Powell To House Committee on Intl. Relations
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release October 24, 2001 As Delivered
Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Before the House Committee on International Relations
October 24, 2001 Washington, D.C.
2:10 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your opening remarks and, Mr. Lantos, I thank you for your kind remarks as well. I have a long statement for the record that I would present for the record, Mr. Chairman, and it covers a number of the things that we have been doing since the 11th of September to prepare for this campaign. But I would just like to shorten all of that with a brief opening statement, so you can get right to your questions.
THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection, the full statement will be made a part of the record. And I hope, Mr. Secretary, you notice for the first time in my political career, we have real back benchers here. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POWELL: I notice members are double-decked in a way I have never seen before. (Laughter.)
THE CHAIRMAN: Please proceed.
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Chairman, let me congratulate you and the members of the Committee for this hearing today, to show that the people's House is at work, the People's representatives are at work, the American government is solid and at work. We are cautious, we are taking necessary precautions. But we will not be frightened, we will not be afraid to do the business that the people have sent us all here to do. And I can assure you that is also the attitude within the Administration and especially the attitude within your State Department.
I have been traveling around a bit lately, India, Pakistan, Shanghai, and a number of other places, and I can also report to you that the men and women of the Department of State are hard at work, serving under rather arduous circumstances these days, with the same kind of threats that we see here on Capitol Hill and other parts of town. And I think I just need to report to you that you should be proud of the great job that your diplomats in action are doing for the American people.
Mr. Chairman, I would also like to thank this Committee and, frankly, the entire Congress for the support that you have provided to the President's efforts since the 11th of September. It means a great deal to us. And, not only that, it sends a signal to the world that we are unified. We are unified under President Bush's leadership. We are unified to pursue those who are responsible for the tragic events of September 11th. That day is seared into all of our souls, it is a day we will never forget.
But we came out of that day with a deep resolve, to make sure that those who are responsible for that day will pay for it, will be brought to justice or, as the President said, will have justice brought to them.
To that end, the President has undertaken a campaign to go after them. It is a campaign that has many dimensions to it, financial attacks, law enforcement attacks, intelligence attacks, military attacks. It is a campaign that is being waged not only by the United States but by a broad international coalition that has come together. And the reason this coalition has come together so quickly and so successfully is that everybody who has joined this coalition realizes that what happened in the United States on the 11th of September and especially what happened in New York was not just an attack against America, was not just an attack against New York, it was an attack against civilization. It was an attack against the world community. Some 80 nations lost citizens in the World Trade Center, and all of those nations have joined us in the counter-attack, the campaign to go after those responsible.
But the President understood right away, within 24 hours, that it could not just be a campaign against the perpetrators who are clearly the al- Qaida organization led by Usama bin Laden. It had to be against all forms of terrorism. It had to be a broad-based campaign that brought all of the members of the international community together once and for all to go after this scourge that exists on the face of the earth, this scourge that is targeted against civilization, this scourge that is targeted against the democratic way of life, the democratic way of doing things.
As Mr. Lantos said, it has nothing to do with Iraqi sanctions, it has nothing to do with our presence in the Persian Gulf. We are there to defend Muslims, to defend Muslims from other Muslims. So our purpose there is noble, is an attack against who we are, our value systems, our belief in the dignity of the individual, our belief in democracy, our belief in the free enterprise system -- that is what it is an attack against. And it is not an attack that was delivered against us in the name of faith. It is a violation of the faith of Islam. It is a violation of every known faith that any man or woman believes in, and we must not let Usama bin Laden make this false claim.
We cannot also let him make the claim that somehow he is doing it in the name of the Palestinian people or betrodden Muslims. He lifted not a finger, he gave not a dollar of the wealth that he had to help his fellow Muslims or to help the people who are suffering in the Middle East. Instead, he used his money for the worst sorts of purposes, to go out and murder innocent civilians. And we must not let him get away with delivering a message that is different from that simple message.
As the President has said, he is an evildoer, he must be punished as an evildoer. And there are many terrorist organizations around the world that are similarly motivated. And we have to go after them wherever we find them.
The first phase of this campaign against terrorism is after Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida, and wherever al-Qaida exists throughout the world, not just in Afghanistan. And I now come to the fact that we put this rather incredible coalition together. There are some who have said, well, isn't the coalition a burden? Doesn't the coalition in some way constrain the President of the United States?
The answer: it does not constrain him in the slightest. As we pulled this coalition together, we made sure that the President retained all of his constitutional authority, for obviously when you have a coalition, you have to be considerate of the interests of all the members of the coalition. But in being considerate of the interests of all the members of the coalition, the President in no way gave away any of his authority to act as he saw fit and may see fit in the future to protect American interests.
Second point with respect to the coalition. Without this coalition, we wouldn't be able to wage this campaign. We wouldn't be able to conduct this war. If we're going after the financial systems of these organizations, you can't do it just by yourself. You need all the nations that have financial systems that are relevant to come in to this coalition so we can work together.
If you're going to go after the intelligence infrastructure that he uses so we can get inside of that intelligence system, then you have to use all the intelligence systems of the coalition members. If you want to deliver a military strike against Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida and the Taliban regime, you need a coalition to do that. You need people who will go into battle with you, you need people who will give you overflight, you need people who will support you. And the President has been absolutely marvelous, in my judgment, in pulling such a coalition together.
I will make one final point about this coalition. It was hard to stop it. Once people saw what happened on the 11th of September, they weren't just sitting around waiting for us to beg them to come into a coalition arrangement. Within 24 hours, NATO had acted, invoking Article V. Within 48 hours, the UN had acted, passing a Security Council resolution and then a General Assembly resolution. And as we really got ourselves mobilized, they came in one after the other, the ANZUS Treaty invoked, the Rio Pact invoked, organizations around the world wanting to be a part of this. The OAS and recently the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 56 Islamic nations coming together just two weeks ago. We were worried about it. Would they come out with something that might be troublesome for us. Instead, they came out with a strong, powerful statement that said what Usama bin Laden and his associates did on the 11th of September was wrong, was representative of no faith, was not representative of the faith of Islam and was a desecration. And they understood the necessity for action against such terrorists and such kinds of activity.
And so this is a coalition that is in the interests of our goals and objectives. It is a coalition that people have suggested, well, it will start to fray, it will start to break up. Well, it's been six weeks now; it's getting stronger.
The President just came back from a trip to Shanghai where he met with APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization. And 21 Asian Pacific nations came together and, in their final declaration, gave the President a strong, strong show of support, all united. All want to cooperate with the financial piece, the economic piece, the intelligence piece, the law enforcement piece, securing our borders. How do we look at visas, how do we look at people traveling around. And a number of them came forward and said, we want to be a part of the military organization. In fact, my colleague, Don Rumsfeld, was having as much difficulty figuring out how to use all the military support that has been offered to him as he has in applying those who were already in the field.
We have also had a number of nations that have come forward and said, look, we are with you in the whole strategy that you have laid out, not just to get al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden and Afghanistan, but what happens after that, after the Taliban is defeated and they're no longer there. We want to be a part of that effort that puts in a new system, a new government for the Afghan people, a broad-based government, representing all elements of Afghan society, we want to be a part of that, the UN wants to be a part of that. We know that may require some peacekeepers or others to go in to help this new government get up and running and started, and we are working with the UN and all interested nations in that regard.
We are working with the different elements of Afghan society in the great Diaspora that is around the world, working with the King in Rome, working with others, talking to all of the countries that are within the neighborhood to make sure that we have a sense of what everybody would like to do. Nations are coming forward with humanitarian aid, to make sure that we get what we need into Afghanistan as the winter approaches. That is perhaps one of our most difficult challenges at the moment.
Nations are also coming in and saying, once we get a new government in place that is representative of all the people of Afghanistan, we want to stay there in order to help build the country, perhaps for the first time. Not just rebuild, but build for the first time to give hope to the people of Afghanistan.
We are also working hard, Mr. Chairman, to deal with the public diplomacy aspects of this crisis. We want to get the message out that Usama bin Laden is evil, his action is evil. One of the problems we have is that out in the street, as they say, below the level of government, there are a number of citizens in Muslim countries who look at us as the aggressor. We're not the aggressor; we have never gone to attack any Islamic country. We have never gone to invade any Muslim people. We have never gone to subject them; we have gone to the Gulf to rescue Kuwait from Iraq. We are there as a force for stability, a force that protects the people of the region. And we have to do a better job at making our case, and we are hard at work doing that.
I also must say, Mr. Chairman, that even though I am now a diplomat and no longer Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I cannot help but view what my colleagues in uniform are doing and view it with the greatest of admiration. We all should be so proud of what the wonderful men and women entrusted to our care by the American people are doing over the skies of Afghanistan and some on the ground. And we must also be very thankful for the forces of other nations that are participating with us in all of this.
The humanitarian challenge I touched on earlier is a difficult one and we are working with the United Nations, the World Food Program and all of the neighboring countries to make sure we can do everything possible to get the tonnages in. And also, as you noted, Secretary Rumsfeld and my colleagues in the Pentagon are also hard at work dropping in supplies from the air in order to provide some emergency support. And as we get further into the season, we might find that that air bridge has an even more important role to play.
I just would conclude, Mr. Chairman, by saying that this is a noble cause that we are all embarked upon. And it is a cause that we must prevail in, we must be persistent, we must be patient. This isn't a battle that is going to be won suddenly one day. It is going to be a campaign, a battle, a war that is going to continue. And people have asked me, how will we know when we have been successful? How will we know when we have won?
And we will have won when we are living in security again, when we are being cautious about how we travel and the other things we do in our daily lives, but when we are once again secure in our homes, secure in our cities, secure in our official buildings here in Washington and elsewhere around the country, and when we get back to that America that we all know and love so well, we are not threatened by this kind of terrorism. And when we also help other nations around the world to get rid of the terrorist threats that they face. That is when we know we will have been successful.
I believe we will be successful because the cause is just. It is a correct battle to fight at this time. And because I know that under President Bush's leadership, we will apply the resources, the will and the determination to that challenge and I am quite confident we will enjoy the support of the American Congress, the American people and the members of our coalition as we move forward.
I would like to stop at this point, Mr. Chairman, and invite your questions and the questions of your members.