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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 > 2004 > February

Interview on Sam Donaldson Live In America

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 19, 2004

(9:08 a.m. EST)

MR. DONALDSON: The Secretary of State, Secretary Colin Powell. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Hello, Sam. How are you?

MR. DONALDSON: I'm fine. Thank you for joining us. Let's get started. The rebellion in Haiti continues, seems to be getting worse. You said this week we will not permit thugs and murderers to take over that government, and yet you've also said we won't send troops. So how are we going to stop them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're working with the international community, and I think we've got a solid consensus with the Organization of American States, the United Nations, France, Canada, a number of other countries. And we're doing what we can to put together a political plan that we will offer to President Aristide and also to the political opposition.
And I think if they will both accept this plan and start executing on it, we might find a way through this crisis politically.

It is a difficult situation in Haiti right now. It's a little hard to tell from day to day which cities are in whose hands.

In many cases, it's just a few thugs that are dominating a particular town or city, and so what we have to try to do now is stand with President Aristide -- he is the elected President of Haiti -- and do what we can to help him.

We have also said that if we find a political solution, then the international community is prepared to help police that solution with additional international police officers going to Haiti.

MR. DONALDSON: Would that plan include the possibility that President Aristide might step down?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's not the -- that's not an element of the plan because under the constitution, he is the President for some time to come yet. You know, if an agreement is reached that moves that in another direction, that's fine. But right now, he has no intention to step down, and since he is the elected leader of Haiti, we should not be putting forward a plan that would require him to step down.

MR. DONALDSON: But if it moves in that direction, to quote you back at yourself, "that's fine," sounds like that that's a possibility.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it's not a possibility yet. That is up to President Aristide and the political opposition. We are not suggesting that. We are not encouraging that. We are not predicting that. He is the elected President of Haiti, and we cannot allow these thugs to come out of the hills, or even an opposition to simply rise up and say, "We want you to leave," in an undemocratic, non-constitutional manner.

We want this situation to play out in a constitutional manner, and right now President Aristide is the elected President of Haiti and that's what we're standing behind.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, you may have seen The Washington Post editorial, which says this policy of talking tough but being unable to put force behind it is back peddling, and to quote the editorial, "an inexcusable abdication of our responsibility."

SECRETARY POWELL: It is not an abdication of our responsibility. We have done a lot in Haiti over the last ten years to include sending troops in back in 1994. At the moment, in conversations with all of the other nations that have an interest in this, both here in our hemisphere, as well as the Francophonie nations, as they are called, led by France and including Senegal and others, and the United Nations, it is our judgment right now that the solution is not to impose a military solution or a police solution, but to continue to find a political solution. And that's what we are trying to do and that's what we are working on.

MR. DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, it was reported this morning that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, is willing to endorse the U.S. position that direct elections cannot be held in Iraq before sovereignty on June 30th. So if that's correct, and if that's what happens, no direct elections, what's the plan? Who will we turn over sovereignty to and how will it come about?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're waiting to see what Secretary General Annan actually recommends. He is receiving briefings today from Ambassador Brahimi, who has returned, and I'll wait to hear officially from the Secretary General. I talked to him yesterday and I know he will be giving this a great deal of thought over the next few days.

But I think it is fair to say that most of us do not believe that you can have the kind of fully representative elections that one would like to see by next -- end of June, and therefore, we will be looking at transferring sovereignty to some interim government. How that government will be selected, who it would consist of, what representation it would have, these are questions we will have to work out in the weeks and months ahead, not only by, you know, within the Administration, but working with the Governing Council that's out there now and working with the United Nations.

So the answer to your question is, that's something we will have to work out.

MR. DONALDSON: But Secretary Powell --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to get ahead --

MR. DONALDSON: Excuse me, sir, go ahead.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to get ahead of the Secretary General, who has not yet made a statement as to what he thinks should happen next.

MR. DONALDSON: All right. You say months ahead. You don't have many months; June 30th. Why is that date set in stone? Can it be moved, for instance? Many people think, Mr. Secretary, by setting that date, that's just driven by election-year politics.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it had nothing to do with election-year politics. It had to do with giving the international community, but especially the Iraqis, a timeline, a horizon to look to when they could expect to have sovereignty returned to them. And that was the principal driving factor in coming up with a date. Everybody was saying you can't do this indefinitely. You have to have something that people can look to and plan for and drive towards. And that's where we came up with 30 June.

And at the time we did this in November, it looked like a caucus system for finding a transitional assembly and a transitional government might have worked, but it does not appear that that caucus system has the support needed for it to work. But there's no reason we should abandon this timeline, this horizon, in order to make things happen. You need an action-forcing event, action-forcing date, and we think 30 June still serves that purpose.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, I know what the dictionary definition of sovereignty is. If some interim government has sovereignty, what right, then, do they have, to tell our troops where to go, what to do -- some sort of Status of Forces Agreement? In other words, who's in charge then? Are we still in charge, or are they?

SECRETARY POWELL: The sovereign government would be in charge. But if we have 100,000 troops there, and if we also have a large embassy and a number of government agencies helping us to spend for the benefit of the Iraqi people the $18 billion provided by Congress in the supplemental, then we will have to enter into appropriate agreements with that sovereign government as to what our troops are doing there, what purpose are they serving, how are they helping that sovereign government, and how we would connect with that sovereign government to provide our assistance and aid to them.

MR. DONALDSON: But can you tell us that the sovereign government of Iraq will, in no way, be able to tell our military commanders what to do with U.S. forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: Absolutely. U.S. forces are always under the command of U.S. commanders and under the command of the President of the United States.

MR. DONALDSON: Let me read something to you from a book by James A. Baker III after he left as Secretary of State. He was one of your predecessors, as you know. And he talks about the coalition, and in 1991 you were part of it as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

He says, and I quote, "Even if Saddam were captured and his regime toppled, American forces would still be confronted with the specter of a military occupation of indefinite duration to pacify the country and sustain a new government in power. The ensuring urban warfare would surely result in more casualties to American GIs than the war itself, thus creating a political firestorm at home."

And he's right about the number of GIs killed.

SECRETARY POWELL: The judgment that was made back in 1991, and I was a part of that team, as you rightly noted, I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Vice President Cheney was then Secretary of Defense, was a judgment that I think was correct at that time.

But over the last 12 years, what we have seen is that Saddam Hussein didn't change his ways and continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, continued to be a threat to the region. And as a result of that, President Bush, with a number of likeminded other political leaders, and after getting UN Resolution 1441, decided that that danger had to be removed once and for all. That danger was removed. The regime is gone. Saddam Hussein is in jail.

And now we are, slowly but surely, returning sovereignty to the people of Iraq and building institutions of the kind they've never seen before. Papers are flourishing. Town councils are being formed. There is a Governing Council that's working with the CPA. The infrastructure of the country is slowly being repaired, but it is being repaired.

MR. DONALDSON: And GIs are still being killed.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, it's a dangerous area, and we are losing lives and every life is precious, precious to the nation and precious, of course, to the family. But it's a dangerous work that we are involved in. But we can't walk away from it because it is too important. It's important for Iraq. It's important for our interests. It's important for the future of democracy in that part of the world.

And so sacrifice is occasionally required in the cause of liberty and freedom and democracy. And we're proud of the young men and women, and not just in uniform, but civilians and diplomats as well, who put themselves in danger. But the risk we are taking is worth the benefits that will come to us and come to the region.

MR. DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, if it turns out that there are no weapons of mass destruction found and David Kay is correct in saying that he believes they were destroyed in the late 1990s, do you feel personally betrayed because you made that forceful presentation to the contrary before the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, betrayed means that somebody betrayed me. Nobody betrayed me. I took the best information that the intelligence community had, the best judgment of hardworking analysts and I presented it to the United Nations. Now, what I presented was a clear statement of his intention to have weapons of mass destruction, his history of having weapons of mass destruction, the capability that he still had within that society and within his industrial and military base to have weapons of mass destruction and the programs for them and the delivery means.

What turns out not to be the case yet -- we haven't been able to establish it yet -- is whether or not there were any stockpiles at the time of the war or just before the war. That work continues. Mr. Duelfer replaced Dr. Kay, and he is now continuing that work looking at sites, examining documents and interviewing people. And so the question is still unanswered with respect to the stockpiles.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, sir --

SECRETARY POWELL: Dr. Kay said he doesn't think there are any stockpiles, although he went in last year, just as I went to the UN, believing that there were stockpiles. But Dr. Kay also says -- and it's important to say this, Sam, in order to balance your comment about Dr. Kay -- he also said that even without the stockpiles, the President did the right thing.

This was a regime that was intent on having these kinds of weapons and would have continued to pursue them through the programs they had in place and would have become an even greater danger. That's what Dr. Kay says.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, Mr. Secretary, I press you because many of us believe in your credibility. And I think your presentation certainly added to the idea that the Administration's credibility could be believed.

Now I'm not challenging that you thought you had the facts. But I want to remind you that in Georgetown the other day, George Tenet, the CIA Director, said that his analysts had major disagreements about certain aspects, and that that was in the intelligence report.

When you went out to the CIA to vet your testimony, did you see major disagreements? And if so, how did you balance them?

SECRETARY POWELL: When I went out to the CIA and prepared my presentation, where there were disagreements -- and most of them were minor -- they were resolved. The Director of Central Intelligence is the one charged with resolving disagreements and reflecting the consensus opinion based on his experience and his analytic capability.

And when I went before the UN with that presentation, it was a sound presentation that enjoyed the total endorsement of the Director of Central Intelligence; he sat right behind me. And we had worked out all of the differences that existed.

Where there was a significant remaining difference, I pointed it out in my presentation. When I spoke about, for example, the centrifuges, I made the point that there were differences of opinion about those centrifuges. And so I think I gave a balanced, straightforward description of the intelligence as we understood it and had it at the time. It was totally supported by the intelligence community in the person of the Director of Central Intelligence, and frankly, except for the debate about the stockpile, with respect to what I said about delivery systems, UAVs, missile systems and other matters with respect to intention and capability, I don't think that's been disputed.

There are ongoing disputes about whether or not that mobile facility was for biological weapons or not, and there is still a continuing debate about whether or not there were any stockpiles just before the war or at the time of the war. And that's what Dr. Duelfer will be examining and trying to get to the bottom of.

MR. DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, I've got to let you go --

SECRETARY POWELL: If the intelligence was inadequate, then the very many committees that are investigating this I trust will examine all of that and provide the answers to us and to the American people.

MR. DONALDSON: Pardon me for interrupting you, but my time is up and I promise to let you go, but one quick question. Your son, who's Chairman of the FCC was outraged by the half time of the Super Bowl, wants to prevent those things from happening. Did you see the half time of the Super Bowl? What did you think of it?

SECRETARY POWELL: I missed that scene and we have a very firm rule in the Powell household. I don't do FCC and he doesn't do State Department.

MR. DONALDSON: Secretary Powell, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Sam.

MR. DONALDSON: Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Released on February 19, 2004

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