Secretary Powell on Fox News
Secretary Powell on Fox News
Secretary Colin L. Powell Interview by Brit Hume Washington, DC March 24, 2003
MR. HUME: Mr. Secretary, good afternoon, and thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, Brit.
MR. HUME: We took some casualties yesterday in this fighting, a number of skirmishes. It got bloody. Some prisoners of war taken, some U.S. equipment down, the stock market is tanking, and there are stories in the newspapers suggesting the strategy may now have to be changed. You're a veteran of many military campaigns, sir, and a longtime military planner. What is your view of all that? How do you view this, as a former military man, what has happened?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Brit, people have to understand this isn't a video game, it's a war, it's a real war. We're in the fifth day of ground combat operations and it's amazing what those soldiers of ours and those marines of ours and airmen and sailors have done. They have penetrated hundreds of miles inside Iraq and now are only 50 to 60 miles away from Baghdad -- in five days, less than five days. That's remarkable.
And the casualties are light at this point, even though every lost life is a pain to all of us here and a pain to the family. Obviously, it is agonizing, particularly those who have been made prisoners of war. But overall, in the great sweep of things, casualties have been light.
This has been a remarkable military operation so far. There will be ups and downs. There will b days like yesterday where you have a friendly fire incident and something goes wrong and you see some casualties which cause people to get anxious, but I am confident that General Franks and his commander, General Abizaid on the ground, know what they are doing and they are prosecuting this war in a very, very fine manner with a solid strategy that I think will work, no question about it, they will prevail and this regime will be taken down.
MR. HUME: What would you say is the military significance of the encounters that we have had so far where we have had to do some serious fighting?
SECRETARY POWELL: The big significance, or the real significance, is that it is not an organized operation on the part of the enemy. There are pockets of resistance, but you're not running into a front line of Iraqi troops. You're not running into divisions standing next to divisions putting up an organized opposition to your efforts. So you run into a pocket of resistance at Al-Nasiriyah, you see another one down at Basra. You want to try to bypass those and not get yourself tied down fighting street by street into those cities.
So this is the kind of thing that, frankly, we expected when the operation was being planned. What you're not seeing is organized resistance in the sense that there are three Iraqi divisions in a row that you have to go through. You have the Medina Republican Guard Division here, you have another division there. Lots of room for the mechanized forces of the coalition to maneuver, get around these units and take them on using air power. After the ground forces have fixed them, air power goes after them, and then the ground forces go in and finish them off.
So what I'm seeing is what I would have expected to see, frankly, at this point in the war. And I've been through a number of operations like this where it develops this pattern. So stick with these young men and women. They know what they're doing.
MR. HUME: Over the weekend, there were reports confirmed by officials here that Russia has been, through private sources, allowing certain vital equipment -- night vision goggles, global positioning satellite devices -- to go into Iraq, that indeed there were even Russian officials, or Russians at least, in Iraq helping to teach the Iraqis how to use this stuff.
What is your reaction to that and what have you done to try to stem it, if you have?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have been in touch with the Russians over a period of many months to point this out to them and express our concern, and in the last 48 hours I've seen even more information that causes me concern. We had demarched the Russians at the end of last week, and today I spoke again to Foreign Minister Ivanov. They say they are looking into all of this but cannot find any evidence. Well, we're giving them more cues and clues so that they can find out exactly what is going on and why this is a serious problem for us.
Foreign Minister Ivanov assured me that with enough information, the right information, they would do something about it, but, frankly, we believe we have given them more than enough information so that they should have been able to find out the truth of this. And I am quite confident of our facts in this matter. I am very confident of our facts.
MR. HUME: Do you think the Russians are not dealing straight with you on this, sir?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to say that yet. I want to see whether or not they will respond this time. But I must say that so far I am disappointed at the response.
MR. HUME: Is this the kind of equipment that could affect the course of this conflict?
SECRETARY POWELL: It's the kind of equipment that will put our young men and women in harm's way. It gives an advantage to the enemy, an advantage we don't want them to have, and that's our concern.
MR. HUME: Turkey. We keep seeing reports that troops are flowing across the border, then that they're not. What is the state of play, as you understand it, with Turkey? Is there trouble there?
SECRETARY POWELL: There are no troops flowing across the border. Turkey has reassured the international community over the weekend -- they did it in NATO this morning and there have been other statements -- that they have no plans at the moment to send any troops across the border. There was all sort of press reporting over the last three days that Turkish units are already across the border, getting ready to go across, but the position of the Turkish Government is that they are working with us.
We are examining what requirements might emerge in that part of Iraq with respect to humanitarian requirements and things of that nature. We are in closest consultation with the Turks. But right now, they have said they have no plans to cross the border with large formations or even, you know, medium or small formations. They have no plans for an incursion at this time.
That is not to say that the situation might not change in the future. The important thing is that's what they have said and the important thing is that there has not been a humanitarian crisis in that part of Northern Iraq of the kind that we were worried about. There are not large numbers of refugees flowing toward the Turkish border and we see no need for a Turkish incursion. And that is what we are saying to our Turkish friends: There is no need for Turkish troops to cross the border.
MR. HUME: And so far, they are --
SECRETARY POWELL: So far, notwithstanding all the press reports, they have not crossed the border, as we sit here this afternoon.
MR. HUME: We understand that the State Department has received credible reports that Saddam Hussein has planned to use chemical weapons against his own people in the South and blame it on us. What about that, sir?
SECRETARY POWELL: There are such reports. I have no doubt that he would do such a thing if he thought it served his interests, and so we are concerned about it. We will follow this matter carefully. We will also do everything we can to gather all the intelligence that we can.
He has to be careful here because the world knows he's done it before, and were he to do it again, it would be immediate acknowledgement of the fact that he has weapons of mass destruction of the kind that he has been swearing he does not have and we have been insisting he does have, and we continue to believe he does have.
MR. HUME: General Franks, and again General Myers, over the weekend, expressed confidence that, indeed, their weapons of mass destruction are there. At first, it did appear last night that a major weapons facility may have been found. Now officials seem in doubt about that. What is your understanding about all of that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think they came upon a facility that they want to take another look at, but I think we have to be very cautious about announcing that a facility has been found and could be, therefore it is, producing weapons of mass destruction. We have to be careful about this.
Right now, our troops are essentially fighting the battle and when this battle has been won and when things have settled down, we'll have more than ample opportunity to take a thorough look at the country and determine what weapons of mass destruction programs we can show to the world.
MR. HUME: The French, in the person of Jacques Chirac, say that they will not support any UN resolution in the aftermath of this conflict that would give the U.S. and Britain the lead in managing Iraq, so to speak, after this is all over with. I wasn't aware that such a resolution had been offered, but what do you make about the continuing diplomatic conduct of the French in all this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, President Chirac said that and he also implied that he would not support any resolution that would provide legitimacy to the military operation we are conducting. Well, we haven't asked for any such resolution now because we don't need one. We believe 1441 more than adequate justification with its underlying resolutions, 678 and 687, to support what we are doing. And so this is a misplaced concern on his part. We need no further legitimacy for what we are doing.
That was the great success, sometimes forgotten, of 1441, a 15-0 vote. People focused on the second resolution, which was really an effort to give some of our coalition partners a little more help with their domestic political scene. But 1441 and the earlier resolutions are all we need, and as we move forward I think that the coalition of the willing that will be in charge of Iraq for as short a period of time as we can make it until we can turn it over to Iraqi authorities, an interim Iraqi authority, and then finally an Iraqi government, you will see that we will get, I think, the UN support that we need for that because the UN realizes that all we are interested in is rebuilding the country and bringing a better life to the Iraqis.
MR. HUME: Speaking of that coalition, Mr. Secretary, some members of your administration have said that it is, indeed, larger than the coalition that helped out in the Gulf War. Others have pointed out that there were more than 30 countries that sent military forces to participate in the Gulf War, only a tiny handful in this case, and that the comparison, therefore, is really not reasonable. What do you say to that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it's still a fair point to make, whether it's greater or less than it was at the time of the Gulf War. But as of today, there were 46 nations in this coalition. Everybody was saying the United States is going it alone politically and militarily. Well, more and more nations are joining us.
Now, they all can't contribute militarily. Most of them don't have the wherewithal to add to the kind of combat power that we, the United Kingdom and the Australians can bring to the table. But for a small country that's taking a big internal domestic political chance, and hears itself threatened by larger nations in Europe, to nevertheless stand up and say we think this is the right thing to do, we want to be a member of the coalition of the willing and we want the whole world to know it, I think that is the kind of commitment we should treasure and the kind of commitment that we should certainly present to the world, as a nation that is part of this great effort to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and provide a better life for the Iraqi people by getting rid of this regime.
MR. HUME: Mr. Secretary, I believe our time is up, sir. Thank you very much for doing this.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Brit.
MR. HUME: Nice to see you, sir.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good to see you.
Released on March 24, 2003