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Powell on Fox News Sunday With Tony Snow

Interview on Fox News Sunday With Tony Snow

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 9, 2003

(Aired 9:00 a.m. EST)


MR. SNOW: Mr. Secretary, let's first begin with the prospect of a vote in the United Nations Security Council. It's going to take place this week?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

MR. SNOW: And it is the resolution that says that by March 17th Saddam must comply fully with Resolution 1441?

SECRETARY POWELL: It says that if by March 17th he hasn't complied, and there are some terms in the resolution that describe what compliance means, he will be seen to have lost his last chance to comply. And I think everybody knows what that means: it's time to force compliance through the use of military force.

MR. SNOW: Is there any wiggle room on that date, or is March 17th going to be the date?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's the date in the resolution and I have no plans to change it, and no one has suggested to me it be changed, although I'm sure there are a lot of people who would just like to see this drag on and on and on.

MR. SNOW: Do you think you may be able to get nine or ten votes in the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think we're in striking distance of that. We'll be in intense negotiations over the next couple of days. A lot of diplomacy will be taking place. But I think we're in striking distance of nine or ten. But we'll just have to wait and see what individual nations, who will have to make up their minds, actually vote for on the day of the vote.

MR. SNOW: Do you believe, if you get nine or ten votes, that France will veto?

SECRETARY POWELL: I will not speculate on that. I think it's --

MR. SNOW: Would you be surprised?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would not be surprised if they veto, because they've been pretty clear that they want to stop that resolution. I don't think they've hidden their hand on this one. They've been out front saying they don't think is the way to go. But we'll wait and see what they actually do. But right now, I would expect the French to do everything they can to stop it, to include possibly the use of a veto, although they haven't used the veto word.

MR. SNOW: You don't believe Saddam Hussein will comply with the terms of this resolution by the 17th, do you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's very unlikely, and what he said yesterday is further evidence of the kind of individual and regime we're dealing with. In the midst of all of this, with Dr. Blix giving a mixed report on Friday, and with Dr. Blix issuing a document of almost 200 pages showing all of his misbehavior, Saddam's misbehavior over the years, and all the unanswered questions that have been there for years, for Saddam Hussein to stand up and say, I've complied now, get rid of the sanctions, and him start placing demands on the United Nations, this is outrageous. And it seems to me every member of the Security Council should be offended this morning that Saddam Hussein, once again, shows his brazen attitude toward the international community.

MR. SNOW: So, unlikely that he's going to make the moves by March 17th; at that point, there's one option left?

SECRETARY POWELL: At that point, I think if there is a resolution passed and he hasn't done what is required by the 17th, then he's lost his last chance, and at that point I think there is a high likelihood that military force is what's going to disarm Saddam Hussein by changing the regime.

MR. SNOW: Isn't it the case that that's likely to happen regardless of what the UN Security Council does?

SECRETARY POWELL: If the UN Security Council does act in a positive way, and we hope it will, then clearly military force will be appropriate and there will be international support for that through the UN. If the UN Security Council fails to act, does not pass this resolution, well, that's the choice the Council has to make. But the President has always said he reserves his option and he believes there is a sufficient basis in international law, and certainly in the congressional resolution that was passed here last fall, for him to act with a willing coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein by removing the regime.

MR. SNOW: We've been led to believe the vote will take place Tuesday. Is that your understanding?

SECRETARY POWELL: It will take place sometime this week. I don't want to be precise with respect to a particular day. It won't be tomorrow, Monday.

We put the resolution down in a modified fashion on Friday, and we have to give members of the Council a little bit of time to get back home and reflect on it.

MR. SNOW: Suppose there is military action. A couple of practical questions. First, will the government give public notice to journalists and others saying, okay, you need to get out?

SECRETARY POWELL: If military action is coming, there will have to be some, I think, prudent notice given to people who might not want to be in Iraq.

MR. SNOW: What do you say to human shields?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it would be wise for them to remove themselves, as well, if it appears that military action is imminent.

MR. SNOW: And if they don't?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are going to fight this battle, if it is necessary to fight this battle, and we still hope it will not be necessary, but if it becomes necessary, we'll do it in the way we have always done it -- with utmost care, with respect to targeting with utmost care to minimize collateral damage, and to make sure that we are not doing anything that puts civilians unnecessarily in harm's way. That is always a risk.

MR. SNOW: But they're on their own?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I don't know where they will all be and I don't know what positions they would be at. As for my understanding of the situation, many of those human shields have started to depart Iraq and some have actually been evicted by the Iraqi regime.

MR. SNOW: President Carter, former President Carter, had an op-ed piece in The New York Times today. I want to read a quote from that piece and then get your reaction. Here is what former President Carter had to say:

"Increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations."

Do you think the United States is held in lower esteem today than when Jimmy Carter was President?

SECRETARY POWELL: I won't compare it to President Carter's presidency. Let me just say that there are a number of nations in the world that are fully supporting our efforts, and you heard a number of them speak at the Security Council the other day: Spain, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal, the newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union. So we need to knock down this idea that nobody is on our side and we're totally isolated. Australia. So many nations recognize this danger. And they do it in the face of public opposition.

And I have been in a number of crises over my career in public service where, when it's a choice between peace and war, people will generally vote for peace. They want peace. I want peace. But sometimes, conflict is necessary. And if you do it right, if you do it well, if you demonstrate that you are leaving something better in place after the conflict, then attitudes change and people, frankly, respect what you have done.

MR. SNOW: Let's talk about the United Nations a bit. The United States, the administration, decided to go before the United Nations and seek ratification of a series of policies designed to get Saddam Hussein to disarm. During that time, the President's ratings have slipped precipitously in the United States. Our polls show that his ratings have gone from 77 percent to 55 percent in the course of just one year. In addition, European nations that were singing our praises after September 11th, now are demonstrating in the streets.

So what have we gained?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we gained by going to the United Nations was Resolution 1441, which was unanimously approved by the Security Council, that said Saddam Hussein is guilty and there's only one way for him to get out of that state of guilt, and that's to come clean immediately, unconditionally, without any reservations, or he'd face serious consequences. Everybody knew when we voted for that resolution what it meant.

He has not done it unconditionally. He hasn't done it. He hasn't complied. That's a simple fact he hasn't changed. Therefore, it is becoming time for serious consequences to kick in. But a lot of our friends don't like facing that reality of serious consequences. Many people in the world, unfortunately, don't see the danger as clearly as I think we do, the Brits do, the Spaniards do, the Australians do, so many others do. Weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological weapons, the potential to develop nuclear weapons in this day and age, with a nexus between rogue states and the potential for terrorists to get their hands on that kind of material, seems to me create a new strategic dimension, a new strategic environment, that this President is not willing to just step back from.

He was asked to be multilateral. The President was asked to take the case to the UN. He did. And it's going to be very unfortunate if the UN uses 1441 as a way to wiggle away from their responsibilities, as opposed to step up to their responsibilities.

MR. SNOW: Is that not what Hans Blix has done already? In his testimony the other day -- and you caught this -- he switched from talking about Resolution 1441 to Resolution to Resolution 1284, which was negotiated some time ago and is considerably weaker, he changed the goal posts, did he not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, he tried to shift to 1284, and he is operating under 1284. Hans Blix is a decent, honest man, and nobody made 1284 go away. But 1441 said immediately, unconditional, now. 1284 was a more deliberate process, partial results for partial progress. Interestingly, France delayed 1284 for seven months and then abstained from voting for 1284.

And so, you know, it's kind of curious to find myself in this position where France has been against active efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein, and I was hoping that with their support of 1441, which took seven weeks to achieve, they now have understood that disarmament must come, and 1441 was a means for that disarmament if Iraq didn't comply, not a means to kick the can down the street longer and allow Saddam Hussein to achieve his objective, which is to stretch this out long enough so that we lose interest, we go away, the troops go home, and nothing has changed with respect to his desire to have these weapons.

MR. SNOW: Which gets us back to the UN process. It has, in fact, dragged things out. People do not have the same sense of urgency they had before. Is it not the case that going through all this, as respectful as it of the United Nations, has actually made it more difficult to go after Saddam Hussein and given him more time to dig in so that war is more likely, and blood war is more likely?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it certainly has given him more time to do whatever it is he's going to do, whatever he is going to do. But at the same time, I think it was essential for the President to take the case to the United Nations. And in terms of our own preparations, it takes to put in place the kind of force necessary, not only to give pressure to diplomatic efforts, but also to be ready to use force. And so I don't think much time was lost with respect to our military preparations and it was an important step to take.

We always recognized that it was a risky step, but the President, in response to, you know, some of the pressures we hear from overseas, he brought it to the United Nations, where it should have been brought.

MR. SNOW: If France were to veto, what do you think that would do to French credibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it would be unfortunate if France decided to veto this resolution in the presence of a positive vote that would pass the resolution, and I think France would not be looked upon favorably in many parts of the world. And certainly, even though France has been a friend of ours for many, many years and will be a friend in the future, I think it will have a serious effect on bilateral relations, at least in the short term.

MR. SNOW: Let's talk a bit about Friday's drama before the United Nations Security Council. As you mentioned, Hans Blix delivered a mixed report. What he said before everybody was that, as a matter of fact, there have been a series of things that he had investigated and found no evidence.

As a matter of fact, I want to focus preliminarily on one thing that you've talked about, mobile biological laboratories. Here is what Mr. Blix had to say to the Security Council about that:

"Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found."

When he talks about those mobile food laboratories and places where people grow things and that there was no evidence there, this is the second time that he's taken direct issue with something you raised before the Security Council on February 14th. Is he getting it wrong?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. What he said was he hasn't found any yet. It doesn't mean they're not there. We have solid evidence that they are there. We have firsthand defector information that there are mobile biological laboratories.

He also said, well, maybe one way to do it would be to put roadblocks out and to sort of blanket the country with traffic cops, seeing if we can catch one of these things on the road. I think it's unlikely that that would work.

If Saddam Hussein was really intent on complying with the resolutions, I think he would be bringing forward evidence, he would be bringing forward all of these programs, he would be bringing forward weapons. We wouldn t be searching for them, we wouldn't be tripping over them, we wouldn't suddenly discover something like R-400 bomb fragments. These are master bureaucrats in Iraq. They keep records on everything. The evidence is there somewhere, and they're not presenting the evidence.

MR. SNOW: And Hans Blix has put together so-called cluster reports that apparently are pretty, as you point, they're damning. Does it bother you that he did not make more of Iraqi noncompliance during the course of his remarks?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think he could have done a lot more with respect to noncompliance. When you look at his cluster report, when you look at page after page of what the Iraqis have done over the years to hide, to deceive, to cheat, to keep information away from the inspectors, to change facts to fit the latest issue, and once they put that set of facts before you, when you find out those facts are false, they come up with a new set of facts. It's a constant pattern.

And when you read his clusters, you see a series of questions at the end that the Iraqis could have answered anytime over the last 12 years to make this problem go away. The problems are still there. The lies are still there.

MR. SNOW: Does it bother you that he did not talk publicly before the Security Council --

SECRETARY POWELL: I think --

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think he could have made more of the deficiencies within that, within the cluster document, but I don't write his script.

MR. SNOW: What about an addendum where he mentions that drones could fly over and inflict serious damage on our troops? That was submitted after he had given his testimony.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. And there is a drone, as they call it, or a UAV program that they came upon that they discovered that they're not supposed to have, looks like it is a prohibited item.

MR. SNOW: Well, is that --

SECRETARY POWELL: And that's the kind of thing we're going to be making some news about in the course of the week and point this out. And there are other things that have been found that I think more can be made of.

MR. SNOW: You said on the 14th of February that you have more information to deliver about al-Qaida cooperation with Iraq. When are we going to see that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the CIA and other intelligence agencies of the government are hard at work in generating more information that suggests there is a nexus between al-Qaida and Iraq. We are not trying to overstate this case and we're not trying to force any conclusions with respect to 9/11, but we think there's a pretty good case that, with the al-Zarqawi presence that we have seen in Baghdad, with other things that have gone on, the Baghdad regime is witting of the presence of al-Qaida in Iraq and it is certainly a place where they can find some opportunity to perform, to act, to find haven. And so we don't want to overstate the case, but we're not going to listen to the case that says there is no connection, because that isn't accurate.

MR. SNOW: North Korea. We think they may have nuclear weapons already. The Yongbyon nuclear facility up and running again. This is the chief arms proliferating nation in the world. It's a clear threat. Democrats are saying right now, as a matter of fact, it's a greater present threat than Iraq. Isn't that true?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're treating it as a threat. They are both threats, and we are not ignoring the threat in North Korea. So far, they have not started the reprocessing facility and we continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is with a multilateral approach. And even as recently as this Friday up at the UN, I was working with my colleagues in the UN to bring together a group for a multilateral approach.

MR. SNOW: Do you expect we're going to see results of that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I'm still confident that we can find a diplomatic solution and we're working hard. I can't tell you exactly when.

But what we are not going to do is simply say, because they demand to speak to us and only us and only in a bilateral setting, that's what we're going to do. Because the last time we had a bilateral negotiation with the North Koreans, it resulted in the Agreed Framework, which bottled Yongbyon so that no weapons came out of Yongbyon for another eight years, but it left the capacity to develop weapons in place at Yongbyon; and while they were doing that and we were watching that, before the ink was dry on the Agreed Framework, the North Koreans had started to move in another direction to develop the same kinds of nuclear weapons that we thought we had capped at Yongbyon. We're not going to fall into that trap again.

MR. SNOW: Any future agreement will have to require North Korea completely to disassemble all the components of the programs?

SECRETARY POWELL: The policy of the United States, the policy of China, and the policy of other nations in the region, is we want a denuclearized North Korean peninsula. That was an agreement that North Korea entered into with South Korea in the early '90s, that the peninsula would be denuclearized. But at the same time they were entering into that agreement, another bilateral agreement, they were developing nuclear weapons.

And we can't fall into that trap again of paying them off to stop what they're doing, only to discover that they're doing it again at a later time. We're looking for a comprehensive solution that will then allow us to assist North Korea with its problems of feeding its population, an economy that's not functioning, a state that is increasingly not functioning.

MR. SNOW: Another interesting state, Iran. It's not a new story, but it's being reported in Time today, that Iran not only has a nuclear program but may be in the process of enriching uranium. Iran once again -- it's an interesting nation, it is a terrorist nation, it is the number one financier of terrorist activities around the world, it has what appears to be a growingly pro-American public but a stubbornly anti-American government. Wouldn't we like to see regime change there?

SECRETARY POWELL: We think that the people of Iran are increasingly dissatisfied with their status in life, their way of life, and they're starting to bring pressure against their government, both their elected political government and their religious government, and I think we'll be seeing changes as a result of that pressure.

But let me come to the point about nuclear weapons. Here's another case where we kept saying, you know, there's a problem in Iran, they are doing things that you are not aware of. American intelligence can see things happening.

MR. SNOW: You're telling this to the UN?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're telling this to the world. We told it to the Russians, who are cooperating with Iran in some of their nuclear energy programs. We told it to the IAEA. And then suddenly, within the last two or three weeks, clear evidence emerges and the IAEA now can see it. They are cued to it.

But it shows you that it is not impossible to hide this kind of activity if you are determined to hide it. Saddam Hussein did that in the late '80s and early '90s, Iran was doing it for a while. And so we have to be vigilant and continue to pursue all leads with any nation that is developing or has the potential or the intent to develop nuclear weapons.

MR. SNOW: Final question. Time also is reporting that the United States has offered repeatedly intelligence -- this follows on what we were just talking about -- to Mohamed ElBaradei, Hans Blix and others, and they haven't been using it. I've been hearing the same thing. Is it true?

SECRETARY POWELL: They have been using the information that we have been giving them that is actionable. Sometimes we have information that they really can't use; it's not something that inspectors can use to go look at a particular place, but it helps condition their activities and their thinking so they have an idea of what the Iraqis are trying to do to deceive them.

And so I think the inspectors are trying to use the actionable information that we give them, but there is other information that we have that is not actionable. And so we shouldn't expect that all the information we give them is usable to them, and so I don't want to be critical of the inspectors in this regard. We will continue to try to provide them as much information for as long as these inspections can continue.

MR. SNOW: A week?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it remains to be seen. But it is a tough problem that they are working on.

Here's the problem in a nutshell, Tony. The inspectors are dedicated international civil servants. They've got tough jobs. Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have very tough jobs. Their jobs would be made so much easier, and we wouldn't be in this crisis mode, if Iraq would do what Iraq was obliged to do since 1991: come clean; comply; cooperate unconditionally, actively; do it now; turn over the evidence; bring in the equipment; point out everything; don't do silly things like Saddam Hussein did yesterday by placing demands on the UN while rather than responding to the demands of the UN. It was an outrageous statement. We ought to see it for what it is and realize this is a man who has not changed his fundamental intent to thwart the will of the international community.

And if he succeeds in doing that because we don't get a vote, a satisfactory vote, on this resolution, the President will still meet his obligations to the American people, and I believe his obligations to the world, and if we have to do that through the use of military force, we will do it well, and I think in retrospect people will look back and say that was the right thing to do in the absence of full compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein.

MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tony. [End]

Released on March 9, 2003

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