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Interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
January 19, 2003

MR. BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks once again for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Wolf, and congratulations on your fifth anniversary.

MR. BLITZER: Oh, thank you very much. A quick question everybody in the country, people around the world, want to know: Will there be a war with Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're still hoping for a peaceful solution, but it is up to Saddam Hussein and Iraq to make that decision. Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei are in Baghdad today. I hope they will make it clear to Saddam Hussein that he is running out of time, he has got to cooperate; moreover, he has got to disarm and he has got to do it in a way that the inspectors don't have to go hunt-and-peck looking for things, but that Iraq comes forward and meets the will of the international community that it must disarm of its weapons of mass destruction. If they do that, there is still a chance for a peaceful solution.

MR. BLITZER: How much time do the Iraqis have?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we'll see. I think time is running out. We can't keep this up forever. And we'll all look forward to receiving the report from Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei next Monday, the 27th of January, at the United Nations. And after that, the Security Council will have an opportunity to make its judgment as to what should happen next, and the President of the United States will also make his judgment as to what he thinks should happen next.

MR. BLITZER: Well, you're quoted as saying earlier in the week, you said, "We believe a persuasive case will be there at the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating."

SECRETARY POWELL: I think there is a persuasive case there now. Iraq has given us a false declaration in December, still has not accounted for stocks of various biological and chemical agents that we know they had. And there is a discrepancy between what they had and what they are now reporting they have, and they have not solved those discrepancies. And we simply can't walk away from that kind of discrepancy.

So there is a case now. And we will see how strong that case looks when Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei report, but I think it's fairly persuasive that they are not cooperating, and I hope they understand as a result of the visit of the two chief inspectors today that time is running out on them.

MR. BLITZER: It's one thing not to cooperate. It's another thing to find a smoking gun. The inspectors say so far they have not found a smoking gun. Is not cooperating enough of a smoking gun, if you will, to justify war?

SECRETARY POWELL: That will be a matter for the Council to decide, and the President will make his own decision. But, you know, look at what we have found. We have found false declarations. There are all sorts of toxic agents that are unaccounted for. And then this week, the inspectors found chemical rockets. Now, those rockets are not just laying benignly around. What are they doing there? Why --

MR. BLITZER: But they were --

SECRETARY POWELL: What difference does it make? The point is that they are designed for a unique purpose, and that is to carry a chemical agent. And so they should have been declared. They should have been destroyed. This is the kind of weapon that Iraq says it no longer has, and yet there it is.

Now, whether that constitutes one person's smoking gun or some other person's smoking gun, I think it contributes to a body of evidence that suggests Iraq is not disarming and is not cooperating with efforts of the United Nations inspectors to get them to disarm. And that's what we're looking for, and I hope that message comes through clearly today when they meet with the Iraqi officials.

MR. BLITZER: Well, the Iraqis say it was simply a slip, they made a mistake.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. Well, how many other slips are there out there? They are laying there. They are in a facility. It's not a slip. They knew they were there. Somebody knew they were there. The inspectors found them. They didn't have a chance to hide these. How many other slips are there?

And when you look at the declaration, when you look at the efforts they have been taking to hide things, when you see the documents that are relevant -- relevant to knowing the truth -- are being squirreled away in the homes of scientists, when scientists are not allowed to come forward, then you can't say that they are participating in the effort to make sure they have no weapons of mass destruction.

And so I think their record so far, since the passage of UN Resolution 1441, is not a good record. And they have very little time left to make it a good record. And everybody knows what they have to do: come forward, tell the truth, give an accurate declaration, tell us what happened to these stocks of biological and chemical agents, tell us what you've got and put it out there for the inspectors to see. If you say you don't have them, if you say you're clean, then come clean.

And time is running out and we just can't keep hunting and pecking and looking and trying to see if we can capture something or discover something. Iraq is supposed to be cooperating in this effort. Iraq is supposed to be disarming. And they have not established, to my satisfaction anyway, and I think to the satisfaction of the international community, that they are moving in good faith to disarm, which is what they're supposed to do under the resolution.

MR. BLITZER: You keep saying time is running out. How much time do they have?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not prepared to give a time here today, Wolf, because I think it's important that we continue this deliberative process that was set out in UN Resolution 1441. Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei will report next Monday. The Council will hear their report, take their report into account. So will the President of the United States and his advisors. And then we'll see what happens next or what steps are appropriate after that.

MR. BLITZER: You have heard the chief UN inspector Hans Blix say that after January 27th, a week from tomorrow, they still need 60 days thereafter to come up with another review before any action necessarily could be taken. Do you accept that argument?

SECRETARY POWELL: I heard Dr. Blix, and what he's referring to, of course, is another UN Resolution, 1284, which has another deadline to it.

MR. BLITZER: That was back in 1998.

SECRETARY POWELL: Right. Well, 1999, if I'm not mistaken. Early 1999.

But the real issue is how the Council views this. 1441, the latest resolution, was rather specific. We want an accurate, complete and full declaration of what you're doing. We want cooperation with inspections. We don't want you to frustrate their efforts. Iraq is making it hard for us to perform aerial reconnaissance in support of the UN inspectors. And so far, they have not acted in a way that suggests they're serious about disarming. And if they're not serious about disarming, the Council should recognize that next week and start to decide what to do, and not just say let's just keep going and slip into the 1284, the other resolution, route.

And so I know Dr. Blix is operating under two resolutions, but the fact of the matter, it will be up to the Council to decide what happens next after Dr. Blix reports and Dr. El Baradei reports.

MR. BLITZER: Some of the allies -- the French, other permanent members of the Security Council, the Russians -- say they need a second resolution before there can be any war. You disagree with them. Why?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm saying that there is more than enough evidence, and frankly there is more than enough authority in previous resolutions, if it becomes necessary to act unilaterally or with likeminded nations.

But there are a number of nations who say they would like to see a second resolution. Well, the United States will examine the evidence that is before us after the two inspectors report next week. We'll consult with our friends and allies. And it is up to the Security Council to decide whether or not they want a referral to Council to see whether or not a second resolution is appropriate at this time.

And if that is what the Council wants to do, the United States would certainly participate in that debate. But the President has always said, from the very beginning, that the object is to disarm Iraq, and if the UN is not willing to do it and is not willing to be relevant in a situation such as this, the United States reserves the option, if it feels it must do so, to act with likeminded nations to disarm Iraq.

MR. BLITZER: But as you well know, being a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you can't keep tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of US troops in the Persian Gulf region forever in an unlimited capacity, 50- or 60- or 70,000 Marines aboard amphibious assault ships under a hot sun in the Persian Gulf. How long can you keep them there? So there is a sort of deadline that's created by the deployment.

SECRETARY POWELL: The President has not made a decision. These are deployments with the purpose of supporting diplomacy and making sure there is no doubt in Saddam Hussein's mind that we're going to keep the pressure on. If we had not shown a willingness to put in place a military force, the inspectors would never have gotten in. Iraq isn't doing this as, you know, a cooperative effort. They still don't understand that they must comply with the requirements of 1441 or they're going to face military action.

And therefore, it is very prudent of the United States and other nations to begin deploying armed forces to the region. Now, how long they would stay and how long you can maintain a particular level, I will let my colleague Don Rumsfeld talk to that. But the President has made it clear that we will position ourselves to do whatever might be necessary in the absence of Saddam Hussein disarming under the terms of 1441.

MR. BLITZER: If you take a look at this proposal apparently out there, the Saudis, the Turks, others, that want to see some Iraqi generals overthrow Saddam Hussein or get Saddam Hussein to leave, to go into exile someplace.

Do either of these proposals, in your estimate, have a chance of succeeding?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm not familiar with all of these proposals that are being talked about in the press. I don't know how real any of them are. I think the Iraqi people would be a lot better off and this whole situation would be resolved if Saddam Hussein and all of those around him who think like him -- his sons and the top leadership of the regime -- would leave so that others could step forward who would understand the importance of disarming and how a better future awaits the Iraqi people if they disarmed and cooperated with the UN and used their oil wealth for the benefit of the people, as opposed to developing weapons of mass destruction to threaten their neighbors and to threaten the world.

And so if that were to happen, I think that would be just fine, from my standpoint. But I don't know how much merit there is to these various so-called proposals.

MR. BLITZER: Are you open to supporting a UN Security Council resolution that would give amnesty to these generals, these military officers, if they were to rise up against Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I would certainly consider it. I can't say in the abstract whether or not we would support such a resolution or not. If this happens or there is a possibility of it happening, I'd be more than willing to talk to my colleagues in the UN about it. But I'm not going to say today in a hypothetical sense what we might or might not do.

MR. BLITZER: Five years ago, you were on his program, the first year that I was hosting this program, and we spoke about Iraq. You were then in the private sector. I want you to listen to what you said:

"Perhaps we should communicate to the Iraqis that we're not going to get into this "Perils of Pauline" exercise every few months. Once you have denied us access to a particular facility, we're going to put that on the target list and take it out at a time of our choosing, and not have to create large armadas every four months to impose our will."

MR. BLITZER: That was a little younger Colin Powell, five years ago, in April 1998. But those words probably still ring true today.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they tried it with Desert Fox, I think later that year, and it didn't persuade the Iraqis to disarm. And so a policy was adopted at the end of the Clinton Administration and continued under this administration, toward the end of the Clinton Administration, that said regime change seems to be the only thing these people understand.

And so, once again, they are being given a last chance by the United Nations, under 1441, to disarm, change the nature of this regime, disarm, participate in the disarmament, cooperate with your disarmament, come forward, be honest. You say you don't have them? Then let's establish the facts that you don't have. But we think you do have them. And if that is not the solution you choose, then it is not going to be pinpricks; it's going to be a military operation that will remove the regime.

MR. BLITZER: Like me, you lived through the anti-war demonstrations during Vietnam. Yesterday, a big demonstration here in Washington, elsewhere around the country. How concerned are you that this anti-war movement seems to be growing across the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, people are free to express their concerns and there's always a great deal of anxiety when it looks like military action may be coming. But I think most American people understand that if we have to undertake military action, it will be for good reason, and that is to disarm a regime that is threatening its neighbors and threatening the United States, and they would support the President if it becomes necessary to undertake military action.

MR. BLITZER: Just ahead, more of my interview with the Secretary of State. I'll ask him his thoughts on President Bush's position on affirmative action. We'll also talk about the situation involving North Korea.

First, we've welcomed you, our Late Edition viewers, from many places around the world over the past five years. Take a look.

(Programming break.)

MR. BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Fifth Anniversary of Late Edition. Now back to my interview with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

The New York Times, in an editorial today, writes this: "The Bush Administration's radically different responses to weapons threats from Iraq and North Korea have confused the American people. Worse, they risk sending other rogue states the perverse message that the way to receive lenient treatment from Washington is to develop nuclear weapons."

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think that's an incorrect assessment. We don't have a cookie-cutter policy for every situation. Iraq -- we have tried to solve that problem diplomatically for 12 years.

In the case of North Korea, we all had believed that the problem had been dealt with with the Agreed Framework of 1994 that, at least for eight years, capped what was happening at the facilities at Yongbyon. But we discovered earlier last year that those activities may have been capped at Yongbyon, but the North Koreans had started another nuclear weapons development program having to do with enriched uranium.

And this administration did not ignore those facts, did not walk away from them. We presented those facts to the North Koreans. We said we know what you're doing. Now, we want to have a better relationship with you. We believe there are ways we can help your starving population, your country without electricity, your country with a failed economy. We have a bold approach, but you've got to stop this kind of activity.

And what did they do? They acknowledged the existence of this program. And so we are now three months into this situation with North Korea. And the President still believes strongly that a diplomatic solution is possible, and we're working with our friends and allies to achieve a diplomatic solution, just as we were trying to do with Iraq for 12 years.

MR. BLITZER: Are you close?

SECRETARY POWELL: So there isn't inconsistency in the policy. It's, I think, silly to think that because you're doing -- you're adopting a certain set of policy tools in one place, you have to adopt them in another place in the same fashion.

I think we are seeing some progress with respect to the work we are doing with our friends in the region. This is an international problem. It's not just a problem between the United States and North Korea. It's between North Korea and its neighbors and the international community, the IAEA, the UN, as well as the United States. And we are working with all of those parties and I'll be in New York this afternoon at the UN speaking to my fellow foreign ministers on the Security Council.

MR. BLITZER: On this issue?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

MR. BLITZER: Whether to bring it before the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: We'll be discussing it. Right now, it is not -- it is being considered by the IAEA, and I hope that the Board of Governors will meet in the not too distant future in Vienna and, from that meeting, make a referral of the matter to the Security Council.

MR. BLITZER: The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersch writes a new article in The New Yorker just coming out, and he writes this:

"One American intelligence official who has attended recent White House meetings cautioned against relying on the day-to-day administration statements that emphasize a quick settlement of the dispute. The public talk of compromise is being matched by much private talk of high-level vindication. `Bush and Cheney want the guy's head,' Kim Jong-il's, 'on a platter. Don't be distracted by all this talk about negotiations. There will be negotiations, but they have a plan and they are going to get this guy after Iraq. He's their version of Hitler.'"

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no idea what Mr. Hersch is talking about. I've been in every meeting with the President since this began to unfold, since the beginning of the administration, and the President has made it clear he wants this solved diplomatically. I refer you to the President's speech in South Korea last February where he spoke about a better future for the peninsula, where he spoke to the North and said we want to help, we're helping you with food, and we want to see the light that exists in the South extend to the North. And so I have been in no conversation that reflects that kind of judgment.

MR. BLITZER: We have only a minute left, but let me ask you about affirmative action, an issue the President raised this week in opposing the University of Michigan's policies on affirmative action. This is what you said at the Republican convention in 2000. Listen to this:

"We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community, the kind of cynicism that is created when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interest. It doesn't work."

MR. BLITZER: Did the President ask for your opinion on affirmative action before he went public this week?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President and I have spoken about affirmative action on a number of occasions, and particularly about the time of my speech to the convention. He was not surprised by my speech. He is quite familiar with my views on affirmative action. And we had a conversation about the Michigan case just about the time he was deciding it.

I think what the President has done in this case is to leave open the possibility for the court to make a judgment as to how race can or can not be used, and he restricted the brief that he submitted, that the government submitted, to the merits of the Michigan case. And I think reasonable people can differ over that case. The President made a judgment that he felt that the program followed by the University of Michigan was unconstitutional, and therefore he felt he had an obligation to present that point of view to the court.

And it is now up to the court to make a judgment as to whether that kind of affirmative action program at the University of Michigan is acceptable or not. And we will see what the court believes. I am, as you know, a strong proponent of affirmative action. I wish it was possible for everything to be race-neutral in this country, but I'm afraid we are not yet at that point where things are race-neutral.

MR. BLITZER: So you still believe that race should be a factor, one of many factors, in accepting young kids to college?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think -- I most certainly do. I believe race should be a factor, among many other factors, in determining the makeup of a student body of a university. A public university, a university, exists to educate the public, and if there is any segment of the public that is not adequately represented in the university, is the university doing its chartered job for the public?

So, in the case of Michigan, they were trying to get more minorities into the university and into the law school. They were also trying to get more students from the upper peninsula of Michigan to make the university more representative.

Each university goes about this in a different way. President Bush, when he faced this issue as Governor Bush and found that he had to change the policies for the University of Texas system, put in place, or the legislature put in place, with his support, a 10 percent rule that said that the top 10 percent of all high school graduating classes in Texas were eligible to go to the public universities of Texas. That was another way to get at it. President Bush calls it "affirmative access."

One thing I'm absolutely sure is that President Bush is committed to diversity in education. And he has said so. He and I have talked about it on many occasions. It's just that he found that the University of Michigan case did not meet what he believed was a constitutional test.

MR. BLITZER: Ten seconds. Do you still think the University of Michigan has the stronger case, as you suggested two years ago?

SECRETARY POWELL: Several years ago when I looked at it, I thought the University of Michigan had a strong case, and now it is before the Supreme Court to make a decision.

MR. BLITZER: All right. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much. Good luck to you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
[End]


Released on January 19, 2003

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