Marc Grossman IV by Dutch TV
Interview by NOs Charles Groenhuijsen (Dutch TV)
Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Washington, DC March 25, 2003
QUESTION: Thanks for having us again.
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: My pleasure.
QUESTION: First of all, how's the war going?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The war is going tolerably well. Obviously, we are concerned about any time that American or coalition forces become prisoners, casualties. There are casualties on the other side. So we're concerned about this.
But I think if you see the progress that's been made in five days, to bring people within miles of Baghdad, I think you have to believe that this war is going well.
The President said today that he wasn't going to predict how long it would take, but the one thing he was sure of is that we would succeed.
QUESTION: How worried are you about Baghdad? Does that keep you awake, the things that may unfold over there?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: You don't know what's going to happen, obviously. We would like the Iraqis to understand that they are up against overwhelming force and there's still time for them to get Saddam out of there, change the government, do something different; but if we have to fight, we will, and if we have to fight, we will prevail.
QUESTION: What's your guess? Will the whole thing just crumble? I mean, the population over there, walk over, soldiers walking over -- the Ceaucescu model like we had in '89 and '90?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't think anyone can predict, sir. You have right now 3,000 - 3,500 Iraqi prisoners of war that have come over to the United States side. We're beginning to deliver humanitarian assistance in Basra. It's coming through Umm Qasr. So I think there's going to start to be a change in the attitude of Iraqis.
But don't forget, they've lived under a tremendous dictatorship for all of these years, and so they probably don't know quite what to believe, but what we hope they will believe is we are there as liberators -- not as occupiers.
But as I say, if we have to fight, we will, and we'll win.
QUESTION: There's a story in the New York Times this morning suggesting that in the initial phase after the war, basically the US takes over in the initial phase, without the UN.
What do you make of that story? Is that true?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: As you and I talked about the last time, I think about this in three phases.
The first phase is, I think you and I would agree, and I hope your viewers would agree, that there's going to be some kind of military control in Iraq for a very short period, to bring stability and to bring security, and that will fall on the shoulders of the coalition and General Franks.
But as all of our leaders have said, and as Secretary Powell said today, we want to then transition out of that military phase to the civilian phase as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: So we're talking about a couple of months?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No one can say, because we don't know what's going to happen in the war. Your previous question was about Baghdad, what happens. I don't know what happens. So we have to play this a little bit by ear.
But I would refer you and the people in The Netherlands to the very good statement that was made in the Azores a couple of Sundays ago; and what did it say?
It said that the United Nations would have an important and appropriate role in getting humanitarian assistance into Iraq, controlling the UN agencies and the other agencies that are dealing with the humanitarian issues, and hoped the Secretary General would appoint some kind of special representative.
So we'd like to work with the United Nations, and we'd like to work with them in a way that is best for them, best for us, but most importantly, best for the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Are you talking to the Security Council members right now about this post-war phase?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, absolutely. In fact, one of the most interesting issues at the United Nations now is how to move forward with the Oil for Food Program. You know that for many, many years now, Iraqis have essentially gotten their food through oil sales, come to them from the government, and so now that there is this conflict in Iraq, we all have to decide what to do about that.
The Oil for Food Resolution runs out on third of June, so we're working with Security Council members to see what can go beyond the Oil for Food -- so it's not a Saddam Hussein/Iraqi Government controlled entity anymore, but that people start to be free to have their own food and to have their own lives and their own businesses.
We're in a big conversation with our Security Council partners about that, and I hope that this is a resolution that will pass soon.
QUESTION: What about the members who were opposed to the war, like France, Russia, China? Will they be part of this whole thing, as well, the reconstruction, both commercially, because I mean, there's a big commercial thing going on as well --
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right.
QUESTION: -- and there's a big commercial interest. Will they also be part of this whole operation?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: That's up to them, and we certainly will be looking for the widest possible international assistance in the reconstruction of Iraq. And I know that's something that concerns the people in The Netherlands very much.
But what France and Russia and China and others decide to do, I don't know.
QUESTION: Because they'll probably say it's your war, so it's your reconstruction.
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Some people say that, but with all due respect, I noticed a very interesting speech that the German Chancellor made last week, and he said, "We oppose this war and we'll still oppose this war, but we'd like to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq."
And my guess, sir, is that once this conflict is over, there will be quite a number of countries who, although they might have disagreed with what we did -- I think that's too bad that they disagree, but they might have disagreed with what we did -- they'll want to participate in reconstruction.
I can't speak for anybody else, but I think what the Chancellor of Germany said was instructive in this regard.
QUESTION: The President talked earlier today about bringing in humanitarian aid --
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right.
QUESTION: -- medicines. How soon can you bring it in when it's really safe militarily?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We'll bring it in absolutely as quickly as possible. As you and I discussed --
QUESTION: Are we talking days?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Absolutely. I would say we're actually talking hours.
You and I discussed last time all of the prepositioning that we had done of food, medicine, blankets, shelter, all around Iraq, and all of that planning is now paying off.
The British and others have cleared the Port of Umm Qasr -- and by the way, why does this take so long? It takes so long because there were mines in that harbor put there by Saddam Hussein.
But we'll get humanitarian assistance into Umm Qasr. Then we will be able to move it out into the rest of Iraq.
And as you and I were talking before, there's also the question of water in Basra, and the water stopped because the electricity was stopped, but now 60 percent of that electricity is back on, and the ICRC has done an outstanding job of trying to make sure that water can be generated again for the Iraqi people.
So I believe, as we bring security to Southern Iraq, we're going to see humanitarian goods there move quite quickly, and the same in the north.
QUESTION: Is it like -- let me phrase it different.
Public relations-wise, is it important to show the world and the Iraqis that it's not just bombs, but also bread; it's not just machine guns, but medication, as well?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It's not just a question of public relations, it's the question of the life and livelihood of the Iraqi people.
And I think we shouldn't forget, and I hope your viewers won't forget, that the life of people in Southern Iraq for the last 20 years has been awful because of Saddam Hussein. He cut many of them off from Oil for Food. You remember the flooding of their land, and the other forms of repression that he has pursued these 20 years.
And so I think the people of Iraq are going to have a very different life soon, and that is going to be immediately evident to people in the south.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) question. Secretary Powell did an interview on French TV I think earlier today.
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: At the very end of the interview, the correspondent says, "Thank you," and the Secretary says, "Merci," using the French word. Is that a slip of the tongue or a policy statement?
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think the Secretary of State is a very optimistic person and a very generous person, and if you'd tell me what the Dutch word is for "Thank you," I'd give it to you as well.
QUESTION: "Dank u wel."
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: "Dank u wel." [End]
Released on March 31, 2003