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Interview on CNN's Larry King Live

Interview on CNN's Larry King Live

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Secretary Colin L. Powell
New York, New York
New York, New York
May 4, 2004

(4:15 p.m. EST)

Secretary Powell being interviewed on CNNs Larry King Live while in New York  for meetings at the United Nations. Photo courtesy Emily MillerMR. KING: Good evening. Great pleasure to welcome an old friend to Larry King Live tonight. Always great to see him. Former Chief of Staff, the United States Secretary of State. We're at the United States Mission at the UN in New York, the Honorable Colin Powell. It's good to see you again.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's good to see you again, Larry. Good to be with you.

MR. KING: There have been better times, have there not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Times are always better, sometimes worse. We're always heading into better times.

MR. KING: The article in Gentleman's Quarterly out this month is titled about you, "Casualty of War." What do you think of that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't feel like a casualty. I feel like I'm hard at work serving the nation, serving the President. We've got a lot of good things going on around the world that sometimes people don't notice because of the problems in Iraq and elsewhere. But we have been able to denuclearize and take all the weapons of mass destruction out of Libya. We've got good relations with the largest countries in the world, with China -- the best we've had in 30 years. With India and Pakistan we've got good relations and we succeeded in making sure a war did not break out there a year and a half ago.

We've just started some new exciting programs, where the President has instructed us and the Congress has given us the money, to go after HIV/AIDS to the tune of $15 billion, the greatest weapon of mass destruction on the face of the Earth. We've got another program called the Millennium Challenge Account, where the President is going to be giving money to those developing countries that have committed themselves to democracy and good governance and the rule of law. We are working to the -- we worked on the expansion of NATO, which has been successful. We are celebrating with the European Union the expansion -- a lot of things good going on that are very, very good and solid.

MR. KING: So high grades?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have a lot of successes that we can chalk up on the board. We have some challenges that we're dealing with. Certainly, Iraq is number one. We still have work to do in Afghanistan. And, of course, the Middle East peace process is one of the most challenging.

MR. KING: Let's go one by one. First, let's discuss the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners. I know you've called it -- you called it "despicable acts." Now, you've had a career in the military, served in Vietnam twice. Did you ever see anything like this?


MR. KING: Ever have a subordinate do anything like this?


MR. KING: What do you make of it? What do you --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what to make of it. I'm shocked. I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for Mylai . I got there after Mylai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored.

And what happened in this particular instance, as best I know from the pictures, was just totally despicable. There's no way to describe it. And it isn't just the fact that soldiers did it, but no Americans should do this to any other person. And so it not only violated all the laws of proper behavior of being a soldier, but it's just not something Americans should do.

Now, it seems to be a limited number of soldiers who may have been involved in this, and they will be subject to the justice of the United States Army. And I am confident that all the investigations that are underway will find out who is responsible for what and justice will be served. So it's a fairly small number of soldiers.

Let's not let that take away from the magnificent contributions being made by most of our soldiers, the vast majority of our soldiers, who are building schools, repairing hospitals, who are defending themselves, going after the bad guys, but also putting in sewer systems for the people of Iraq.

And so while we deplore this and while we are all stunned and shocked that our young people could do this, let's not forget what most of our young people are doing in service to the nation and in service to the Iraqi people.

MR. KING: Mylai was a kind of massacre, right? And the story was these were soldiers under immense pressure in times of war, children were throwing grenades at them. And this is -- they're prisoners.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, prisoners. They were totally at the mercy of their guards, their custodians, who have a responsibility to take care of them. They were in their charge, not to abuse and not to do these kinds of things. And even in Mylai it wasn't excusable. Soldiers are trained to handle stressful situations. And so this one is inexplicable to me.

MR. KING: Do you think it's isolated?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think it is. I'm quite sure it is isolated. And what I have found out so far is that within a day or so of learning of this, the chain of command acted immediately. Lieutenant General Sanchez launched an investigation and action is already being -- been taken against some of the individuals who had some responsibility for supervising all of this.

And I know that Secretary Rumsfeld has turned loose a number of investigatory teams that will be looking into this from every aspect -- Who did something wrong? Where was our training at fault? -- everything that one should look at to make sure that this is an isolated incident and it never happens again.

MR. KING: Did you agree that the press should have shown the pictures?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think there was any choice. The pictures were there. They were known to be there within Army channels and, sooner or later, they were going to pop out. So I find no fault in that.

MR. KING: What about the global backlash, things the Secretary of State has to deal with, that doesn't increase popularity?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, this does not increase popularity. There is a global response to these pictures. As there should be. I mean, they are terrible. They're terrible. That's all there is to it. And we will deal with this by telling the people of the world that this is an isolated incident.

When you look at what American soldiers have done in the course of our history, especially over the last 60 or 70 or 80 years, we have been builders. We have been those who came in and relieved suffering. We have helped society stand up on their feet again.

Look what we're doing in Afghanistan now to help that country create a democracy, and look what we're doing in Iraq. We're not in Iraq to abuse people; we're in Iraq to help people; we're in Iraq to build a democracy. We went in there to take out a dictator and take out his horrible regime and make sure he never terrorized anybody or filled mass graves or had any other forms of criminality against his own people, and he's gone.

Now the challenge before us is to secure that achievement by getting rid of these regime elements that are still attacking us and getting about building a democratic system for the Iraqi people and letting them build a democratic system for themselves.

MR. KING: How well is he being treated, by the way -- Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have any immediate knowledge. He's in the custody of other departments, but I'm quite sure he is being treated in accordance with the highest standards expected of the United States.

MR. KING: The Egyptian President Mubarak was quoted as saying that there is hatred for the United States like never before in the Arab world. How would you respond to him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would say to President Mubarak, who is a friend of the United States, and I believe we are --

MR. KING: Good friend.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- we are good friend of his and a good friend of Egypt's -- we are going through a rough spot right now. People are looking at our actions in Iraq, and in some cases in the Arab world, they don't understand them. I think they will begin to understand them more when we transfer sovereignty back to an interim government at the end of next month, when then see Iraqi faces again in charge and Iraqis responsible for their own destiny.

We will have to be there for a considerable period of time in the future in order to provide the security that they're not able to provide yet for themselves, but let's not overlook why we're there and why we're doing it. We're not there to suppress or maintain dominion over the Iraqi people. We are there to help them create a democracy so that we can leave. We don't want to stay there any longer than we have to.

And I think if we were on top of this security problem, if we didn't have these terrorists and thugs of the previous regime challenging us, people would be throwing roses at us for all, for all we're doing to help with the country and to reconstruct the country.

MR. KING: Should we have read that better? Should we have expected it more?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think any of us expected the kind of resistance that we're seeing now.

MR. KING: You're surprised?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm surprised.

Now, whether we should have done some things differently so as not to generate this kind of resistance, that will be the subject of many books in the future. But it is more resistance than we expected to see at this time.

But the military is responding to it with increasing the number of troops that are there by keeping some there a bit longer and by adjusting our tactics to go after these people; by getting Iraqi forces more involved, as we're trying to do up in Fallujah.

And so it is a challenging time for the diplomats of the United States and for the military personnel of the United States, but we know how to deal with challenges. And I'm confident that when the Arab world sees that the United States has succeeded in bringing this security situation under control and we are flowing the dollars that Congress appropriated for reconstruction effort and we are giving sovereignty back to the Iraqi people, those attitudes will start to change.

MR. KING: We'll pick right up with the Secretary of State. We're at the U.S. Mission at the United Nations with Colin Powell. Don't go away.


MR. KING: We're back with Secretary of State Colin Powell. We're in New York at the U.S. Mission at the UN.

There is a possible report that you're not going to release the State Department release of the Human Rights Report due out tomorrow because of the incidents in Iraq. Is that true?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's news to me. I think it's scheduled to be released tomorrow unless something has occurred that's delayed it for some short period of time while I've been up here in New York. We were going to release it tomorrow.

MR. KING: Because there should be an addendum about this action?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. This is an isolated incident. The Human Rights Report is about the behavior of a country, and the United States of America has the highest standard of justice and accountability in the world. And so it doesn't affect our Human Rights Report.

In fact, what the people of the world will see, that in this particular instance, these individuals responsible for this will be brought to justice. We are a nation that believes in justice, and the whole foundation of our society rests on the rule of law, and it will apply in this case.

MR. KING: So, to your knowledge, the report will be released as planned tomorrow?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's to my knowledge.

MR. KING: Okay.

The concept to reinstitute the draft. Our friend, Senator Hagel, has introduced that and there's been talk that your friend, Charlie Rangel, your friend here up in Harlem, would support. What do you think?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know it's appropriate at this time. I've been in a draft army. I started out in a draft army, and not everybody was drafted then. And most of the individuals, a large percentage of individuals who went to Vietnam, for example, were not draftees. They were volunteers.

And ever since the early '70s, when the nation said they didn't want a draft any longer and President Nixon abolished it, we've had a volunteer force. It is a magnificent force of young men and women who are willing to serve their nation. And as long as that volunteer system is able to generate the number of troops that our commanders say are needed for the missions that they have been given by the President, then I think that volunteer force should continue to be used.

MR. KING: In your absolute heart, Mr. Secretary, was this a war of choice or necessity?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was a war both of choice and necessity.

We could have chosen not to go to war. But the President took a hard look at this situation. From the beginning of the Administration, he made no decisions about going to war in 2001.

After 9/11, we had to look more expansively at all the potential challenges we had. But throughout 2001, I was working on how to make the sanctions tighter and more effective. Don Rumsfeld was looking at the problem of our aircraft being shot at every day.

MR. KING: Pre-9/11?


We came in and there was in Iraq -- we were still having the no-fly zones in the north and the south -- and being shot at.

MR. KING: Right.

SECRETARY POWELL: I mean, somebody was shooting at American airplanes every day. Don Rumsfeld went to look at that aspect of the problem. My part of the problem was to go look at the sanctions and see if they could be kept intact and not broken apart. When we got in, they were almost on the way of going out altogether.

And so he was working on that. I was working on sanctions. And we also began to take a look at what military plans were around to make sure that they were relevant to any situation we might face. This is all what one would expect a new administration to do.

After 9/11, after we realized the kind of threats the nation was facing, and we dealt with Afghanistan -- and the President realized that was priority one, deal with al-Qaida and the Taliban -- it was quite appropriate to start looking around. And the President was concerned about Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- the weapons of mass destruction that we believed were there, and not only the weapons being there, but the intention to have and use such weapons, and the infrastructure to develop such weapons -- so it was quite appropriate for us to develop contingency plans for that. And that's what we did all through the rest of 2001 into 2002.

Let me just finish the story a little bit.

MR. KING: Okay.

SECRETARY POWELL: In the summer of 2002, the President became concerned, as we all did, that Saddam Hussein had this capability, and the nexus between this kind of capability and terrorists of the kind that struck us in 9/11 became a real and present danger in our mind. And the President really wanted to see what he could do about it, particularly when Saddam Hussein had given us 12 years of violation of UN resolutions. And so we had very intense discussions in the summer of 2002, as to what we should do and what --

MR. KING: Were you in disagreement in those discussions?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is always debate. You know, there is no point having a group of people in an administration if they're not going to debate with each other, and we do.

But where we came out in August of 2002 was I recommended to the President that we had to take this problem to the United Nations; we had to take it to the United Nations in order to show the United Nations that its rules, its resolutions are being violated, and also to build a coalition to support us in a diplomatic solution or to support us if we weren't able to get a diplomatic solution and we had to use armed forces to resolve this conflict.

And that's what the President did. He accepted that recommendation, came here on the 12th of September and told the whole world, you've got to do something about this. And then we took the rest of the year, and we took the first three months of the next year before President Bush decided that the UN system and the way we were going about it diplomatically had run its course and it was time to use military force, and with a coalition he did.

MR. KING: Choice and necessity?

SECRETARY POWELL: Choice and necessity.

MR. KING: How do you react -- and you must hear it, because people are saying it all the time -- that Colin Powell doesn't agree with this, that Colin Powell is being what he has always been, a good soldier, and a good soldier has a Commander-in-Chief and he listens to his Commander-in-Chief. What's your response?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure. I am a good soldier. I do have a Commander-in-Chief and I listen to the Commander-in-Chief. But listen to what I just said a moment ago. We all agreed on the nature of the threat that Saddam Hussein presented to the world. I wanted to see if we could find a diplomatic solution. The President wanted to see if he could find a diplomatic solution. I recommended to him we take it to the UN. He took it to the UN. And in -- he took it -- when taking it to the UN, it was with the support of all of his advisors, all of us agreed to do it.

MR. KING: Powell included?

SECRETARY POWELL: Powell -- Powell recommended it.

MR. KING: Okay.

SECRETARY POWELL: Powell recommended it. Mr. Rumsfeld recommended it and was supportive of it. The Vice President, Condi, George Tenet, we were all together that this was the approach we should take.

But once you took that approach that we are going to take it to the United Nations, you are going down a road to a solution. That road is going to have a fork in it. To the left, we are going to be able to solve it diplomatically because everything would work out; Saddam Hussein would admit everything that he had and turn it in.

But we also knew, and I knew, that if we had to take the right fork, then having staked it out this way, we were going to have to use military force. Now, once we started down that road, there was no questioning in my mind. I knew that we were either going to solve it diplomatically or, if we had to take it to war, you'd better believe I was supportive of it. And I'm always going to try to solve a problem diplomatically.

And that's the hit on me. If people think it's a hit, fine. But I'm a soldier. I know war. I know war should be avoided if it can be. Sometimes it can't be, and then you go and you do it.

MR. KING: As our mutual friend, Chappy James, the late Chappy James, said, "No one hates war more than the warrior." Do you agree with that statement?

SECRETARY POWELL: I certainly do.

MR. KING: But had you taken the left road, he didn't have the WMDs. Why didn't he let you go in and look?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. We gave him an early test in the UN resolution. It took us seven weeks to get that resolution from the day the President gave his speech, and it was on September the 12th until we got the resolution in early November.

And when the resolution passed, it had another 30 -- a 30-day period at the front of it that said, "Give us a full, complete, accurate declaration of all you have and all that's unaccounted for." And it was an early test to see whether Saddam Hussein was going to be serious or not.

And he turned in a lousy declaration. Nobody in the Security Council thought that he was serious or honest with that declaration, and that gave us an early indication that he wasn't going to -- he wasn't going to play the game.

MR. KING: But why not? Why wouldn't he if he didn't have them?

SECRETARY POWELL: If I could get inside the mind and psychology of Saddam Hussein, I might even be able to psychoanalyze you.

MR. KING: Don't go crazy.


SECRETARY POWELL: The fact of the matter is, I don't know why he didn't do it. I don't know why he wasn't so open and forthcoming that, you know, there would have been no doubt in anyone's mind what he had or didn't have. I think he honestly believed, he honestly believed -- I think, don't know -- that the international community would protect him, the international community would keep him from the consequences of his 12 years of bad behavior and violation of UN resolutions.

And the President said, no, we cannot allow this danger, potential or otherwise, to exist. It is a risk to the region, to the world and to us.

MR. KING: Hussein rolled dice then?


MR. KING: We'll be right back with the Secretary of State right after this. Don't go away.


MR. KING: We're back with Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, and we've just learned that the release of that State Department's -- the release of the Human Rights Report will be delayed about a week.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, my Deputy decided to delay it a week.

MR. KING: This was learned late in the day?

SECRETARY POWELL: Learned late in the day.

MR. KING: They don't need your permission to delay this?

SECRETARY POWELL: With Rich Armitage, he has my total confidence. He makes good judgments.

MR. KING: But you'll find out why?


MR. KING: Well, would you assume it's based on the Iraqi thing?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'll wait and talk to Rich about it. It's not that unusual. It will be released.

MR. KING: All right. After June 30th, the State Department takes over the transition of power. Some are -- I don't want to be flippant, but some are saying, "Is it better in your hands than in Defense?"

SECRETARY POWELL: We're not taking over the same thing that was there on the 30th of June. When the 1st of July comes, if the plan goes the way we've got it set out, the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, an interim government takes over; the Coalition Provisional Authority goes away.

What we will have there then is an embassy, not a governing authority. Ambassador Negroponte, who will be in charge of that embassy, is not going to be the equivalent of Ambassador Bremer, who is actually the governor right now. He will leave.

MR. KING: And he goes home.

SECRETARY POWELL: That function ends and he goes home, and authority goes to the interim government. So we'll have a very large embassy. Ambassador Negroponte will have hundreds of people working for him. He'll be disbursing billions and billions of dollars of money to assist with the reconstruction effort. And he'll also be working with our military command that will still be there.

So it will be a different environment. It will be an environment of supporting a government, rather than being the government.

MR. KING: Did you play a part in the decision to appoint Negroponte?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, yes. Certainly.

MR. KING: How do you think he'll do?

SECRETARY POWELL: He'll do brilliantly. He is a very distinguished Foreign Service Officer. He served with distinction here in the UN, and he's been Ambassador to Honduras, Mexico and to the Philippines.

MR. KING: So he was high on the list?

SECRETARY POWELL: High, high. He's high on every list I ever have that we're going to need somebody.

MR. KING: Really?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, he's that good. And he brings not only a great deal of experience to the task, but his recent experience here in the United Nations, where he worked on all of the various resolutions, he's intimately familiar with the UN system, and I think it will help us put an international face on our efforts.

MR. KING: We have warned -- some have warned that the elections scheduled for January might have to be delayed. What do you hear on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's too early to say. We're scheduled under the plan for them to be held in January. Ms. Pirelli from the United Nations, who has been over there working on the electoral system, believes it is possible. She knows how to do it and believes it's possible to do it by next January. But it's a function of the security situation. The security situation has to get better, has to improve.

MR. KING: Who makes that decision?

SECRETARY POWELL: Ultimately, the Secretary General and his staff will have to decide whether or not you can send people safely out in the countryside to set up election posts and do the registration efforts that are required. It takes a fairly significant presence throughout the country and you have to have some level of security for them to do it.

MR. KING: Overall, Mr. Secretary, I know you cooperated with the Woodward book. You were asked to, right? What's your overall feeling about it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Interesting book.

MR. KING: Is it correct?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's an interesting book. It's -- no, I can't characterize an entire book. It's an interesting book.

MR. KING: Are the parts about you correct?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, it's an interesting book, and anybody who is interested in politics and how things work in Washington and the White House would learn a lot from reading it.

MR. KING: Were you surprised that it came out the way it did? Did anything about it surprise you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't know what to expect so I don't think that I was particularly surprised by anything in the book, unless you have something specific.

MR. KING: Were there any repercussion? I mean, did anyone say anything to you?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we haven't had any discussion of the book within the team. The President and I haven't discussed it, nor --

MR. KING: Not at all?


MR. KING: Are you enjoying this job?

SECRETARY POWELL: I enjoy serving my country, I enjoy this job, I enjoy serving this President and I enjoy just having had the opportunity, once again, to be in service to the nation after having been out for a few years.

But are there difficult days? Are there tough times? Sure. These are tough issues. They are tough issues to get your mind around, to get your brain around. There are debates. Sometimes you win debates, sometimes you lose debates. But that's not the point. That's not the point.

In this job and all the other jobs that support the President, the issue is not to win or lose a particular debate. The issue is to make sure that the President gets the very best information he can get in order --

MR. KING: Honestly?

SECRETARY POWELL: Honestly. In order to make decisions for the American people. It is the President who is charged as the head of our foreign policy system, and he acts in the name of the American people. And so satisfaction for me and for my colleagues, I think, comes from giving the President the best information to make the decisions. He makes the decisions.

MR. KING: And can you say you win some, lose some?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have been in government for 20 years at senior levels on and off, at one time or another, and sometimes your advice prevails and sometimes your advice does not prevail. It's not a question of winning and losing.

MR. KING: Do you draw any comparison, as some are, to Iraq and Vietnam? Deaths occurring more and more, protests beginning to develop, anti-Iraq feeling. Do you see any comparison? You fought in that war.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I fought in that war. I spent two years in that war. And one big difference is that Saddam Hussein is gone, and Ho Chi Minh and General Giap never were gone. We didn't defeat that regime. This regime we did defeat. We are now fighting what's left of it, the remnants of the regime. But the regime is gone. Saddam Hussein is in a jail. Ho Chi Minh never went to jail, nor did General Giap, so let's remember that we prevailed in the first instance over that regime.

What we have to do now is prevail over the remnants, prevail over the troublemakers that have come along, and never lose sight of the fact that our real mission over there is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy, a democracy that will not support concentration camps and mass graves and expenditure of any money on weapons of mass destruction.

And let there be no doubt about it, this was a rich country in the late '70s and early '80s -- the highest GDP in the area, the highest per capita income in the area. And what did they do with that money?

MR. KING: What did they?

SECRETARY POWELL: He didn't -- he bought palaces. He invested in weapons of mass destruction. He tried to buy bizarre, long-range guns. He tried to develop a nuclear weapon. He used chemical weapons against his own people. This isn't a story.

MR. KING: Why, then, does he have any supporters? Why are there remnants, still?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because there are still some remnants who are concerned that the power that they used to enjoy when he was in and the Sunnis had control of the country, that is at risk because the country is majority Shia.

And so we're going to have a democratic system with a majority Shia government. But, the way we are working on the administrative law, which will also become the constitution, the rights of all are preserved and the minority rights are preserved as well.

MR. KING: So these are people who have lost power?

SECRETARY POWELL: These are people who have lost power and don't like losing power; and they are resisting. They are resisting the coalition, and unless we defeat them, they'll also resist the interim government to some extent.

MR. KING: Right back with more of Secretary of State Colin Powell. We're at the U.S. Mission at the UN in New York. Don't go away.


MR. KING: Welcome back to Larry King Live with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

You, as a commanding officer, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, did you ever have to write letters to people who've lost loved ones?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure, it's hard.

MR. KING: It's got to be the hardest thing to do.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's very hard. And when you talk to them, or when you meet them in person and you express your sympathy and your condolences, it's very hard, especially if you are a parent and it could have been, you know, your child that was lost. And you just hope that they understand that the one that they lost, that they love so much, was serving the nation, serving the cause of freedom.

MR. KING: So there is no doubt in your mind that these men and women who have lost lives in Iraq did not die in vain?

SECRETARY POWELL: They did not die in vain. They got rid of a brutal dictator and a brutal regime, and their colleagues, who are still hard at work, hard at the battle, are going to put in place something that we're all going to be proud of.

MR. KING: Your reaction. The President made a comment on skin color and self-government on Friday in the Rose Garden with Canada's Prime Minister. He said: "There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject it strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."

Some people are looking at that statement in a racist way. Do you?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was no such racist intent on the part of the President. All he was saying was that we shouldn't assume that because you are in a different part of the world, and that you may not be the same kind of system as here in the United States or Europe because you're a Muslim or something else, you don't have the same commitment to freedom and the individual rights of men and women.

You take a country like Turkey, which is a secular nation, a representative secular nation, a very, very secular system, but at the same time, it's a Muslim country. And so that's the point the President was making: Freedom is a gift to every man and woman.

MR. KING: He wasn't saying black people can't govern, too?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course not, of course not. He had no such intention.

MR. KING: And you didn't take it that way?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course not. I don't think I would be in his cabinet or Condi would be where she is if he thought black people weren't competent to govern.

MR. KING: A long time ago, you told me that of all the conflicts you've seen, nothing compares to the hostility of the Mideast, Palestinians and the Jews. And now we have Sharon agreeing, the President agreeing with Sharon, they're going to reduce some of the settlements -- and his own party turns it down. What's your reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: His party turned it down, but the polling among all Israelis suggest that there is an overwhelming support, level of support. Now, what does that mean?

MR. KING: What does that mean politically?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we'll have to see. Mr. Sharon is a master soldier and a master politician, and we'll see how he deals with this party setback. But what he has going for him is that most Israelis want to see a change of the kind he described.

Now it's very controversial issue right now because President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon made some statements a couple of weeks ago, where the President, if you read what he said, the President said we believe in 242, 338, those hallmark UN resolutions; we, the United States, believe that, ultimately, all the final status issues have to be resolved by the two parties talking to each other and arriving at mutual agreement on all of these issues.

The President said he is committed to the roadmap. Mr. Sharon agreed with all of that. The debate we've had and the reaction that we've had has to do with also the President saying that there are certain realities we have to take into account: one of them dealing with the right of return, and the other one dealing with we're going to have to have some adjustments to the armistice line because of population changes.

But, ultimately, what those adjustments are and how you ultimately resolve right of return is a final status issue to be resolved between the two parties negotiating with one another.

MR. KING: Do you see a light? Is the tunnel still going?

SECRETARY POWELL: I've learned over the years to be careful about lights and tunnels when it comes to the Middle East. But here is what I see. With this intention expressed by Mr. Sharon -- for the first time, we have an Israeli Prime Minister who is saying unilaterally, "I'm going to pull settlements out." So settlements are coming out.

Where were we before he said that and the President indicated support? We were essentially just debating these issues. For several years, we've just been debating these issues and not making much progress.

So even though people are a little disappointed, and some are greatly disappointed, on what the President said and what we agreed to with Prime Minister Sharon, what they really ought to be looking at is that we now have an Israeli Prime Minister who has stood up with support of most of his people and said we're going to pull all of the settlements out of Gaza, 21 settlements, and four out of the West Bank, not as the end of a process, but at the beginning of a process.

And let's do this, turn Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, let them have responsibility for security. Let's build up their economy. Let's take all of that settlement property, put it in trust, and then convert it so that it benefits the Palestinian people who will be living in Gaza.

Now this is opportunity.

MR. KING: This requires rational people, though.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, it requires people of good faith, who are interested in peace to take advantage of this opportunity. We've been here in New York all day with what's called the Quartet. Secretary General Annan --

MR. KING: Yeah. What happened with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Secretary General Annan of -- the United Nations Secretary General, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and the European Union represented by Brian Cowen, the Irish Foreign Minister, we were here all day long discussing this issue, noting what has been disappointing to some of the Arab audiences with respect to the realisms that I spoke about.

But we came out with a positive statement where all of us are joined together saying that an opportunity has presented itself that we should not lose, and let's figure out how to work with the Palestinians, work with the Israelis, work with the Arabs, work with the international community, to take advantage of this opportunity, even though there are some who may not see the opportunity quite the way we see it.

MR. KING: Is it sometimes difficult to stay at something when tomorrow's headline could produce a grenade in a bus somewhere?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's very hard. And it's tragic that every time we have started to see movement, a terrorist comes along and kills innocent people and stops that forward progress. We can't let that happen anymore or again. We've got to keep moving forward. We've got to find a way to bust through this.

But frankly, Larry, the problem would be a lot easier to deal with if we could get the Palestinian Authority to take serious action against terrorist organizations, against those in the Palestine community who are not interested in the dream of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, but are only interested in destroying Israel. That's not going to happen. It's not going to happen.

And so terrorism has to be brought to an end, and that has to be part of going forward on this new opportunity.

MR. KING: We'll be right back. We have two segments to go with Colin Powell, the Secretary of State. Don't go away.


MR. KING: In diplomacy, Mr. Secretary, you have to walk kind of a thin line sometimes. And I know you know Yasser Arafat well. Now, Mr. Sharon has said his pulling back on that statement that we will not assassinate Arafat, that's off the table. Would that upset the applecart if that happened?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. We don't think that would be in the interests of the peace process and that's why President Bush continues to --

MR. KING: -- oppose that?

SECRETARY POWELL: -- let Prime Minister Sharon know that he opposes that. And that's why President Bush continues to believe he has a commitment from Prime Minister Sharon that it isn't going to happen.

MR. KING: But what happened with the reports that he has supposedly taken that off the table? Not true?

SECRETARY POWELL: All I know is what the President has been led to believe and the commitment that he believes he has.

MR. KING: So you'd be surprised if they took an action against Arafat?


MR. KING: Back to the fallout of the U.S. credibility -- preemptive actions. In an essay, "Strategy of Partnership," in July Foreign Affairs, you stress that the scope and centrality of preemption to Bush's foreign policy has been exaggerated by some critics; preemption is meant to supplement, not displace, deterrence.


MR. KING: Elaborate on that.

SECRETARY POWELL: Easy. If you look at the President's National Security Strategy, you have to search quite a ways into it before you even hear any mention of preemption. What you will find most of the strategy talks about is partnerships, alliances, helping people in need, alleviating poverty, dealing with HIV/AIDS -- all of these sorts of things. Preemption is something that you may have to use to defend yourself. If you see something coming at you, and you believe the nation is in danger, preempt. Sure. Don't be afraid to.

But look at what else we're doing around the world, Larry, rather than preempt. Did we preempt in Libya or did we negotiate with our British friends to get the Libyans to do the right thing?

In Iran, we're working with the IAEA and our European friends to bring pressure on the Iranians to bring their nuclear program under control.

In North Korea, did we preempt? No. We got all of North Korea's neighbors to work with us to create a six-party framework -- the five of us, four neighbors, the United States and North Korea -- in order to persuade North Korea that they really should think about giving up their nuclear weapons programs.

When you look around the world, what we're doing in Afghanistan, it's with a coalition; what we're doing with Iraq, it's with a coalition; what we've been doing with the Balkans, in Bosnia and Kosovo, we're working with friends and partners, in order to --

MR. KING: So this is not --

SECRETARY POWELL: In order to make it a better world, a safer world.

MR. KING: This is not a go-it-alone cowboy, it's my way or the highway?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, look at how he has dealt with these problems. You know, the only time you might say he was guilty of that was in Afghanistan after we just had, it turns out, 3,000 people killed in this city. And this wasn't a time to have a lot of chat, although we did talk to all of our friends. We got overwhelming support from the international community: the Rio Treaty was invoked; NATO Article 5 self-defense clause was involved; UN resolutions, General Assembly and Security Council resolutions were passed.

And so we got incredible, overwhelming support, but the President knew that it was his responsibility to defend the American people and to take out al-Qaida and the Taliban, and that's what he did. But in Iraq, resolutions achieved, 1441, resolution achieved through the Security Council. We gave Saddam Hussein a chance to take that left fork in the road. If he didn't take the left fork in the road, he'd pay the consequences.

MR. KING: Or as Yogi would say, "To get to a fork in the road."

SECRETARY POWELL: You've got to take it.

MR. KING: Take it.

SECRETARY POWELL: When you start down a road that you know there are two forks on, you'd better be prepared to take either one. That's what I did.

MR. KING: Well, that was profound almost.

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't go that far, Larry.


MR. KING: Speaking of a little humor, Mr. Woodward reported in a book that you told Bush, "If the United States sent troops to Iraq, the United States was going to be owning the place." Woodward reported that you and your Deputy, Richard Armitage, called this a "Pottery Barn sale, you break it and you own it." Pottery Barn got upset.


MR. KING: Very upset. Did they contact you directly?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I heard about it indirectly.

MR. KING: It's a big chain.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's a big chain and I heard about it very quickly within a day or two, and they made it clear to us that that's not the policy of Pottery Barn.

MR. KING: Do you mean you can break it and you don't have to pay?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right. I have already corrected this on one -- on another television show, but I'm delighted to have the opportunity --

MR. KING: Please do.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- again, to say to Pottery Barn, we apologize, that we now know that your corporate policy is that if you break it accidentally, then you don't have to pay for it.

The original story, apparently, is one of these urban legends, and I learned from The Washington Post that it came from Tom Friedman, Tom Friedman, the columnist. So it's Tom Friedman's fault.

MR. KING: Oh, well, blame him, blame him.

SECRETARY POWELL: This doesn't mean that you can go into Pottery Barn and start throwing things around.

MR. KING: That's what I meant. In other words, if you go in, you're mad at the wife -- right? -- which never happens with us -- but, occasionally, let's say --

SECRETARY POWELL: Larry, you can't take -- you can't take a flower pot and throw it on the floor.

MR. KING: Let's say some guys is mad and he just -- pfshhh!!


MR. KING: He pays.

SECRETARY POWELL: They probably have somebody following you, anyway, when you go into Pottery Barn.


MR. KING: Well, at least I'm allowed in. (Laughter.) You haven't heard, you've been banned. (Laughter.) There's no Pottery Barn for you for another year.

We'll be back with our -- hey, by the way, he's got a great sense of humor, one day, he'll have -- I'll come back and talk about that right after this.



MR. KING: A couple of other bases. I guess you won't comment politically that the Vietnam War seems to have been introduced in the Kerry-Bush race?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll stay out of that, Larry. I'm the Secretary of State and we stay out of partisan politics.

MR. KING: You will not be involved in the campaign at all?


MR. KING: Nor will anybody who works for you?


MR. KING: Is that the rule of the whole State Department?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's the rule.

MR. KING: Okay. I want to cover a couple of other bases. When you walk around -- or are in this city -- you don't walk around anymore, you're driven around.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I still walk a little bit.

MR. KING: Do you think about when you grew up in the South Bronx here, going to CCNY and Yankee Stadium?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, yeah, it brings back memories every time I come to this town. And just yesterday, I taped a segment that will be shown at the 100th anniversary of the founding of my school, high school, Morris High School in the Bronx.

MR. KING: You went to Morris?

SECRETARY POWELL: Went to Morris, I graduated 50 years ago. And it was a wonderful school, gave me an education that I didn't know I had received until years later when I got into the Army and realized that this wonderful city had given me a quality education through its high schools -- through its high school and through City College of New York, another free education that I got.

MR. KING: So you're not a West Pointer?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, ROTC through City College of New York. And I have told the story so many times that this city took care of its young people. It felt that it was an obligation of the taxpayers of this city to pay to educate these youngsters, especially these immigrant children, who had come to this land, and what a record I'm proud to say we all have amassed.

MR. KING: Everyone is saying if Mr. Bush is reelected, you will not stay. True?

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President. I'm very pleased --

MR. KING: But he asks every cabinet member to resign at the end, usually when you're reelected, and they either turn it in --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. I serve at the pleasure of the President. It's the only answer you can give to a question like that. I am honored to be serving, as I said earlier. I didn't think I'd be coming back into government after I retired as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I was honored when the President asked me to serve, honored to be serving the American people -- and not just the American people, but to be able to go, as I did last week, to Berlin and represent America in an anti-Semitism conference, or to go to Denmark and meet with 700 high school kids and talk to them, or to go to India and Pakistan and all the places that I have to travel in order to present our foreign policy and to share with them what the United States has to offer with respect to our democratic experience and to help them as they move down the road to their democratic future.

MR. KING: This is not meant politically. Would you serve another president?

SECRETARY POWELL: Larry, I'm very happy serving this President.

MR. KING: That wasn't the question.

SECRETARY POWELL: And I will do it to the best of my ability for, you know --

MR. KING: Now you have it straight. Boy, if you understand what he just said in the last two minutes, write us a note. And good move. It was a good diplomatic move.

SECRETARY POWELL: I gave you a terrific diplomatic answer.

MR. KING: You did perfect. Is it true -- I have learned from sources that you are a technocrat, that you like TiVo, that you like all of these? You like it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I like TiVo. I like computers.

MR. KING: Why?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because it makes work easier for me. It speeds up communicating with people.


SECRETARY POWELL: And I understand that you are an absolute Luddite.

MR. KING: What's a Luddite?


MR. KING: It sounds like some division of my faith.


MR. KING: I'm a Luddite. No, I don't -- I don't --

SECRETARY POWELL: You don't do any of this stuff.

MR. KING: I don't like computers. I don't --

SECRETARY POWELL: Why don't -- how can you not like computers?

MR. KING: I don't like e-mail because it's scary.

You like cell phones?


MR. KING: Oh, cell phones, e-mail, TiVo, push-button phones.

SECRETARY POWELL: TiVo will change your whole way of viewing television.

MR. KING: My wife likes it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. We don't want to get into product endorsement here.

MR. KING: No -- and, well, the ability to tape without tape.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, right, right.

MR. KING: So you do that a lot.

SECRETARY POWELL: We do it a lot.

MR. KING: Larry King Live, you TiVo me? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, Larry, every night. (Laughter.)

MR. KING: Seven hundred security guys and I take a swipe at him. (Laughter.)

All right. Thank you very much. He may be back. (Laughter.)

# # #

Released on May 4, 2004

Released on May 4, 2004

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