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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 > December

Interview at the Christian Science Monitor's Newsmaker Press Briefing Luncheon

Secretary Colin L. Powell
St. Regis Hotel
Washington, DC
December 21, 2004

(12:30 p.m. EST)

Secretary Powell meeting with Washington newspaper bureau chiefs at luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. MR. COOK: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming. We're honored to have Secretary of State Colin Powell as our guest. He is the sixth Secretary of State to meet with the group over the years and we are most grateful to him.

Since we have limited time with the Secretary, I'll resist the urge to offer an introduction that provides a chapter-by-chapter summary of his bestselling book, My American Journey. Suffice it to say that Colin Powell began life, in his own words, as a black kid of no early promise, from an immigrant family of limited means, was raised in the South Bronx. From a start as the best ROTC candidate in Company D at Fort Bragg in 1957, he rose to four-star rank and service as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now, as the nation's 65th Secretary of State.

We are delighted he has agreed to meet with our little group dedicated to better journalism through eating. And now for some quick housekeeping details: As always, we are on the record. The State Department will transcribe this gathering and a text will be made public at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. You are, of course, free to use the contents of this lunch immediately, and if I get a draft of the transcript before 7:00 in the morning I'll send it along to you right away.

You'll see Monitor photographer Andy Nelson taking occasional pictures for stories that will run in our paper and on its website. If you need a photo of this lunch for your coverage, please get in touch with Andy, who will be happy to help. Thus endeth the housekeeping portion of the program.

The Secretary is going to make some opening remarks. Then I'll throw out the first question or two, after which we'll move to questions from around the table. After my softball openers, we'll start with a penetrating question from Chuck Lewis of Hearst. If you want to ask a question, please do what you always do and send me a subtle, non-threatening signal. I'll do my best to call on as many folks as possible.

The Secretary is on record as saying that when reporters ask follow-up questions, "You're headed for trouble, so break off, apply power, gain altitude or eject." (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: In that order.

MR. COOK: It almost makes you want to ask a follow-up to see what maneuver he employs. And with that, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being here. The floor is yours.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be with you today. And I'm not going to make much of an opening statement because it's always much more fun to get to the questions, and any opening statement I wish to make I will make it in answer to a question.

MR. COOK: You're a pro. Right?

SECRETARY POWELL: Other than to say that, as you know, we had another difficult situation in Iraq today with the mortaring, or rocket hit, on the dining facility in Mosul, and a number of GIs have been lost, as well as others, but the count is not complete yet.

It once again demonstrates what the President said yesterday, that we have a difficult insurgency that we are fighting; that these individuals are determined to take Iraq back to the past and not have elections that will produce a government that is representative of the people. And even though we are saddened by the loss of these brave young Americans and others; we can't be deterred; we can't let them succeed.

And so we will continue to press on, use all the resources at our disposal to defeat this insurgency, then we can have the election on the 30th of January, which is so critical, and continue the buildup of the Iraqi army so that they can take over greater responsibility for the security of the country and the safety of the people. And I hope that as you all write your stories this week and get ready for the holiday season, you'll keep all of these wonderful young men and women in mind, not just our GIs but all of the others, civilian contractors and especially diplomats and others who are serving on the front lines and are at as great a risk as soldiers are.

With that, I will stop because there's something going on in the kitchen. (Laughter.)

MR. COOK: Sorry, sir. In your honor, we have especially noisy room.


MR. COOK: You were obviously a widely experienced, politically savvy person when you took the current job, your current job. I'm interested in knowing what the most important thing you have learned as Secretary of State. Did the job change you or your view of the world in any way?

SECRETARY POWELL: I came in as a soldier who had also been a National Security Advisor, but when I came into the job it was an entirely different world than the world I left, both as National Security Advisor and soldier, with the Soviet Union gone and so many of these new nations that used to be behind the Iron Curtain now anxious to develop a friendship with us, with all of the nations in our own hemisphere that used to be behind their own little junta curtains, as I call it, and now out there as democracies.

And what I didn't realize right away, but learned pretty quickly is the role that trade and economics plays in diplomacy and in international politics, and how much time I would spend on trade, economic free trade and similar issues. Because these nations, having become fledgling, fragile democracies, have got to produce for their people, or, as many of them have said to me when they sit in my office after the first or second election, my heavens, I'm in danger of losing because I haven't improved the lives of the people. And this is why we have spent such a great deal of time and attention in the Department on programs that really don't get that much attention.

We have significantly increased our development assistance programs, AID programs, IMET programs, foreign military -- not foreign military sales, but economic support funding programs. And that's also why we launched the Millennium Challenge Account, which is one of the most exciting things that's been done in development assistance since the Marshall Plan.

And Congress gave us a billion and a half for the first year. I hope we'll get a billion and a half the second year, and then ramp the program up to where the President wants it to be, ultimately, at $5 billion new every year to those countries that have committed to democracy, doing the right things for their people, committed to rebuilding infrastructure and that are moving down the right economic path, so we can help them. So one of the most impressive things to me was the way in which we are responding to this challenge of cementing into concrete these fragile democracies.

Similarly, what we did with HIV/AIDS is not unrelated to that because unless we do something about HIV/AIDS in a number of these developing countries, it will all be lost -- longevity going down, families being wiped out. So the immensity of all of this -- poverty alleviation, development assistance, HIV/AIDS -- and how this all relates to democracy building, to free trade and all the other things we're doing, I probably didn't have as strong an appreciation of that when I got the job as I had within a year or so of getting the job.

And it's just a much more complex world to deal with than it was when you had one side of the map and the other side of the map and a nice, defining Cold War line called the Iron Curtain that separated them. But that's also what's made the job challenging.

I found that the two major problems that have affected the overall international environment today have been Iraq and the Middle East peace process -- both of them extremely difficult; both of them we are working on. But when you step back from those two and you look at other things that we've been able to do over the last four years, I think it's a pretty good record, whether it's our relationship with China; our relationship with Russia, even though there are some challenges and concerns we have with that relationship now; what we have done with free trade agreements, Bob Zoellick has done a masterful job; what we have done with respect to highlighting the nuclear problems in North Korea and Iran and what we have done to eliminate the nuclear problem in Libya. And, of course, above all, fighting terrorism after we were attacked on 9/11 and rallying the whole world to that fight; and, of course, the two items that get so much attention right now is the aftermath of the removal of two dictatorial regimes in Kabul and in Baghdad that are gone and are not coming back.

And now we have to -- going back to my original theme, we have to cement these democracies on solid foundations. And that's what we're about doing in Afghanistan, and we've shown considerable progress lately, and in Iraq where we hope the progress will be greater in the months ahead.

MR. COOK: One more from me, sir, and then we'll move to Chuck Lewis, Doyle McManus and Jon Sawyer.

In your book you wrote about the three Presidents you had served with up to that time. You said, "Ronald Reagan was a father figure to me, George Bush was an older brother, and Bill Clinton, although almost ten years younger, something of a contemporary." How would you describe your relationship with the current President?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I only describe them after I've left. (Laughter.)

MR. COOK: Okay. Maybe you'll come back and do it with us then. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: President Bush is about ten years younger than me. So was President Clinton. But he's an individual that I've known for many years whose family, of course, I've known his family, Laura and the girls, for many, many years. And it's just been a privilege to work for him. I think he is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He sees challenges and faces those challenges and does not walk away from those challenges, and is prepared to make the investment in dealing with these challenges even when it may not be popular on the international stage.

But he doesn't turn away because it's going to be tough. He has that toughness in his makeup and in his approach to problems that I think he has demonstrated repeatedly. And that's what he will continue to do in the next four years.

MR. COOK: Chuck.

QUESTION: Sir, a couple quick question about A.Q. Khan. How would you evaluate his acts as a proliferator and a danger to the world?

SECRETARY POWELL: He was a very serious proliferator. He was very dangerous to the world in that he was doing this not for ideological purposes. The total range of his motivation I'm not sure I understand, but some of it was for financing. I mean, he was making money on this deal. He was living very well. And he was a serial proliferator for many years.

When we first came in we were well aware of his activities and we started to do a number of things, both politically, diplomatically and other forms of contingency planning to deal with A.Q. Khan. And then, as his activities became more public over the last year and a half -- it was not easy for him to hide -- it was easier for us to approach the Pakistanis and say to them, "Look, this is what we know."

And I called President Musharraf, I think, late January or February,[1] Richard can get the date, and I said to him, "We know so much about this that we're going to go public with it, and within a few weeks, okay? And you need to deal with this before you have to deal with it publicly."

And that's what President Musharraf did. The next thing we knew, A.Q. Khan had been put in custody.

QUESTION: Do you think President Musharraf was complicit at any time along the way with the proliferation operations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no reason to believe that. I have no evidence to that.

QUESTION: But the way that Pakistan works, would you think it possible?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I'm very familiar with the way it works, and I have spoken to President Musharraf about this directly, one on one. And he said that he did not, and that what A.Q. Khan was doing was so compartmented within government circles that it would not have been possible for him to have conducted these kinds of activities without knowledge of others outside the circle. He, General Musharraf, was outside that circle. That's what he has said to me, and I have no evidence to prove or disprove his statement.

MR. COOK: Doyle.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to turn to the elections in Iraq and what comes after. A lot of the pundits say that the measure of whether that election in Iraq is successful will be whether Sunnis participate at a high rate or whether, at the end of that process, Sunnis feel excluded from the process. What should be done, what is being done, on the part of the United States Government to encourage Sunni participation, in particular? And I'll let you finish your bite.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Doyle.

QUESTION: This is a long and complicated question.

MR. COOK: He's developed more sources that way. Just letting them eat. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: In particular, among the proposals (inaudible) should various seats be left open, kind of like in the constitutional assembly (inaudible) need, the de-Baathification of the regime being over to make it easier to encourage Sunni participation? Should the United States be engaged in direct talks or indirect talks with the leaders of the insurgency?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will not talk with leaders of the insurgency. They're terrorists, they're murderers, and they have no interest in a free, fair election or democratic participation in such elections, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing.

We are doing everything we can out of the Embassy, and with the war room that we've just established here in the Department, working on an interagency basis to get messages out and a communications strategy out to encourage maximum Sunni participation in the elections.

We will also be talking to countries in the region to get them to send that same message in to the Sunni community at all levels that, if you are unhappy with what's going on, this is the time for you to express your view through an election, and the Transitional Administrative Law provides you an opportunity to do that in these elections. And it is written in a way leading to a constitution where, even though you might be a minority in the country, your interests will be respected both in the TAL and in the constitution that will follow. This is the time to do it.

Now, the election is not going to end the insurgency. Those who are determined to defeat the forces of democracy are not going to stop just because there was an election at whatever level of Sunni participation. I would say that if we get a fairly decent Sunni turnout -- and I'm not going to put a number to it because I'm not sure I can -- but if you get a fairly significant Sunni turnout -- it may not be 100 percent, but if you do get a significant turnout, then I think that will be good for the country and good for the process.

If it was nobody at all, I think that would be problematic. But I don't expect it to be nobody at all because Sunnis have started to participate in the process. We've gotten 107 different political entities of one kind or another -- groups, parties and individuals -- who have signed up to participate. And there are some 7,000 names that are distributed over all these lists, and they represent the full range of interests and ethnicities within Baghdad -- within Iraq.

MR. COOK: Do you want to follow?

QUESTION: If participation, for example, is low, whether it's from intimidation or any other reason, should that process of leaving seats open be on the table -- keeping seats in the constitutional assembly?

Secretary Powell meeting with Washington newspaper bureau chiefs at luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.  Christian Science Monitor photo by Andy Nelson. SECRETARY POWELL: I can't judge that. I mean, it really is something that the Iraqis would have to make a decision on. And so I would not wish to prejudge what the Iraqi Interim Government wants to do. It's an election that's being run not by the United States and not by the United Nations. It's being run by the Iraqis with the assistance of the United States and with the assistance of the United Nations.

Six thousand people have been trained, and another 130,000 have been signed up and made ready to operate the whole polling place operation when it comes time, so there are Iraqis who are stepping forward to participate in this effort and to help those polling stations operate and get people registered, even though they saw the same scene that you saw on page one of your paper yesterday or the day before, of three people being murdered for working in this type of thing, and others being murdered. They're still stepping forward, just as people stepped forward in Afghanistan when faced with that similar danger.

MR. COOK: We're going to give you a chance to get a bite and I'm going to tell you where we're going next. We're going to go to Jon Sawyer, then Jake Schlesinger, Mort Kondracke, Clark Hoyt, Bill Adair, Carl Leubsdorf, David Westphal, Mike Duffy and Craig Gilbert. That should get us pretty far into the afternoon.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, also on Iraq.



SECRETARY POWELL: Iraq, all right.

QUESTION: You've had a long and distinguished career, and yet it seems likely that when that career is summed up that a prominent place will be given to the statement that you made at the United Nations a month before the war.

Critics have said that the statements you made then turned out to be either exaggerations or outright falsehoods. And some have also said that you were the one person who could have averted a misbegotten war and you chose to be a loyal soldier instead.

With the benefit of hindsight, what's the right response to that criticism?

SECRETARY POWELL: It wasn't an exaggeration and it wasn't a falsehood. The information I presented to the United Nations on the 5th of February was the best information that the intelligence community had assembled. I didn't make it up in my office. I didn't write it late at night. I went out to CIA and we sat there for four days and nights distilling down the National Intelligence Estimates and all the information that the CIA had presented to the Congress, which caused the Congress to pass a resolution of support of the President's efforts. It's the same information from the same intelligence base that President Clinton used to attack Iraq in 1998 in Operation Desert Fox, and correctly so.

And so what I presented on behalf of the United States was the intelligence community's assessment of where we were and what we thought. It was also consistent with the intelligence judgment of the United Kingdom and a number of other nations.

Now, what turned out to be the case is that there's no question that what we said about unanswered questions that Saddam Hussein had not answered in his response to the resolution are still unanswered at the time that I made that -- were still unanswered at the time I made the presentation; that his intention and the dual-use capability that he had within Iraq, nobody's been able to say that that was not the case.

Where we fell down, where the intelligence did not hold up is that we did not find stockpiles. But there was nobody in the room on the nights we were preparing all this information, and there was nobody in my intelligence service, the INR, my little bureau, who said, "You know, there are no stockpiles." Everybody believed that there were stockpiles and we believed the evidence we put forward supported that judgment.

And the other thing that did not hold up was the mobile labs. And I can assure you -- and Mr. Boucher was with me for a good part of this time -- we drilled into those mobile labs over and over and over for three nights and got every assurance from four different sources that the information was accurate. And that's why we presented it.

And so it will always be with me that, you know, I presented this and it turned out to be exaggerated or false. It was neither exaggerated nor false. It represented the best judgment of the intelligence community. It failed with respect to stockpiles. And to this day the CIA does not say that the mobile vans were not for biological weapons. They still haven't made a judgment on it. And I think it probably was not for biological weapons, but we're waiting for the intelligence judgment to be made.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I sorry that part of the information I presented turned out to be wrong? Of course I am, particularly since I get the finger for it.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on that. The person who told you that it was a slam-dunk that they had WMD in Iraq, that Iraq had it, was George Tenet.

SECRETARY POWELL: He didn't tell me.

QUESTION: Well, but he said it. He said it at the time to the press. Was it right, do you think, that he got the Medal of Freedom last week?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's a judgment for the President to make. George had a long and distinguished career in government, and he was in charge of the CIA for those years. I don't think George was inventing it any more than anyone else was inventing it. It was the considered judgment of the intelligence community.

And I don't know if George used that term or not with the President, but let's say he did. It wasn't because he pulled it out of thin air. It was because that was the considered judgment of the experts in the intelligence community.

Where there were points of disagreement and difference, we argued those extensively, whether it had to do with the aluminum tubes, and, for example, with the aluminum tubes, there was a legitimate difference, which I kept pressing and pressing and pressing.

And the CIA, with their technical experts, were absolutely confident of the judgment that they were for centrifuges, and there were disagreements with my intelligence bureau, the Department of Energy, the Brits, I think, and the IAEA -- a considerable body of difference. And the CIA did another analysis, and the Director of Central Intelligence said this is our judgment. And that's what I presented.

But in that case, which was the most contentious case, I pointed out in my presentation that there were differences of opinion, and therefore we had to study these differences of opinion. And I was looking right across the table at Mohamed ElBaradei when I said that because there were reasonable differences of opinion. But on the matter that I presented, it reflected the considered, best judgment of the intelligence community, given to the Congress, given to the President repeatedly, given to two presidents repeatedly, and supported by the intelligence services of other countries.

Now, why was it wrong? I don't know. I mean that's what a number of groups are looking at. As I think about it, one reason that it may well be wrong is that the inspectors got forced out in 1998 after President Clinton ran Desert Fox, and we essentially didn't really have a quality, on-the-ground inspection ability and we didn't really know what was going on. It was being inferred from HUMINT, being inferred from satellite photographs and the rest, and it was not accurate, at least not so far.

I'm sorry for the long answer, but you gave me a fat worm there.

MR. COOK: Jake.

QUESTION: You had said earlier that you had no intention of talking to the terrorists in Iraq in advance of the elections. But I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how things might look after the elections, not just in Iraq but more broadly in Palestine and, say, elections where, if you have people who win positions of power through what are deemed to be legitimate elections who have histories of terrorism, do you treat them as legitimately-elected members of the government internationally or do you somehow treat them or reject them internationally because they have a terrorist background?

SECRETARY POWELL: It depends on what their actions are at that point. If they have come to power in a free, fair, open election, and if they are no longer involved in the kinds of activity that we would condemn, that's one set of circumstances you have to examine. Take Mr. Qadhafi. I mean, he has done a lot in the last year to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction, yet we have not removed all constraints that we have on that regime.

There are some things we have not yet done for that regime because we want to really assure ourselves with respect to the terrorist issue and there are still some outstanding issues; but we've restored diplomatic relations. So I think it's situational. And we'll see who the person is, what's the person's record, and what is the person standing for now, and what is the future action going to be?

I shouldn't say this, but I will. Some of my best friends in the international community were left-wing radicals from the '70s -- (laughter) -- who have risen to become various foreign ministers in different countries.

QUESTION: But if Hamas or Islamic Jihad, one of these powers, say, in the Palestinian Authority, would that, per se, be a problem to you?

SECRETARY POWELL: If there is a free, open, fair election, we would have to examine the results of that election and make a judgment as to whether not we can or cannot deal with these individuals if these individuals come to the table, even with a fair election, with a very checkered, terrorist past. And what does that say about what they might do in the future? What do they say? Well, I can't answer it in the abstract, but I think what I've said is a pretty good answer.


QUESTION: I mean, there is a widespread belief in Washington and lots of other places in the country that you basically thought that this war was a bad idea, and that the President was convinced by the neo-con, so-called, that he ought to go to Iraq, and that the reason that you supported and went along with it was that you were a good soldier, but that privately, you really thought we shouldn't do it. Can you apprise us of what your real views were?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure. Yeah, I have seen my views quoted in many places; sometimes they are my views; sometimes they are not.

Once we had taken on Afghanistan as a major challenge, the President was deeply concerned about Iraq, as we all were. I have a longer history with Iraq than many of my colleagues in government, and for that matter, most of those out of government in common in this matter. So I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein, and I know exactly the nature of that regime. And I've had to answer for 10 years why we didn't go to Baghdad back in 1991. So I'm no fan of this regime.

But as we got closer to making a decision as to what should be done with respect to Saddam Hussein shooting at our airplanes every day and violating sanctions -- we knew that he was clipping a lot of the money that was available -- that would be $2 billion a year, out of a total of a $20 billion pot. So the Oil-for-Food program was controlling about 18, and I think 2 billion was going under the table, right into the regime for his use.

And my cautions to the President was that you need to understand that this would be a difficult mission -- not just the military part of the mission, but you suddenly are responsible for a country of 25 million people. And before you undertake that -- if that's where it finally ends up -- you ought to try to see if there was not another way to solve this problem, and the problems being his the acts of terrorism, his weapons of mass destruction and his human rights violations, all inconsistent with his obligations under the UN resolutions.

And so, I said to the President, if you're going to start moving in this direction -- I said to all of my colleagues, not just the President, but to the Vice President and Condi and Don and George -- if you're going to move in this direction, you ought to take the case to the offended party, not just us. It's the international community. It's the United Nations. So you ought to take it to the United Nations. And after some discussion and a number of meetings, that's what he decided to do.

And so, it was based on my recommendation, which was concurred in by everyone in the National Security team, on the National Security team, that that's what he should do; and that's what he did. He took it to the United Nations. We knew when we took it to the United Nations that it would be tough to get the resolution we needed, and that a time might come when you make a decision that either the diplomatic track, the United Nations track is working, or it is not working and I don't think they can give any more time. And we went down that road, heading toward that "Y" in the road.

Now, it was my recommendation to the President that he go down that road and face the "Y" at some point in the future. But when he came to that "Y" in the road and it could be judged that we could go diplomatically and try to find some diplomatic political solution, I was with him. And if we came to the "Y" in the road and it was necessary to take military action, I was with him. There's never been a debate about that, never any disagreement about this. There was never any confusion about this. When I go a long patrol, I go on a long patrol.

QUESTION: But in the first instance, I mean, the stories are that the -- that the Defense Department was working on him from day one, even before 9/11, to go after Iraq and in a military way with regime change as the motive. Now, did you think that that was worth doing?

SECRETARY POWELL: The -- what was worth it? The contingency plan?

QUESTION: The regime change or military action that this -- well, is it a fact that from the earliest days of the Administration --

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a fact that, quite correctly, from the earliest days of the Administration, Iraq was seen as a problem, and I would expect the military to undertake contingency action, contingency planning. I had it going on when I was Chairman. It's what they do. And they should never leave a President without a military plan or option or a contingency response. And so, it was no surprise to me that they were doing that, and of course, they should have been doing that. We were getting our planes shot at, and the other things I mentioned. And the President wanted to know what his options were.

But the President, I can assure you, during these early months that you're talking about, Mort, had not made a decision to go to war. So it wasn't just a decision that had been made, and now the plan is catching up with the decision. The President had his military leaders, the Secretary of Defense, putting in place appropriate contingency plans, should they ever be needed.

MR. COOK: Clark.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could we turn away for a minute from Iraq, the Middle East, the war on terror? And could you look ahead for us and tell us if you think there are regions of the world or issues that we're not particularly focused on right now that are going to be occupying major parts of your successor's and the President's time in the next term?

Secretary Powell meeting with Washington newspaper bureau chiefs at luncheon hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.  Christian Science Monitor photo by Andy Nelson. SECRETARY POWELL: I'll answer this way: I don't see, for the first time in decades and decades, perhaps a century, the likelihood of a world war between major competing powers on the earth -- the kind we saw in 1914 or 1939 -- or the kind we worried about in 1946, roughly, on through the end of the Cold War. I don't see that.

We have to keep an eye on China. It's a rapidly -- it's got a rapidly expanding economy with a lot of resources available to it. But I think they are interested, really, in being secure, making sure they don't, in any way, change their position in Taiwan; but for the most part, they still have a billion citizens they have to take care of that they haven't touched yet, who are to the east of the coast, or to the west of the coast.

So I think we continue to work with China, and right now, we have the best relationship with China that we've had in the last 30 years, and I'm very pleased to say that I think I can prove it.

The same thing with Russia -- we're expanding NATO. We are working on the expansion of the EU. There is a lot of churning going on with respect to EU expansion. That churning is not going to produce power centers that will be contending with each other on matters of war and peace. They'll be debating. They'll be figuring out how to use common currency and things like that, so I don't see that happening.

So the ones that are really troublesome are Iraq, finishing it, and making it stable and putting a democratic government in. The Middle East peace process is the most difficult one, which has resisted solutions from many Administrations, but we may have a moment of opportunity now, which the President is prepared to take.

The kinds of problems that are liable to come along that will vex us to go back to are really at the beginning: the Sudans of the world, the broken nations of the world that are not a military threat to us, but could be a military threat to their neighbors. But we just can't turn away from the Liberias of the world, the Haitis of the world, the Sudans of the world, the Cote d'Ivoires of the world, the DRCs of the world. This is going to be a major area of challenge for my successor and for her successor.

And in many of these places, as I have dived into them in considerable depth, the solutions are not instantaneous American "shake and bake" solutions. They're going to take decades to solve some of these problems: Haiti and Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan, and the others that I've mentioned -- Somalia, take a look into Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, these are vexing problems.

The other two I would mention that will always be on the top of Condi's list will be Iran and North Korea because both are trying to develop and retain a nuclear weapons capability. I think both can be resolved politically and diplomatically without ever taking any option off the table. And the President, "Mr. Unilateral," as he is sometimes called, has taken a multilateral approach to both of these issues, and I often get criticized because of the multilateral approach he has taken to both of these.

In the case of Iran, working with our EU partners and the Russians, when we came in, nobody was paying attention to what we were saying about Iran. Now, four years later, the Russians have insisted that whatever they put into Bushehr has to come out of Bushehr. The international community, the EU-3 and the IAEA are seized with the problem of Iran. So we've put a spotlight and a heat lamp on the Iranians that they will not easily dodge. Same thing with North Korea.

We thought we had a nice bilateral deal, the Agreed Framework, and we had capped the program in Yongbyon, only to discover there was another program. They were cheating. And this time we said, nope, it's going to be six parties involved. Your neighbors should be as concerned about this as we are. And we got all of the neighbors involved. It is slow, tedious work. You have to have patience in this kind of business, and the President has demonstrated that patience. He's made it clear to the North Koreans, we do not seek to invade or attack you. We're not taking any options off the table, but that is not our intention. We want to find a solution to this so that we can help you. The President's said this more than once so we can help the people of North Korea out of the distress that they're in now.

And I think both Iran and North Korea will continue to press diplomatically. So Iran and North Korea, but I don't see a Cold War or a World War III kind of -- World War I, II or III -- kind of situation emerging. And this is -- this makes this a very -- notwithstanding the daily problems we see -- a positive moment in history. And we are the leader in this -- of this effort to bring democracy, economic well being to the peoples of the world. And that's going to be our real challenge.

Do we have the willingness and the determination? Are we willing to invest the resources that it will take to help these nations of the world that are in distress, and the only place that they can get the help they need is from us. And of all of them, the most challenge one is the Middle East and I hope we do have, now, a moment of opportunity.

MR. COOK: A quick question, Bill.

QUESTION: You ruled out running for President some years ago.


QUESTION: Now you have served in this capacity for four years. What are your plans, short term and long term? And would you reconsider and possibly run for President at some point in the future?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll answer the last part first. No. I'm going to step down when Condi gets confirmed, take a little time off, and then decide how to spend what's left of my life, about my ability to do something. And I think it will be a combination of earning a living in some way and doing some of the volunteer stuff of the kind that I did before. I'm not sure it will be the same, exact, but some service, some business to earn a living. And I would expect to be getting around the country and getting around the world and commenting on issues and being in public life in some capacity.

I kidded to Richard the other day that I still have some tread wear left.

MR. COOK: Carl.


SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry. Did I miss one? Yeah.

QUESTION: If you still have some tread wear, why not run?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because in 1995, when I faced this question head on, and thought about it, and discussed it with my family I concluded that this was not what I would do well or do best. And I can serve the country in many ways, but running for elective office did not fit with me. You've got to have a passion for it. You've got to have a gut for it. And I looked hard, tried, but never woke up one morning thinking that this was the thing I should do. And it was a correct decision then for me and for my family. And I have encountered nothing in the last nine years to suggest that I should change it.

I think I have served the country in a number of ways, both as Secretary of State and in my non -- my private, charitable organizations.

MR. COOK: Carl.

QUESTION: Why do you think, Mr. Secretary, it is so difficult for us to find Usama bin Laden? And how important is this?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's important to find him, and I believe that some day he will be found. A person, an individual, who wants to be hidden and stay hidden, can do it, despite our best efforts. I have chased a number of people around the countryside in my career.

I chased Manuel Noriega around Panama City for about three days with the finest intelligence system you have ever seen and with an entire military intelligence brigade in Panama City, and had been there for 20 years. And we didn't get him because he didn't wish to be gotten. And he finally decided to turn himself in to the papal nuncio. And he called them up and the papal nuncio met him at the Dairy Queen. And that's where -- what happened to him.

I chased Mohammed Adid around Mogadishu, and you know how -- that that didn't work. And so, we've been chasing Mladic and Karadzic in Bosnia around, in the Balkans around for a long time, without finding them. If somebody is willing to go into a sate of physical isolation and has a good understanding of how someone might be looking for them, then it's possible to remain hidden for a long period of time.

But while hidden, you are somewhat constrained in what you can do. You can occasionally make a tape and send it on out to Al Jazeera, but you certainly can't communicate and do the same kinds of things that you could do when you were the proud owner of a country and by controlling its leadership, as the al-Qaida did with the Taliban.

MR. COOK: We're going to give you time to take a bite. And I'll say that we're going to go next to David Westphal, Mike Duffy, Craig Gilbert, Jack Farrell, and Dan Klaidman.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Administration came into office thinking that China might be problem number one, and you list it as one of the first term successes. Is this a case of the two countries mutually agreeing to put the inevitable flag on the back burner and that is the success or is there something more fundamental that happened in this hiatus you've said will --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'll counterpunch by saying it was problem number one on the 1st day of April of 2001, when we got word that their fighter plane had run into our patrol plane, and we had a major crisis on our hands. And what was fascinating about that period -- and I should write a book all about that 14 days in April -- is that within four days, the Chinese and -- well, a Chinese Foreign Minister colleague and I, had realized that things were getting in a tangle, with too many strong statements being made by both sides, and interestingly, both sides -- both the United States side and the Chinese side -- having to respond to public opinion.

The Chinese had more of a problem than we did because it was their pilot who been killed. None of our kids were killed. And so they had a problem, and they really had to worry about public opinion, believe it or not, amazingly. And it took four days before we found a potential solution. We found a document that we had signed with them earlier that had a little clause in it that said this is how we deal with problems that come along. And then it took another eight days to write the letters that would get our youngsters home. And those of you who have good memories will recall that the issue was should we say we apologize? Well, we weren't about to apologize. So we said we were very, very sorry for what happened without apologizing. That's what did it.

And from that point on, we sat down with the Chinese Foreign Minister -- then Tang -- he's now Senior Counselor, and we said we got to find ways to work together. And we have worked together very well ever since. We did not use a single cliché to characterize the relationship. You've never heard me say, strategic competitor, or strategic partner, or any of that. It's too complex of a relationship.

So we said, where those -- where we have areas in common that we can agree and work on, let's do that, and where we have disagreements, let's work on them. So we have improved our trading relationship with them -- the WTO, and so many other things you're well familiar with. We fuss about the deficit, the trade deficit. And we have never stepped back from our human rights complaints. We tried to take them to Geneva again this past year. Couldn't get a vote. We did it anyway, much to their distress.

And on proliferation issues, we let them know when we think things are wrong. And we have sanctioned companies, Chinese companies, even though the Chinese Government was very unhappy about it. So we've had a very mature relationship with them, which benefits both parties. And as a result, I think the relationship is on a stable footing. This allows me to touch another part of the world that I didn't mention earlier, except tangentially.

We have, perhaps, the best relationship with India that we've had in many decades, and the same thing with Pakistan. And when we were working the India-Pakistan subcontinent account two years ago when it looked like war, many of your colleagues -- certainly none here at the table -- were suggesting that war was going to break out that weekend. It didn't. And we spent a lot of time, a lot of foreign ministers traveling, a lot of phone calls and a lot of meetings, but I could count on my Chinese colleagues, Foreign Minister Tang, in working with us to defuse the situation and not doing anything to heighten tensions.

And so what I have found over the last several years, even when there were disagreements over Iraq, the Chinese were always willing to work with us. When we were having the fight with -- on the Iraqi issue with the Germans and the French and the Russians, it was clear that the Chinese had reservations about what we were doing as well. But they always were willing to be more understanding of our strategic needs than the others were. And I think that's -- it shows that we went from a period of intense -- I wouldn't call it crisis; I didn't call it a crisis at the time -- a big problem, the airplane collision, solved in 14 days and the relationship's been on an upswing ever since.

The other crisis we started out with, just to show you how the Cold War's changed, was even two weeks before that, because two or three weeks before the Chinese airplane incident, I called on the Russian Ambassador for our very first meeting. He was on his way home to tell the new -- to tell his colleagues about the new Administration. And I said, "Well, I've got a message for you. We're going to throw out 52 of your people tomorrow, PNG 'em and send them -- you've got to get them out of the country. And they have been doing things they shouldn't be doing, and we warned you. So 52 go."

And he said, "This will not go down well in Moscow."

I said, "Well, have him give me a call."

So the next day or the day after, Igor Ivanov, my foreign minister colleague from Moscow, calls me and said, "You know, this is all wrong. You've got it fouled up." He says, "This is not a good start to the relationship. And you know what we will do, right?"

I said, "Yes, you're going to throw out 52 Americans."

And he said, "Right. We're going to throw out 52 Americans."

I said, "And then it's over, right?"

He said, "And then it's over, right."

That was it. This is the way gentlemen deal with such matters. And we threw out 52, they threw out 52, and ever since then we started to do business.

And people sometimes forget what those first nine months were like when we said we had to do something about missile defense and the ABM Treaty. We kept trying to find a way. The President didn't leave the ABM Treaty on the 21st of January of 2001. We worked with the Russians for nine months trying to see if we could move forward with missile defense -- the toughness of the President -- he's going to move forward with this, but if we can find a way to do that the Russians will understand, then let's see if we can do it.

And after nine months of discussion and negotiations with the Russians, we could not find the right answer. And so in December of 2001, I went to Moscow, I sat in the Kremlin with Mr. Putin and said, "The President's going to pull out of the ABM Treaty. We wanted you to be the first to know. He'll be calling you in the next couple of days." Then I went to Paris, France and London the next day, the next day and a half.

And I'll never forget Putin looking back and saying, "You're wrong. Terrible." All of Europe was upset that we were destroying the strategic basis of peace in Europe. And Mr. Putin said, "You're wrong. We disagree." And he told me all the reasons they disagreed and why we were wrong. And then he said, "But we won't have this to talk about anymore and we can go ahead and build a new strategic framework." (Laughter.)

And two days later, guess what we did? Six months later, the ABM Treaty expired, or ended. And about the same time that it was going into the history books, what did we do? We signed a Treaty of Moscow with the Russians for a new strategic framework. And all of the chatter about all of Europe's fundamental underpinning of arms control and security would disappear. It did not disappear. The ABM Treaty -- nobody even talks about anymore. It's dead.

What we did was expand NATO, 26 nations, bring Russia into -- closer to the West with the NATO-Russia Council, even bringing the Baltics in without the Russians going, you know, berserk about it, and created a more stable situation.

But we have not -- we have not ignored problems. And the President said yesterday we have concerns about some of the things that are happening in Russia. We had the big to-do about Ukraine a few weeks ago. But we're back together now and we're going to have an election on the 26th. They'll accept the results of a free, fair, open election in Ukraine.

MR. COOK: Mike.

SECRETARY POWELL: Sorry for belaboring that.

QUESTION: I want to ask a Musharraf question, Mr. Secretary. Michael Sawyer, the head of the -- the former head of the bin Laden station, said that --


QUESTION: Michael Sawyer, the former head of the bin Laden station at the CIA recently said that if you'd asked him a couple of years ago whether Pervez Musharraf could have done half of what he's done since 9/11, he'd have been stunned, shocked and stunned, far more than anyone expected. But he fears that perhaps there isn't a lot more he can do without taking serious internal risk to his government. Do you agree with that assessment?

And getting back to Carl's question about UBL, is there a limit to what anyone can do in Pakistan in terms of finding him that does not put someone in Musharraf's government at risk? Would he be able to withstand that if something happened while he were --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, on the second question, if we knew where he was, UBL was, I'm sure we could apprehend him and the Pakistanis would do it if they knew. If they tripped across him, they're going to bring him in.

With respect to President Musharraf, I think he's done a great deal from where we started on 9/11. And it was on the 13th or 14th that Armitage first gave him the list of conditions, and it was either the night of the 13th or the 14th -- and Richard can fix it for the transcript[2] -- that I called President Musharraf and I said, "Mr. President, you know what we need. Will you do it?"

And I expected him to say six of the seven were okay. But instead, he said, we'll do it all, all seven. And it was a major strategic decision on his part. And we had some rough spots over the next year and a half as we put troops in the region, as we helped them with their debt. But now the economy is moving. There is a parliament that's functioning. Some people are a little concerned about the fact that he kept his uniform on. But I've watched this gentleman very closely now for these years and I perhaps speak to him more than any other international figure, like 90 phone calls and I don't know how many meetings. So we talk all the time.

And I think he has managed this transition quite well and I think he is quite skilled at knowing what the traffic will bear at any point in time. And I think he will continue to move in the right direction and he will continue to balance the forces that are at work inside of Pakistan. He's got an educational problem. He's got to fix the madrasas system. He's working on it. He had to fix the economy or else people would have no confidence in him as a leader, whether he had a uniform on or not. And he's working on that. He's taking care of a good part of his debt relief, no problems.

And so I think we should be pleased with what we've been able to do with Pakistan, and even more interesting is what we've been able, also, to do with India by not seeing them as the same India-Pakistan. We're working with India on its needs, a new strategic framework that we've got with them, the NSSP, I think the acronym is, and we deal with India as a major, sovereign, democratic nation and we deal with Pakistan as a separate nation. And because we do it that way, they look to us for assistance when they need to work on common issues.

MR. COOK: Craig.

QUESTION: Having gone into Iraq, were there -- is the level of violence -- was the level of violence and instability that we're seeing now inevitable or was it avoidable?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was not anticipated. I can't answer. And I'm not dodging. I just don't know. I just don't know if it was avoidable.

Were there always Sunni elements there or elements of the former regime that were going to eventually come out and cause this insurgency to get underway, and therefore this was something that was going to happen anyway, or whether different actions could have been taken with respect to the process over the last year that might have made it less likely? I can't answer that question.

QUESTION: Why do you think we failed to anticipate it?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know of any reporting that anyone saw that anticipated an insurgency of this level, and I just have never seen anything like that. You know, we made the case and, as I said earlier, talked to the President. You're going to shatter the structure that's there. It's not just a matter of defeating the army. The army is the Baath Party; the Baath Party is the army. And so when you hit this, it's going to break, all of it. And you're going to lose the military, which I think was -- that part of it didn't concern me. I knew what our troops could do. But you were also going to lose the civil structure and we were going to be responsible for it. And that's why General Garner was doing all of his work, and then Ambassador Bremer was brought in to do more.

But for whatever reason, it didn't deal with that nascent insurgency that was there in the Sunni heartland without exploding.

MR. COOK: We're going to try and defy the laws of physics here and get four questions into five minutes.

SECRETARY POWELL: I will do it. I can do it.

MR. COOK: Jack Farrell, Dan Klaidman, Susan Page, and ending with Doyle McManus.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you give us a reliable estimate, please, on the number of Iraqis that have died from the war or violence-related causes in the past two years?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I can't. I've seen a lot of attempts at it, but I do not know.

QUESTION: That bothers me because it sort of indicates that that we don't know, which is very scary, or that we know and we don't want to say it, or maybe we don't want to know.

SECRETARY POWELL: One, I just don't think we know it, and why that's scary I don't know why it would be scary if we don't know. And actions are taken, battles break out, and people are removed to hospitals and morgues and you don't get a good count. But I've seen nothing to suggest that we are trying not to know it. We just don't know it. I don't know it.

QUESTION: Doesn't that reflect a little bit on our ability to gauge what's going on in Iraq if we can't even come up with this one vital statistic?

SECRETARY POWELL: The military has estimates, which, you know; they will have to vouch for the credibility of estimates on how many militants -- how many combatants they've killed. But I cannot tell you with respect to civilian casualties.

MR. COOK: Dan.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, one of the most harmful episodes to America's reputation during your tenure was the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Do you subscribe to the view that was widely expressed in Washington that this was essentially isolated -- that this was a few bad apples; or was it, in your view, a systemic problem and a problem that begins with senior officials in Washington, the lawyers who drafted these memos, senior officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one, it is a very bad black mark and we've paid a price for it in the Arab and Muslim world. The only thing we can say in response is that you will see how we deal with these kinds of criminal acts by the way in which we -- a free and open press report on them and the way in which we take action against those who have been found to be responsible.

And I went to the World Economic Forum in Jordan last June[3], shortly after this broke out, not too long after it broke out. It was a difficult, difficult trip. But I've said, you'll see now what democratic nations do with respect to rule of law.

As to how far it goes up and whether it is isolated, I'm not competent to judge that. Now, the report done by Mr. Schlesinger essentially expanded it out beyond just a few individuals. And, I think, if I'm charactering the report correctly, that there were systemic problems and those systemic problems are being looked at. That's all I can say about it.

MR. COOK: Susan.

QUESTION: You've had, of course, a very eventful tenure as Secretary of State. If you could identify for us just briefly the thing that you're proudest of over the last four years and your biggest disappointment as you leave this job.

SECRETARY POWELL: No. (Laughter.) And I'm not being rude, but I've found that if I ever single out one thing that I'm proudest of, I would be doing a disservice to something else, and if I ever point out my biggest disappointment that it'd be taking off all my clothes. (Laughter.)

And so I've found that life and service in a particular position is a tapestry. It's a combination of all kinds of things. And so I'm proud to have been part of an Administration that did get rid of two very bad regimes and pulling the world together in the war on terror, proud of what we've done with development assistance, HIV/AIDS, denuclearizing Libya, expansion of NATO, expansion of the European Union, the trade agreements we've entered into, what we did to stop a war in India-Pakistan, a lot of things like that.

And when you accumulate all of that, then I'm leaving -- I'm pretty pleased with what this Administration has done and the role I've played in this Administration. I also know the overhangs that are out there, the 5 February presentation and things like that. History will have to judge that.

The other thing I'm very proud of, among others that I've just cited, is something that doesn't get written about, and that's what we've done within the Department. We found some serious deficiencies in the Department. We hadn't been hiring for years. We still had Wang computers, other problems within the Department. And I'm very pleased at what we've been able to do to fix some of the leadership and management challenges that were in the Department.

The reason I'm proud of that is because it means that some Secretary, too, after Condi will inherit a system and a Department that is in better shape than it was in 2000.

MR. COOK: Last question to Doyle.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a quasi-military --

SECRETARY POWELL: Didn't he get one already?

MR. COOK: He did, but it's the LA Times. We don't mess with them.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, excuse me. (Laughter.)

MR. COOK: We're just the tiny Monitor. We just bow down, you know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Circulation counts.

MR. COOK: Yeah. Oh, don't we know.

QUESTION: A quasi-military question. You've trained recruits before. How long does it take to train a good Iraqi soldier and how long is it written, as we look at that project, how long should we expect the task of training up a new Iraqi security force that can bear the brunt it will take the political side of it? Do you think the American public has yet been persuaded that the duration and cost of that enterprise will be worth it?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the American public probably understands it better than most that it takes time, and even in some of the polling you've been seeing where they're a little uneasy, but they know we have to stay the course. Staying the course means getting an Iraqi force that's up and running.

Now, the answer to your question is complex because I can train a group of soldiers from nothing to good, solid soldiers in, you know, take our own experience, eight weeks of basic, eight weeks of advanced individual training. And so after about four months, you've got a pretty solid soldier.

I put him into a platoon and then he needs more training before that platoon becomes effective. You put that platoon in a company and you need even more training before you have an effective company, battalion, and so on. And the higher up you go, the more training it takes for that unit to become effective.

And so if you were to ask me, a full-scale Iraqi division that would have the competence of operating on a battlefield like an American division, or something, you know, like a -- close to a first world division, I'd say it could be a year, year and a half. If you're just talking about police being trained or soldiers in militia kind of units, then it's a matter of months.

Now, one of the most gifted officers in the American Army who I've known since he was a captain, General Petraeus, understands all this perfectly. And that's what he is working on, to get these units through as quickly as possible. It's also a lot harder when the day they come out of training they're facing combat. And so a lot of the training, as has been the case in the American Army in the course of history, a lot of the training drills are going to come on the battlefield. If you're out there doing a mission -- leave the training environment and go out and start doing missions, you learn real fast. And that's what's happening now.

But there should be no illusion, and I think the President made this point yesterday that suddenly right after the election the Iraqis weren't going to be able to take over their own security. I think, you know, certainly we're going to be there through '05 in significant numbers, and I don't want to -- I don't know what those numbers will be. That's what Don will have to decide.

MR. COOK: In the tapestry of the 50 or 60 breakfasts we hold a year, breakfast and lunches, this is really a high point. It's been a great privilege to have you here. We thank you very much for doing it, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. My pleasure.

 [1] The call was made in January 2004.

[2] The call was made on September 13, 2001.

[3] The Jordan World Economic Forum took place in May 2004

Released on December 22, 2004

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