Sec. Colin Powell interview on CNN
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release August 2, 2001
INTERVIEW OF SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL BY JUDY WOODRUFF OF CNN
August 1, 2001 Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us.
SECRETARY POWELL: You're quite welcome, Judy. Good to see you again.
QUESTION: You just returned, just hours ago, from a trip to Asia, and I do want to ask you about that. But, as so often happens, there are headlines today from the Middle East.
Yesterday, the Israelis used anti-tank missiles to assassinate two senior political leaders of a radical Islamic group. In the process, they killed six others, including two children. Does this represent a significant escalation on the part of the Israelis?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is hard to say what an escalation is anymore. The level of violence, instead of going down, has been going up, and we continue to encourage both sides to exercise restraint.
In this particular case, we felt that this was a targeted killing of the kind that we have spoken out and condemned in the past, and we did so yesterday, both at the White House and at the State Department. We have a consistent view that this kind of response is too aggressive and it just serves to increase the level of tension and violence in the region.
QUESTION: Well, you say the two comments were consistent, Mr. Secretary, but it was noticeable, the State Department very strong language --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry, the newspaper report of that is wrong. The guidance that was used at the State Department was cleared guidance and it reflected the White House view and the State Department view. So, even though people may have found something to find that there is a difference, the statement put out by the State Department reflected White House concurrence.
QUESTION: Even if you set aside the news coverage, Middle East analysts, experts who were interviewed about this said -- one of them, a former Near East assistant secretary here at the State Department -- said as long as there is any difference between the White House and the State Department, then the Israelis are not going to feel constrained to change their --
SECRETARY POWELL: That may be his opinion. The view that was expressed here at the State Department reflected the Administration position.
QUESTION: What should the Israelis do at this point?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Israelis and the Palestinian side at this time should try to do everything possible to bring the passion down, the incitement down, and to bring the violence levels down. And we are trying to make good this message to both sides, because I am deeply troubled that the violence level, rather than going down toward the start of the Mitchell Committee report, where we want to go, and looking for these days of quiet, is going in the other direction.
And there is no moral equivalent to it. I'm not suggesting that. But we have got to encourage both sides at this time to do everything they can to bring the violence level down and to be very, very careful of the kind of counter-action that you take when something else happens. Because if you just are in the cycle of violence that each day is an escalation on one side or the other, then we are just going to keep seeing the violence go up rather than down.
QUESTION: Well, was this excessive on the part of the Israelis?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have spoken to that, said that we do not think that that kind of targeted killing helps the situation. I think we have spoken rather clearly on that.
QUESTION: All right. Mr. Secretary, on your trip to Asia while you were there, you spoke of China as a friend of the United States. There are others in the Administration, the President, the Secretary of Defense, who have referred to it as a strategic competitor. After this visit, which is it?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is not helpful to try to characterize the whole relationship by a single word or a single phrase. It is a complex relationship across a broad agenda and that is the real message that I delivered in China and come back with. There is a trading aspect to it, there is a security aspect to it, there is a human rights aspect to it, there is the Taiwan aspect to it. And so rather than try to capture it all in one phrase, either "friend" as opposed to, what, "enemy"? Or "strategic competitor" as opposed to, what, "strategic partner," which the previous administration used. I think you will see all of us starting to refer to this complex relationship.
And with respect to trading activities, they are coming into the World Trading Organization, we granted them normal trading relations, we are working hard. Our businesses are investing, 40 percent of their exports are coming to the United States. That is not an unfriendly relationship with respect to trade.
On their military activities, we want to see regular transparency in what they are doing, so we can sense whether or not their investment in their military is just modernization of the type one would expect, or is it something that is threatening and provocative.
On human rights, we speak out strongly. And where they have moved in a positive direction, there is no reason not to compliment them. But where they have not gone far enough, then we should speak out against their actions, and we have done that, and I did it repeatedly on my trip to China.
QUESTION: Well, while we were calling them "friend" at certain points, the Chinese censored an interview that you gave Chinese television. They did not air your comments on human rights, some very personal comments you made about your own background. How did you feel about that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I felt that they made a mistake, because they said that they would air the whole interview. And it shows that they are not at a point where we think they ought to be with respect to this kind of openness in their society. They did air the other 23-and-a- half minutes of the interview, so why take out this 30-second section where I essentially complimented them for what they have done but told them they have to do a lot more, "You should be more tolerant of religious differences and freedom of expression." So you can speak that way to the Chinese leaders and let them know it, and they ought to let me speak that way to the Chinese people when I was given an opportunity.
So they have done a lot in the last 25 years. There is a long way to go and we should encourage them to keep moving in that direction.
QUESTION: President Bush goes to China this fall. What exactly should be accomplished at that visit?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think he should have a full discussion with Chinese leaders of every item on our agenda: Trade, human rights, proliferation of weapons around to some of the least responsible states that are out there. And he should talk about everything that is on the agenda between two powerful nations, who should be moving forward into a non-threatening environment, where they can cooperate on things where we have a common interest and disagree on things where we do not have a common interest.
So I think it is going to be an excellent trip. They are looking forward to the President's visit. The President is looking forward to that visit. And it doesn't have to be characterized as, "we are going to see an enemy," or we are going to see this or we're going to see that. We are going to talk to the other powerful nation on a range of agenda items where we have an opportunity to cooperate and where we have an opportunity to disagree. And in the process of disagreeing, you don't have to have an enemy to disagree with; you have another nation that has a proud tradition and history and a system that is different from ours. And let's have discussions with that system.
QUESTION: There are several other issues I want to touch on very quickly, Mr. Secretary, beginning with the Balkans. The Administration has come some distance from what the President was saying during the campaign. He has now said the US is in, together with the NATO allies, and they will be out together.
My question is, do you pledge that the US won't leave until the job is done -- in Bosnia until the Dayton Peace Accord is secured, and in Kosovo until the Albanians and the Serbs have reached a mutually agreeable stance?
SECRETARY POWELL: What the President has said, and what he told the Europeans, is we went in together and we will come out together. That doesn't mean that we can't reduce the size of our forces there and reduce our footprint. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't aggressively transfer a lot of the things we are doing to other kinds of agencies, police agencies, civilian agencies. And we are working hard to do that. Because if you don't transition to these other forms of activities, then we will never get out, and neither will our European friends.
But we had to make sure everybody understood that we knew our responsibilities and we acknowledge our responsibilities as we went in with them together. And we were the principal author of the Dayton Accord.
And so those forces went in under the Dayton Accord, went in to perform a mission. And when that mission is completed, we will come out. But we are not going to simply say, we're out of here; the mission is not completed, but we're leaving you, because we just feel like leaving. We have an obligation to work with our allies. We went in together; we will come out together.
QUESTION: And the same in Kosovo?
SECRETARY POWELL: And in Kosovo.
QUESTION: That until there is a mutual agreement there.
Just quickly, the United Nations, your friend, the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said on CNN yesterday, unmistakably that if the US -- if the President, when he speaks to the UN General Assembly this fall, and the US still has not come forward with $580 million in back dues, that it will do the US great damage.
Are you working to get this money?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am working very hard to get this money, and for the most part, everything is moving along well. There are one or two congressional problems that we have to resolve, and the money will be forthcoming. I am trying to get those problems resolved before the President goes on the 24th of September. I think it will be a much more powerful statement for the President to go on the 24th of September with the check, as opposed to without the check.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to congressman Hyde, Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House?
SECRETARY POWELL: I will. I just got back last night. I'm sure that my good friend Henry Hyde and I will have conversations in the next several days. He understands the importance of this. It is tied with some other things, but I don't think there is any question, and Mr. Hyde is fine with this. This is something that we're (inaudible).
QUESTION: Another UN-related matter, this upcoming international conference on racism in Durbin, South Africa. At this point, as you know, the Administration has threatened to boycott that conference unless certain language with regard to Zionism and reparations for slavery are included. We know the US is working now with other nations to change the language. Are you confident that the language will be removed?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am not confident yet. I want to go to that conference. The United States wants to be represented at that conference. It is an important conference. It should be a forward- looking conference. But we should not allow the conference to be sidetracked to deal with a contemporary political issue that is of concern to some members of the conference, and really isn't directly related to the purpose of the conference. And therefore, we are hoping to find language that will deal with the problem of slavery and deal with the other problems with respect to Israel. Because we do want to go to the conference. It's not threatening to boycott; the answer is, let's fix this so that the conference will serve its intended purpose, and the United States wants to be there.
QUESTION: There are African-American members of Congress who are saying just the fact that the Administration is threatening to boycott says -- and I'm quoting Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney -- "Perhaps indicative that the Bush White House is full of latent racists," she asks.
SECRETARY POWELL: This kind of absurd language is not helpful to the public dialogue. It has nothing to do with the Administration being racist. That is an unfortunate statement on Congresswoman McKinney's part. We are trying to create an environment so the conference will be successful. It is an important conference, and therefore, it should stick to the purpose of the conference and not go off into political issues that one particular segment of attendees feels really strongly about, because it will detract from the work of the conference.
And so what we are trying to do is to create a solid atmosphere to make it a successful conference. And so I just have to categorically disagree with Congresswoman McKinney's characterization.
QUESTION: Another issue at the United Nations and elsewhere, the Administration is under heavy criticism these days for rejecting a number of international treaties, from ABM to global warming, germ warfare --
SECRETARY POWELL: We have not rejected the ABM Treaty.
QUESTION: -- taken strong --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have not rejected it, or we haven't violated it. The ABM Treaty has existed for 30 years. We think it is not the kind of treaty that would serve the interests of strategic stability in the 21st century. So we are talking to the other signatory of the ABM Treaty to see if there is not a way to go forward. That is neither violating it nor throwing it aside.
QUESTION: But there are observers -- there are friends of this Administration who are looking at what is going on, and they are saying, there is a move across the board to step back from international treaties. The question is, is this sort of pick-and- choose-the-treaty-as-you-go-along unilateral approach, is that an approach you are comfortable with?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that is a correct characterization of the approach. The approach is that it starts this way: the United States is a participant in international organizations, a participant in a number of alliances that we are a part of or active participants in those alliances. I have just traveled throughout Asia. I have been in Africa. The President has been to Europe twice in the last couple of months. We are not becoming isolationists; we are not becoming unilateralists. We are participants in many multilateral organizations and multilateral treaties.
But several treaties and agreements have come along recently, where we have fundamental problems. And when we have those fundamental problems, we ought to be honest and speak directly to our partners about the problems we are having. Just because they are multilateral does not make them necessarily good for the purposes they try to achieve or good for our interests. And when that is the case, we go to speak out for our interests.
QUESTION: So you are not sort of feeling discomfort with this, and the perception out there that the US is going its own way?
SECRETARY POWELL: No -- there is clearly that perception, but I think that over time, when we see how the United States is involved around the world, that perception will dissipate.
QUESTION: Particular treaty -- Kyoto -- you said the US was going to work this fall to come up with substitute language. The President's National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said just a couple of days ago, there is no such deadline. Who is right on this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we all are hoping to get an answer as soon as possible. I was hoping to see if we could get something by COP-7, which is the next meeting. We may not have it by COP-7, so Condi was just sort of making sure that we didn't make too firm a commitment that we would have it exactly at the end of October.
And so there isn't that much of a difference that people would like to make. We are anxious -- as the President said repeatedly in Genoa -- we are anxious to get our position out as soon as possible. I would like to see it by the end of October in time for COP-7. Condi, being careful and cautious, is suggesting we may not have it by that time. But we are all moving as quickly as we can to have a US position ready as soon as we can get it.
QUESTION: I hear everything you're saying, and I finally have sort of a personal question, Mr. Secretary. There has been a lot written, a lot of ink spilled over the last several months, a lot of commentary on television that your own role in this Administration, about supposedly appointments being forced on you in your own department, about disagreements with others that have been out in the open over the Administration, over Korea, over Iraq, over the Balkans, and so on. The question being asked is, are you really happy in this job?
SECRETARY POWELL: Very happy. I have not had a single appointment forced on me. I have had people presented to me for my consideration who were active in the campaign. That is to be expected. But I have not had a single appointment foisted upon me that I did not wish to have in the Administration or the State Department. That just isn't true. It's not true.
With respect to the other issues, I get along just fine with my colleagues in the Administration. Do we have disagreements? Sure. Do we argue about things? Sure. Do we have to debate issues from time to time? Yes. But I am pleased to be a part of this Administration, and I can assure you that Mr. Rumsfeld, Dr. Rice, the President, Mr. Cheney -- we are all getting along just fine.
QUESTION: And you plan to serve the full term?
SECRETARY POWELL: I plan to serve as long as the President wishes me to serve. He has indicated in no way that he is not willing and wanting me to serve.
QUESTION: Where do these ideas come from?
SECRETARY POWELL: There's always this noise level within Washington. I have been in a number of administrations, and I've seen it. And whenever somebody has a disagreement, or when there is a slight difference in context, or two different statements are made that don't seem to be exactly the same, people take it to a level of a capital crime. And usually it's just the friction that exists within any organization as you try to find the right answer.
It would be an awfully boring, boring city if there was nothing that gave a source of tension and conflict that you all could write and comment upon. But when you look several weeks or a couple of months later on the supposedly cataclysmic crises, you find, well, you know, it all sort of worked out.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
QUESTION: It's good to see you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, you too.
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