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Powell IV on CBS News Special with Leslie Stahl

Interview on CBS News Special with Leslie Stahl

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC March 25, 2003

(Aired 10:00 p.m. EST)

MR. DAN RATHER: One man with an insider s view of war with Iraq is Colin Powell -- Chairman of military Joint Chiefs of Staff during Gulf War 1, now Secretary of State. Tonight, Leslie Stahl has an exclusive interview with Secretary Powell.

MS. STAHL: The Secretary of Defense said that there are intelligence reports that the chain of command in Iraq has been told to use chemical weapons against our soldiers once that battle of Baghdad starts.

SECRETARY POWELL: We listen to such reports and we make sure that we have in our contingency planning how to handle such an attack.

Our troops went into this battle knowing that they might be exposed to chemical weapons and, God forbid, biological weapons.

MS. STAHL: So these reports are not so specific. They are pretty vague or they don't really exist?

SECRETARY POWELL: They are pretty vague. I mean they are reports. People say that such instructions have been given.

It's a war. There is a living, breathing enemy out there who is doing everything he can to keep us from knowing what his instructions are.

We are quite good with our intelligence, but not perfect.

MS. STAHL: The Powell Doctrine in military terms is that you throw a massive force; if you're going to go to war, make it huge. There are now criticisms we're beginning to hear that this force isn't massive enough.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's nonsense. It's the usual chatter. I mean we have commentators everywhere. Every general who ever worked for me is now on some network commenting on the daily battle. And frankly, battles come and wars come and they have ups and downs. They have a rhythm to it. The Powell Doctrine was to use decisive force. And the plan that General Franks and his commanders have put together is a decisive force that will get the job done. So don't let one day's ups and downs suggest that the battle isn't going well.

The United States Armed Forces with our coalition partners, the British, principally, and the Australians, have gone 300 miles deep into Iraq in a period of five days. That is a heck of an achievement.

MS. STAHL: Yeah, but our -- the rear is exposed.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not -- exposed to what? Exposed to small --

MS. STAHL: Exposed to Fedeyeen, exposed --

SECRETARY POWELL: Fine. So, we'll get them in due course. They are not exposed to a massive Iraqi army that is operating in a coordinated way that could assault our flanks and stop our assault.

MS. STAHL: Are you saying you're not worried or concerned about guerilla warfare?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course we are, and we're trained to handle this. But this chatter for the last 24 hours that everything is coming apart because on Sunday we took a few casualties -- the casualties for this operation have been low.

You don't want to slow your advance to go into a particular city and spend all your time rooting out people that you will get in due course. They are not threatening the events.

MS. STAHL: But you can't get your supplies --

SECRETARY POWELL: Who said?

MS. STAHL: Well, you can't get the humanitarian aid in.

SECRETARY POWELL: Only because the minefields haven't been cleared at the Port of Umm Qasr. But our troops are being supplied and water is slowly being restored to places like Basra-- up to 40 percent of the water capacity now. And that was a question of fixing the pumping stations in Basra. And as soon as the mines have been cleared, the ships are waiting to deliver the humanitarian supplies to Umm Qasr and the situation will change rapidly.

MS. STAHL: How did we get to a place where much of the world thinks that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein? How did this happen?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that that is the case. I think people are unhappy with our policy with respect to Iraq.

Now, is there anti-American opinion around the world with respect to this issue? Yes. There's no question about it. But when this war is over and we have liberated Iraq and the people of Iraq are facing a better life where their treasure, their oil treasure is not being used to develop weapons of mass destruction or to threaten their neighbors, I think those opinions and those attitudes will change rapidly.

MS. STAHL: What I'm looking at is a poll, really not about the war, it's just about the United States and our friends. It is kind of -- it makes you feel terrible. India, Mexico. They have negative opinions about the United States.

SECRETARY POWELL: You tell me why that I have consular officers all over the world with visa lines going out in all direction -- people trying to come to America. They want to be Americans; they want to go to our hospitals, to our schools and other places.

MS. STAHL: But do you admit that we have a problem?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. Yes.

MS. STAHL: And that we have to go -- we -- you have to go out and --

SECRETARY POWELL: We all do. We have to go out and take our case to the world. And what we have to do is get this Iraq crisis behind us and show the better life that's waiting for the Iraqi people and then show progress in the Middle East, and this will turn.

MR. RATHER: Colin Powell. [End]

Released on March 26, 2003

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