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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 > March

Interview on Fox News Channel's Hannity and Colmes Show

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 8, 2004

MR. HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, good to see you again. Thanks for being here.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good to see you again, Sean.

MR. HANNITY: Well, it's a big day. Interim Iraqi constitution. How important is that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Very important. I mean, just imagine the impact that this document is going to have, not only in Iraq but in that part of the world. The rights of all citizens, to include women, committing this Arab nation to democracy; a free and independent judiciary; the military firmly under civilian controls.

Does all this kind of sound familiar to you, Sean?

MR. HANNITY: Yeah, it does.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's democracy in action. And look at the way they arrived at it -- by fighting, by debating, by disagreeing, by having to stop the signing ceremony on Friday in order to go consult -- and they come back, and here it is on a wonderful Monday morning, they signed this document, which is revolutionary, putting in place a constitutional democratic process.

MR. HANNITY: A little bit like our Constitutional Convention, huh?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, yeah.

MR. HANNITY: In terms of the acrimony and disagreements and --

SECRETARY POWELL: Exactly. Well, you can go to a congressional hearing any day of the week here and you'll see that kind of democracy in action. Democracy is a noisy system.

MR. HANNITY: With all we now know -- because the debate over Iraq still continues to this day. With all we now know about the death toll, about not finding all the weapons of mass destruction we wanted, did we do the right thing; would you advocate we do it all over again?

SECRETARY POWELL: We did the right thing. We'd advocate -- I'd advocate and I think all of the President's advisors would advocate -- we did the right thing. And if there was any doubt in our minds, that doubt was removed today, when you saw those 25 individuals sign that historic document. And now they're moving on to form the interim government that will come into being on the 1st of July.

And we can discuss and debate -- we should discuss and debate the intelligence and what we knew and when we knew it -- but I can tell you that last year we put forward the best intelligence case we had. I put it forward at the United Nations on the 5th of February last year. The President used that intelligence. Director Tenet is now discussing what he concluded at the time of the decisions that were made to go to war.

And I think we based everything we did on sound intelligence. And that intelligence said you have a regime that has the intent, you have a regime with the capability, we believe they have stocks on hand. Everything's been proven except we don't see the stocks on hand. We don't know how that was missed, and if it was missed. We're still looking. But the intent and the capability, no doubt.

MR. HANNITY: Let me ask along those lines, prior to this war, if you go back, the United Nations said they had weapons of mass destruction, France said it, Germany said it, all of our allies. The United Nations, at length, chronicled what they had, what they believed they had.

Isn't it a more likely scenario that either they are still hidden or that they have been moved? Wouldn't that be a greater concern than, oh, they didn't exist? Isn't that the more -- the greater reality or --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is the greater reality. We just don't know, and we didn't know at the time we made the decision. But the President couldn't sit and look the other way and say, "Well, because I don't know, I'm not going to act."

He acted on the most solid intelligence he had. Now, we'll find out. The work continues. Did some leave the country? Is some still hidden? Was some destroyed before the war? Is it a combination of all these things? We'll find out.

But this debate over whether there were actual stocks in hand or not should not contaminate the correctness of the President's decision and the fact of the matter that we now have a country that is moving forward toward democracy.

And it was counter-pointed today by rockets that came into the green zone, our compound there, even as the signing ceremony was getting ready to take place, showing that there are still people in Iraq who don't want democracy, who don't want to see these people live in peace with openness and freedom and living in peace with their neighbors, a country that will never again fill mass graves, a country that will never again be suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction.

And it's had an effect throughout the region. Look what happened in Libya.

MR. HANNITY: I'd like to see anybody make the case that Iraq is not better off today or that the world is not any safer today, although some people have, which leads me to my next question.

Prominent Democratic leaders have made some very outrageous statements about the Administration. Let me give you some examples.

Ted Kennedy said the President told lie after lie after lie. He said that the case for going to war was a fraud; it was concocted in Texas for political gain.

Former Vice President Al Gore, screaming at the top of his lungs, said that George Bush betrayed America, he played on our fears, he took us on an ill-advised adventure that was preordained prior to even 9/11.

And, of course, Howard Dean advancing the theory that the President was warned about 9/11 ahead of time.

We're not talking about the punditry class. We're talking about the top leaders in a prominent political party.

When you hear those things, what do you think?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's very disturbing. I mean, Vice President Gore was in an Administration that believed there were weapons of mass destruction, to the extent that they bombed the facilities that they thought those weapons of mass destruction were in back in 1998. That was President Clinton and Vice President Gore.

So to now scream that there is something wrong with the Bush Administration because we finished the job, as opposed to just have a four-day bombing campaign, and we've eliminated the problem forever, I think is incorrect.

The same thing with respect to the others, Senator Kennedy and the others.

Now, I think Director Tenet, in his testimony last week and what he'll be doing this week, will show to the Congress that the information that Congress received was consistent with what the international intelligence community believed, was consistent with what the UN had said, and was the same information that Congress was receiving themselves.

And they got the National Intelligence Estimate. They were briefed by Director Tenet. Same information I got. Same information the President got. And if they had a problem with it, they should have raised it then. And what the President said was consistent with the information he was given by the Director of Central Intelligence.

MR. HANNITY: Let me ask you it maybe in this way, and I guess it's somewhat of a -- we are in a political season, as you know, and I guess that's probably where a lot of the rhetoric is coming from.

But I went back and I got some quotes, for example, from '02 and this -- these couple in '03 that were made by Senator John Kerry. He said, "If you don't believe Saddam is a threat with nuclear weapons, you shouldn't vote for me." He said that in January of '03.

He said in March of '03, "I think Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are a threat. That's why I voted to hold him accountable, to make certain we disarm him." And he said, "Those weapons pose a real and grave danger to the United States."

And my question then, therefore, becomes, if Senator Kerry made that case up until March of '03 and he's now as critical as anybody we've ever heard out there, the question becomes: Are prominent Democrats, are they politicizing issues of national security for this country?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, this clearly seems to me to be a politicization because, in fact, Senator Kerry was arriving at those judgments using the same intelligence base, the same intelligence information, that President Clinton and Vice President Gore had previously and that President Bush was receiving from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Senator Kerry accepted it and spoke as if he believed it; and now, a year later, to say the President was doing the wrong thing or he misled the nation just isn't accurate. It isn't right. And we shouldn't be having a political debate over issues like that. We ought to stick with what we said and not start changing our view a year later because it's in our political interest.

MR. HANNITY: But that word, "lie" and "hype" and the constant barrage while -- I mean, you're a former soldier. What does it mean to morale for troops when they hear these attacks against the Commander?

SECRETARY POWELL: It doesn't help. Troops will always serve their nation with honor, as they have in this conflict, as do others -- not just troops but our diplomats and people from all the departments of government who are in a dangerous zone in Iraq -- and they want to know that the American people are supporting them.

Now, we should have a good fight between political candidates, but let's not misuse an issue for the purpose of political advantage in a way that will undercut the efforts of our brave young men and women out there or affect their morale.

MR. HANNITY: One of the issues that keeps coming up in this campaign is a little bit about we needed a broader coalition. You were actively involved, obviously, with the United Nations and the formulation of 1441, which got unanimous support, which was supposed to be the final resolution.

In retrospect, could you have gotten any other support or broader support, maybe France or Germany? Is there anything else we could have done?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, 1441 was unanimous. You can't get better support than unanimous.

MR. HANNITY: Meaning after that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, after that. There were four other resolution attempts after that. The first one was the so-called second resolution, which France said it would veto under any circumstances. We didn't need that resolution. The British and the Australians and some others would like to have had that resolution. We weren't able to get it, so we didn't take it to a vote.

But the very fact that we were willing to go back to the UN for that resolution gave Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Howard, Mr. Berlusconi in Italy and Mr. Aznar in Spain enough political support so that they could take their nation into this coalition with us.

Since then, there have been three other UN resolutions dealing with the reconstruction of Iraq. All three have passed unanimously.

So the international community is coming together again to help the Iraqi people. The war is over. We still have these vestigial remains of terrorist organizations and former regime elements. But what everybody needs to do now is come together and show the same kind of leadership and determination that the members of the Governing Council did today when they signed the administrative law.

MR. HANNITY: Have we opened the Pandora's Box? And I know this is a concern. I get a lot of people calling up my radio show, writing me on TV, that we've become too reliant on the approval of the United Nations to do what is in our best national security interest. I think there's a philosophical fear that we might --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I happen to be a supporter of the United Nations, but I also know what the United Nations can do well and what it can't do well. After all, it's an organization of 191 nations and a Security Council of 15 nations.

So I believe it is always important to try to explain our position to the international community and see if you can bring them along. But as President Bush said, I'm going to take it to the United Nations, I'll see if I can bring them along, but if I can't get the United Nations to go along with this and I still believe it is important for us to do, then I will do it with likeminded allies.

And he went into that conflict with likeminded allies. I mean, look now at the coalition that is in Iraq. It's a large coalition: Japan, South Korea, Poles, Spaniards, Italians, all of who are -- why are they there? Because they believe it's the right thing to do, they believe it's important, and they're supporting President Bush.

MR. HANNITY: How is our relationship now, specifically, with France and Germany?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'd say it's recovering very well from the bruises of last year. It was a rough time and there were some bruises. But, you know, bruises heal. And the best thing about getting mad is that you get over it.

And so the President has had a good meeting with Chancellor Schroeder of Germany recently and we've had some good work with the French lately; on the Haiti situation, for example, we've cooperated with them very closely. So I think those bruises are now healing well.

MR. HANNITY: Speaking of Haiti, I understand Mr. Aristide, one more time, has said that he was forced to leave.

SECRETARY POWELL: He was not forced to leave. His security situation deteriorated because, frankly, his actions as a democratically elected president over the years turned out to be not fully democratic actions. The legislature went out of existence because of his efforts. He attacked members of the opposition. He lost credibility in his country.

We tried to help reestablish credibility. We were supporting the CARICOM plan. But it became clear at the end that there was just too large a gap between where Mr. Aristide was and where the opposition was, and we saw the whole country now in the hands of rebels. And so we changed the position we were taking. We changed the emphasis we were giving on the political situation and suggested that Mr. Aristide really had to take a look at the situation he was in.

He did. He felt his security was jeopardized. His bodyguards told him that. He asked his bodyguards to get in touch with our Ambassador, Ambassador Foley, and asked what might be possible with respect to getting him out of the country.

We answered his questions. He had time to reflect on it. He talked to his wife about it. He wrote his own letter of resignation. We had nothing to do with it.

MR. HANNITY: Why would he be saying this, though?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because he doesn't like being out and he wants to be back in. But you know, we put him in once before. It was American troops that went in went in with President Aristide back in 1994. I had a lot to do with it as part of the negotiating team that got the generals out.

And, frankly, he squandered the opportunity that was given to him by the presence of American troops and by the international community that stuck with it for years. And his actions did not promote democracy; and regrettably, we have now had another turn of -- turn of the cards in Haiti. But this time, I hope we can come out with a better political arrangement. And we are working hard with the new council of eminent persons that had been created to come up with a new prime minister. And the acting president has taken that authority as acting president in a constitutional and democratic manner.

And so Mr. Aristide, I think, if he really wants to serve his nation, he will serve it the way he did the night he decided to leave, by letting his nation get on with its future and not linger about its past. He was not forced out; he was not kidnapped; he was not ridden out on a rail. He was with his people, his bodyguards, who told him it was time to leave. He agreed, wrote his letter of resignation, and then went.

We tried to get him to the destination he requested, South Africa; but South Africa was unable to accept him and the Central African Republic was willing, and that's where we flew him.

MR. HANNITY: Can we move on to the rest of the "axis of evil" and the fear, I guess, obviously, of nuclear proliferation; more specifically, North Korea and Iran? You've been active in negotiations with both those states, as I read and understand.

Where are we? Are you feeling we're making progress?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, with respect to Iran, today in the actions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, they've taken up the subject of Iran's nuclear programs.

Iran has made some positive steps, but there's a lot more they have to do.

They have signed an additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and they have made some commitments to European Union foreign ministers, but we don't think it's enough. We think this is a nation that has spent a lot of time trying to deceive the world with respect to its programs, and we won't be satisfied until everything is known about those programs and the IAEA is satisfied and the international community is satisfied.

North Korea -- a country that should have no -- has no business dealing with nuclear weapons. They're hungry. They have no electricity. Their industry isn't functioning. Their people are in desperate need. Their soldiers are getting smaller and smaller through malnutrition. They're just a desperate country. And to be wasting not only money and treasure on these kinds of weapons, they've lost the support of the international community.

Their neighbors have joined with us in saying there must be complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of your nuclear weapons. And we had a positive outcome of the last six-party talks. We look forward now to working groups with the North Koreans to convince them as to what is meant by this kind of dismantlement, and we hope they will understand that a better -- a better international situation awaits them if they get rid of these programs.

MR. HANNITY: Did we make a bad deal with them when we gave them the light-water nuclear technology and the fuel to run them and money? And didn't we encourage them to sort of --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. Yeah. Everybody thought it was a good deal when the Agreed Framework was signed in 1994, which capped the program at Yongbyon. But it didn't remove it yet. It was going to take many years before that program was removed totally. It just sat there under international supervision and they started to build nuclear reactors.

And then we discovered a few years later that notwithstanding this great deal, they were developing nuclear weapons another way: They were acquiring the technology to enrich uranium. And that's what we called them on in 2002, and they didn't like being called on it, but they admitted it.

Now they have said, "No, we didn't admit it. We didn't do it. We don't have this kind of a program." But they're going to have to demonstrate to the world that they're giving up all aspects of their program, like Libya is.

MR. HANNITY: Let me ask you one question about yourself. I'm not going to ask you if you're going to run for President. I asked you that the last time.

Have you thought about staying on for a second term? Has the President asked you?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President and I talk about many things all the time, but the only thing I ever say in response to that, Sean, is "I serve at the pleasure of the President."

MR. HANNITY: Okay. Make it and he will continue. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President.

MR. HANNITY: Let me -- you know, this came up in the debate the other night, and John Kerry was asked the question, because the President often talks about the destiny of America and its connection to a good cause and God.

And John Kerry was asked the question, "Is God on America's side?" When you think of a country like the United States, has never been in the history of the world a country that has accumulated more power, abused it less and used it for good like the United States, do you think that's -- would you want a crack at answering that question?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we are a faith-based nation. It's inherent in all of our founding documents. The President speaks about it. Almost every President has spoken about faith. And we have a moral compass that we follow. And I think as long as our moral compass remains grounded in the Bible and in the faith that brought this country to where it is, then that faith will smile on us.

MR. HANNITY: Yeah, because the world does have a lot of evil in it, there's no doubt about it.

What do you think -- here you are, you served in the military a big portion of your life. The President was accused, without any evidence or substantiation, of being AWOL by Terry McAuliffe; yet John Kerry, we found the comments he made about atrocities committed by soldiers in Vietnam. You know, this has now become a big part of the debate.

When you hear these things, what do you think about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I regret that this has become an issue in this campaign.

Vietnam was a painful period in our national life, and both of these men, President Bush and Senator Kerry, served. They served their nation; they served their nation honorably. And let's talk about the issues of today and not go back and drag up old stories for the purpose of diverting us from what we ought to be doing right now, and that is: Who has the better vision of a brighter future for the American people and the world?

MR. HANNITY: I assume that's George W. Bush?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's my view.

MR. HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, good to see you again. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

MR. HANNITY: You're the best.

# # #

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