: It has to be a concern in the mind of any leader, but I think what has also got to be in the mind of those leaders is that the policies that Hamas and PIJ, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been following have not brought the Palestinian people one day closer or one inch closer to having their own state. So those policies of terrorism have failed.

The Palestinian people want a better life. They want homes for themselves. They want education for their children. They want jobs. And they're not going to get it following a terrorist path.

So we're looking for leaders who recognize that the day of terrorism is over and that they have to lead the Palestinian people in a new direction; and then, if they will select and bring forward those kinds of leaders to help protect them, then we can get the Israelis to respond in kind.

MR. REAGAN: Now let me take you back to Iraq, though, with Saddam Hussein. When are we going to be seeing him put on trial?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's going to be an issue, I think, that will be ultimately resolved by the Iraqi people. The Iraqi Governing Council has put down a rather complete set of regulations as to how they're going to handle these kinds of criminals, and it will involve international participation and observation, but I think it's going to take some time before we're ready to see this process unfold.

So it's not going to be next week or next month, and I'm reluctant to tell you when it's going to be. These new things tend to take more time than anyone imagines at the beginning.

MR. REAGAN: Does the Administration think about what might come out in a trial, going back to past history of Iraq, my father's Administration, working with Iraq and Rumsfeld being involved with Saddam Hussein and what have you, and think that that somehow might embarrass this Administration?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that's a concern or a consideration of ours at all. I was a part of your dad's Administration, as you know, Mike, and very proud to have been a member of this Administration serving as his National Security Advisor and serving along Cap Weinberger in the years before that.

What's important now is that everything come out, that the truth come out, and that we use it as a way, not only to put a criminal on trial, but as a way of reconciling what's happened in the past. And the whole truth has to come out, and this Administration, President Bush and his Administration will do nothing to keep the truth from coming out.

MR. REAGAN: Is there a pet project, something that you really want to sink your teeth into in 2004 that we haven't discussed, I mean, Iraq, the Middle East?

Secretary of State, you deal with all of those issues, but there's got to be one out there where you say this is the one I really want to make sure gets implemented in 2004.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, boy, you know, Mike, there are so many. So many are out there, and I could take you through a laundry list of my top priorities. I have something like 190 countries that I have to deal with all around the world. But there is one issue that the President has put a lot of emphasis on that I am going to be doing more on next year, and that is HIV/AIDS.

We talk about weapons of mass destruction, we talk about people who are suffering, but when you look around the world and you look at what is the greatest killer out there that is not only killing people but destroying societies in Africa and in the Caribbean, and increasingly it's going to be the case in parts of Asia and Europe, it's HIV/AIDS, and we've put a lot of money to it.

And one of my major priorities next year will be to make sure that money is spent well so that we can educate people about the disease, so that we can treat people, and we can do research to finding cures and preventative vaccines.

MR. REAGAN: And the reality of it is, whether in the world, the black male is the most endangered species.

SECRETARY POWELL: Black males suffer from a variety of problems, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where AIDS is so endemic, because it strikes those that are most sexually active, and we push abstinence programs. But at the same time, sooner or later, people put themselves in a position to be infected. We've got to teach them how to protect themselves at that point. And it's wiping out large numbers of males. They have the highest incidence of infection in many countries.

In some countries of Africa we have seen the longevity rate drop something like 10 to 15 years over the last 10 to 15 years. This destroys the economic base of the country when you have the sexually active part of the population that's dying off. Those are the parents, and grandparents, who are expecting grandchildren to take care of them, are taking care of the grandchildren now because the parents are gone; teachers are dying; the military is infected.

And so this is a pandemic that is going to affect not just Sub-Saharan Africa but other parts of the world, and we recognize it as such, working with the United Nations, other organizations, and the President has made it one of his top priorities, it's certainly one of mine.

MR. REAGAN: I've got to ask you this for a final question. The President gets reelected. Is Colin Powell still going to be our Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mike, I talked to the President just a few moments ago. We were kind of chit-chatting, and he's got his whole extended family up at Camp David, and he knows --

MR. REAGAN: Are you sure he's at Camp David?


MR. REAGAN: Are you sure he's there?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

MR. REAGAN: All right.

SECRETARY POWELL: But, you know, the only answer to that question is I serve at the pleasure of the President and I am honored to be a member of his Administration. And I look forward to 2004, and I look forward to getting back in the office in another week or so after I've finished my recuperation.

MR. REAGAN: Well, give my best love to your family, would you please, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Mike. And all the best to you and your family. And once again, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays to all of your listeners.

MR. REAGAN: Merry Christmas to you. We'll talk to you in 2004, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Mike. Bye.

Released on December 23, 2003

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