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Powell Interview by U.S. News and World Report

Interview by U.S. News and World Report

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC April 21, 2003

(11:15 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: Thank you for visiting with us. My first question would simply be this: Twelve years ago, President Bush spoke of a new world order that was based on international cooperation, made possible at the end of the Cold War and the end of the Gulf War, the first one. Now we may be at another watershed moment.

In a snapshot, how has the world changed from the U.S. perspective in the last few months, in light of the Iraq experience, and what would you call this new era, if it is one?

SECRETARY POWELL: The one thing I will not do is call it something. I've learned over the years that it is perhaps, unless you're really absolutely sure of something, one should avoid putting simple labels on complex issues. The only one I really know that's worked great over the years was containment and the Marshall Plan. Others have decided to fall along the wayside, one way or the other. The Cold War -- that stuck for 50 years.

But I would say we are into an era where some of those states that have supported terrorism, supported the weapons of mass destruction, are coming to the realization that the international community no longer finds this acceptable and is prepared to deal with these kinds of states. This is especially the case in the post-9/11 period, where people can see clearly the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist states and terrorist individuals and terrorist groups that are non-state actors.

This is not to say, and I don't want to give you the wrong impression -- "deal with" does not always mean "use military force." But I think from our perspective and with 9/11 still fresh in mind, we now realize, even more than we realized before, that states that continue to support terrorism, that continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, cannot ignore forever the opprobrium and will of the international community.

So you have seen us undertake military action in Iraq. You've seen us speak out strongly with respect to Syria, with respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea. But you've also seen the President used a sophisticated array of tools to deal with this problem, and not just the first tool that is at hand or people expect him to use. As the President, like some people have said, the President's words, "Even cowboys like posses, and even cowboys have more than just a six-shooter."

And so I think we are in an era where this principle is becoming clear that these regimes have to be dealt with. You can't turn a blind eye. You cannot ignore them. It doesn't mean war is the only option. We have to cause these regimes to realize that there is nothing for them on that road, and I think we can have some success with this. Iraq showed clearly that the United States has the power to impose its will militarily if it needs to, but also is mindful of that power and wishes to use it in a careful way. The President has always felt this way, notwithstanding what is often attributed to him.

We used power in Afghanistan and we used it in Iraq because the alternatives were not there. In the case of Iraq, the Security Council, having passed 1441, was not willing to go forward and pass a second resolution, so we did it with the authority of the first resolution. And in the case of Afghanistan, you may recall we issued an ultimatum to the Taliban. You know, get rid of these guys. They're destroying your country. And the Taliban said no, so we got rid of the Taliban, as we said we would. And we're cracking al-Qaida. It's getting weaker and weaker, even though they're still a threat.

When you look at how many countries are pursuing these kinds of weapons and how many countries are not, who are pursuing a different route, I am encouraged. I mean, you can count on one hand the number of countries, maybe a hand and a half, the number of countries that still move in this direction; and on the other side of the ledger, it would take me most of the next hour to remember all the countries that have been in to see me at some level, either prime minister or foreign minister, and all they want to talk about is trade, all they want to talk about is how are you going to help us, all they want to talk about is what aid can we get from you so that we can get to the position where trade kicks in. They don't come talk to me about weapons of mass destruction. I don't have to talk to them about weapons of mass destruction. They're not interested. Nothing comes out of these weapons that will feed one single child.

The President knows that. And so the President has a broad agenda that goes well, well beyond the military crisis of the moment. You will see the President engage more and more on that agenda. It includes free and open trade, and you'll see free trade agreements that Bob Zoellick is working on. He'll continue to push for the Free Trade Area of the Americas. You'll continue to see progress with the WTO round. You'll see him push on HIV/AIDS even more than he has. I mean, this President put it in place two major programs, first the trust fund working with Kofi Annan, and now his global initiative which is $15 billion on HIV/AIDS. Why? Because it's the biggest killer on the face of the earth, more so than any army, any regional instability, or anything anybody can imagine a weapons of mass destruction can do. The greatest weapon of mass destruction today on the face of the earth is the HIV virus, and it is a destroyer of people, families, nations, societies and hopes in the poorest parts of the world, and it is spreading. That's a major agenda item for him.

He is interested in the spread of democracy. He has talked on many occasions about a Europe whole and free and at peace. We'll continue to push on that agenda. I'll be testifying next week for the NATO expansion, the next seven countries allowed into the alliance. The President is supportive of the expansion of the European Union.

The President believes in our alliances. The President recognizes that alliances are families, and families sometimes have disagreements. Sometimes the disagreements can be quite sharp. Sometimes they can be painful to work your way through these disagreements. And sometimes you've got to walk out on the family and do what you think is right. That doesn't mean they're not your family. You come back and you work on building up the family. The President will be doing that with respect to NATO, with respect to the United Nations, with respect to our transatlantic relationship. He's already done that with respect to our Asian partnerships, which are especially strong right now.

As an illustration of that, look how he handled North Korea. He has fully engaged the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Russians and the Chinese. In fact, the Chinese have been asked to step off the sidelines and come on into the game, and they did. And we're going to have talks later this week -- multilateral, trilateral talks. They will grow, I hope, in due course, to four or five. The important point that people have overlooked is that they are multilateral; the Chinese will be there, not as a convener, but as a participant. The Chinese may say things that we don't like and they will say things the North Koreans don't like, but that's what participation means.

And so our relationship with this huge country of enormous potential is the best it's been in many, many years. Our relationships with our other friends in Asia are solid with Japan. South Korea, even though it bubbles from time to time with a bit of anti-Americanism, there's usually a cycle to this that I've been watching for 30 years. But we now have a democratic South Korea fully grounded in democracy. We're getting ready to adjust our force posture and move our headquarters out at Yongsan and do some other things that rationalize our presence. But it's like this. President Roh gave a speech yesterday, which I call to your attention, which talked to this point.

The President is ready now to engage with the Middle East peace process in a very substantial way. We are hopeful that the Palestinian Authority will solve their debate over a prime minister. If they do that this week, or soon, then the President is prepared to fully engage with the roadmap and even beyond the roadmap to jumpstart this process. With Iraq behind us, the Middle East peace engagement that I think you will see if the Palestinians do what we expect them to do, a lot of the anti-Americanism that is a concern for all us I think will start to dissipate. As I've made the point to many audiences, the four conflicts we've been in in the last 12 years in Muslim countries, not one of those four places has become an American colony or an American state. Every one of them is being returned to Muslims. In the case of two, we saved them from a fate worse than death, I would say -- Kuwait and Afghanistan. We saved the Kosovo Albanians and we saved, now, Iraq from a dictatorial terrorizing regime.

The President's slate (inaudible) in the National Security Strategy, which I brought a copy with me in case you guys did not have one available to you and need one -- I'm sure you do -- is fascinating. Everybody talks about the new strategy of preemption and the new strategy of military superiority. And I've been through this thing many times and I understand what people like to focus on. It's a very short document, but the strategy, so-called strategy of preemption, is about this much, and military superiority, which is buried in the defense section way in the back, essentially says we want to be stronger than anyone else. Anybody want to disagree with that? Why would you want to disagree with that? It's deterring when you're stronger than anyone else.

More interestingly, which I think has been a missed story, and it's too bad, when you read the President's opening essay, but then when you read just the table of contents: champion aspirations for human dignity; strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorist and work to prevent attacks; work with others to defuse regional conflicts; prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies or our friends with weapons of mass destruction; ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade; expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy; develop agendas for cooperative action with the other main centers of global power; nine, transform America's national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century; develop agendas for cooperative action. That's not unilateralism. It's cooperative action. Strengthen alliances. Cooperative action. Work with others. Cooperative action. Ignite a new era of global economic growth. That's all cooperative action.

And so this is the President's agenda, not one line in this document but the whole document. And he means every one of these table of contents items. He and I have talked about it. We've spent time on it. We will consolidate in Iraq. We will stabilize the country. We will help them bring in new leadership. We will put them on the right path. And then the President will focus principally on this broader agenda.

As you heard him say yesterday with respect to Syria, we're glad we're seeing some changes, and I'll be going there in the not too distant future to have further conversations. It'll be my third trip to Damascus. And with respect to Iran, there are changes taking place within that country that we will watch with interest. And you know what we're doing with North Korea.

One area I might also touch on as part of this rich and broad agenda is his commitment to development. This President, with his Millennium Challenge Account, $5 billion additional a year, the creation of a new corporation which I'm in the process of creating for him now, this is the biggest single increase in assistance to developing nations that we've seen in decades. And it is not just aid in the traditional sense, but it is aid that will go to those countries in need who have committed themselves to democracy, who have submitted themselves to economic growth, who have committed themselves to transparency, to ending corruption. And so it links. It's all connected. And I think it's a solid agenda.

Now, what shall we call it? Back to you. I'm always reluctant. What do we call it, anyway? National Security Strategy. (Laughter.) But whether it's "a new world order," that was probably a bit grandiose at the time. But there was a lot of hope and promise at that time, too. I was astonished. I was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I watched my best enemy go away. You know, what will all the preachers do now that the devil has been saved?

And so this is a new period of history, but you know there's always a new period of history at the rate of about one every ten years. And I'm a little reluctant to give this one a name yet. Historians usually give it a name. Kennan didn't call it containment when he wrote the long cable from Moscow. It came to be known that.

Sorry for such a long, drifting answer.

MR. BOUCHER: It's time for the last question.


QUESTION: There's a widespread perception around the world that the U.S. is imposing some sort of an imperial agenda in the Middle East or elsewhere. With that criticism comes a lot of -- an uptick in anti-Americanism. Are those factors at this point hindering your ability to advance American interests overseas? Are you seeing any concrete damage from these perceptions?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I mean, how can I answer honestly and say that when countries object to a particular policy, as many countries did, populations of countries did, our policies around the Middle East, sure, it affects things, and it makes it a little harder to push our agenda because people tend to be suspicious of it. I am also confident, however, as I said a moment ago, that as you deal with problems like Iraq and show that we weren't after their oil, that we were going to protect their oil for them and help them build up their oil infrastructure so they will have greater wealth, and as people see that we are engaged in the Middle East peace process, I have no reason to believe we can't change that perception -- not totally, because the United States is going to be the most powerful nation on earth in the future, as it is now, both militarily as well as in other measures of power, whether it's economic or political, power of example, the power of our culture.

And with that power usually comes responsibility and some level of respect and some level of resentment -- my three R's. Hey, write that down. (Laughter.) But it's the case, and we have always been resented to some extent, particularly when we use our power. If we just sat back here between the two oceans and never did anything and didn't get involved in the world or stayed away from all these messy problems, then they wouldn't be heavily resentful, but we wouldn't be using our power for good. We wouldn't be faithful to who we are as a nation and to our values as a nation. So we have to use that power, and oftentimes this causes resentment.

I just hope we'll be able to make the case over time that we're using our power for good, and you can see that, and the world opinion will respond accordingly. But we have to do a better job of persuading the world that our campaign against terrorism is not a campaign against Muslims. We have to do a better job of our counterterrorism security actions. We just started a new initiative called, "Secure Borders, Open Doors," where we've got to make sure we know who's coming into the country and what they're doing while they're here. That's reasonable. I mean, most nations in the world have programs that do that, even those that complain about our programs. But at the same time, we've got to make sure that America remains an open society. Passports -- passport applications, which is my business, they're starting to go up again, and visa requests. So Americans are, I think, after Iraq are going to start traveling more. And people still want to come to America. They want to come for our schools, for our cultural and entertainment opportunities, for hospitals, for jobs. If this is such a distasteful place and everybody is so anti-American, why do I have all these visa lines all around the world, people of coming to get in here, and then mad at us when we don't give them a visa within two hours? And they're all stacked up. There's something right going on in this country that people want to be a part of.

So I think we can change those attitudes, but we've got to work at it and do a better job than we have in the past. And it's not just a matter of better public diplomacy, as people like to say. You've got to get Middle East, you've got to get on top of terrorism, you've got to get Iraq behind us, and then you get a better product to push with your public diplomacy.

QUESTION: I wanted to just talk about Iraq because, obviously, that's been certainly among the central preoccupations for a while. I'm still trying to figure out how you end up declaring victory, just a military victory, which I think, I guess will be declared soon. But then what's the victory that's going to allow the U.S. to come out? Is it the full democracy? Because that might end up being a theocracy if -- it might not. How do we end up defining victory in terms of what government and regimes, you know, are created in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think right now we had both a military victory and a political victory. There's a theory, or a doctrine that rests on the name of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that says you create a political goal and you use your military force to achieve that political goal. The principal political goal was to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction within Iraq, and the only way to do that was to remove the regime, remove the regime. That's been done. So that is not only a military victory, it is also a political victory.

However, we also picked up a responsibility, willingly picked it up, that if we were to do that there would be a period of enormous instability in the country and we had an obligation, therefore, to stay long enough to put in place a representative form of government that would hold the country together, that would not be interested in weapons of mass destruction, terror or repressing its people; and would use the wealth of its people for the benefit of its people.

I am not quite sure what that's going to look like yet. That's why we're holding, beginning at a very low level in An-Nasiriya, meetings with leaders, influential people within Iraq, to hear from them how they might go about this. You can't just say, "Here is a constitution which is written just like the one we adopted back in 1787, and by the way, here's a nice Declaration of Independence if you want to use that, too." It has to be consistent with their beliefs and culture and their religions, their history, which is, you know, 5,000 years, whereas we're newbies.

So you have to try to blend all of that into a system of a kind that they've never had before. But clearly, I think they want to have -- they don't want to see Saddam Hussein replaced with a theocratic, single leader. I think the people of Iraq will now demand that they be represented by people who they have chosen. Exactly what it will look like, what a parliament would look like or a legislature would look like, is not clear yet. As part of our reconstruction efforts, we're going to create a constitutional group to work on a constitution. Iraqis will write that. A judicial group. What will the judiciary look like? Is it going to be Sharia law? I don't think so. What will it look like? We've got some experience with this -- Japan, Germany and, more interestingly, in Afghanistan. We didn't try to put emplace Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan. They had a way of dealing with issues through their loya jirgas. That's what we used. And it was a loya jirga, not popular vote, that created this government. It'll be validated or reelected in a popular vote when they're ready for it in a year or so.

So we'll have to find a model that is acceptable to the parties and the people, and that's what we're working our way through now. And we're not going into it with a preconceived notion of exactly what it's supposed to look like, because if you just said here's what it looks like, here it is, do that -- forget it. I mean, they may do it for a week, then the fun starts. So it'll have to grow out of the people, just as ours did, to pass, what 15, 20 years from the Continental Congress to the Constitution.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in a nutshell, what exactly is the lesson that you want countries that have been seeking WMD or sponsoring terrorism to take from the Iraq war? What exactly (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's a dangerous thing to do. That the United States has made it clear that we are not going to rest until the global war on terrorism has been won. And as the President said at the very outset, if you are a terrorist or if you are a haven or a harbor for terrorists or you are helping terrorists do their evil work, you are going to be held to account when you're guilty.

Secondly, I hope the lesson that anybody developing these weapons would draw from Iraq is the most competent power of military force on the face of the earth, with an enormous ability to project power, and they have gone into war twice in the last ten years with everybody expecting that weapons of mass destruction will be used against them. We went into the war in Desert Storm expecting chemical weapons use and the possibility of biological weapons use. We went into this war the same way. So don't think that you necessarily, if war -- let me drop necessarily. Don't think you have a deterrence by having weapons of mass destruction.

Now, we didn't really think Saddam Hussein had a nuke at the time of Gulf War One, but he could have. There were some who said he did. It didn't deter us. And there is nobody who can match us nuclear-wise anyway. So weapons of mass destruction do not buy you the security or the deterrence capability that you might have thought they bought you; therefore, in my judgment, "Do you want my advice, Mr. Rogue State Leader? You're wasting your money on fools gold, and heaven help you if your fools gold, as you try to spin it into something useful, gets in the hands of a terrorist. You will be held accountable for that."

So it seems to me that any leader who wishes to remain a leader, who does not wish to put his future at risk, looking at Iraq would suggest to them that it's time to rethink our policies. This is the message we've been giving to Syria for the last two and a half weeks that have gotten you all so excited, and hopefully it's a message Mr. Kelly will convey into the North Koreans' hands.

It's interesting how many nations have moved away from it. South Africa, Argentina, Brazil. There's as many deproliferators as they are -- as there are proliferators. And there's nobody in the hemisphere, our hemisphere, working on weapons of mass destruction. There's nobody in Europe. Those European nations that did have them are trying to figure out how to get rid of them, principally the Russians, how to destroy all this stuff. Well, they may still have some programs of concern.

In Asia, except for North Korea, everybody else is trying to figure out how to make radios and television, or chips or something, something that gets you money, something that pays people. The fascinating thing that I see in my world, I see lots of foreign ministers and prime ministers who come through here, and so many of them, I think anybody writing about this sometimes forgets or overlooks. They speak of democracy, and I'll sit there and they'll come in. They're from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and Bulgaria and Romania and Poland and the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and they're from Belgrade, and I just have to pinch myself and remember that ten and a half, 12 years ago, they were all Soviet Union. So we won. And here they all are, and all they want to do is talk about how to be part of the transatlantic system. I won't call it NATO, but be part of the transatlantic system. Why is the word "Atlantic" important and why is "transatlantic" important? Because that's how you get the United States and Canada and North America. So you're part of the EU? Fine, but, you know, we're not part of the EU but they know that we are in alignment with the EU in terms of values and interests. And so EU's fine, NATO's very good, too. Both are growing. And when you look at here in our own hemisphere, I have to pinch myself, too. Even though there is great poverty in our hemisphere and not all of the countries are doing as well as I would like to see as democracies, when I go back 12 years to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ten years ago, 12 years ago, when I go back 15 years ago when I was National Security Advisor, so many of them were being run by generals and dictators. And you just travel through the hemisphere, the southern part of our hemisphere, and look now, and everyone has an elected president except for Castro's Cuba, and he's getting scared.

Now, some of them are not as solid as others and there are still disturbances and problems, narcotrafficking and narcoterrorism, but they're all struggling to find the right way forward, not on the basis of Castro s Communism, but on the basis of, God, how do we make democracy work? And they'll come and they'll sit in my office and they'll say, geez, you've got to help us because if we don't improve the lives of our people, there's not going to be a coup; they're going to vote us out. That is remarkable. You know, everybody wanted democracy. Now that we've got it, they want food. And if we don't give them food, they're going to vote us out. And some of the problem we're having in Latin America is the expectations were too high and the first round of democracy didn't satisfy those expectations. Okay, we've got a go with a free trade agreement and we've got nothing to sell. We are in a globalized world, but we don't have people who are educated who can, you know, do computer stuff, who can outsource computer work, like India does. Okay, we're in a globalized world, and how come it's still cheaper to buy rice from Vietnam than it is to move rice from one part of our country to another part of our country because there's no road? And that's a true example -- I won't name the country -- where it's cheaper to import it across the ocean because they don't have a road that will take it from one part of the country to the other. And they're saying, "This is democracy? We need better than this." And so the pressure is on these people not to go develop weapons of mass destruction, to go educate their people, to build roads and to figure out how to get a piece of the pie. And that's what we're going to help them with.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, lastly, with respect to the impact of the war on the Middle East, how certain are you at this point that Israel and the Palestinians are ready to make the kinds of concessions they've been unwilling to make in the past?

SECRETARY POWELL: Please. How certain? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And relatedly, in terms of impact of the war, are we likely now to see the U.S. moving to reduce or draw down its forces in Saudi Arabia?

SECRETARY POWELL: The roadmap lays out reciprocal obligations for the two parties. I believe if both parties are serious and take the initial steps required by the roadmap, then there is an opportunity for progress and the United States will play an important role in that.

Right now, my concern today, not for your article, but my concern today is if Palestinians miss this opportunity by not appointing a prime minister, we'll have a major setback. We're trying to, you know (inaudible) Arafat with power and his unwillingness to give it to the prime minister, we'll have a major setback.

With respect to our military presence around the world, or any particular part of the world, let's say Saudi Arabia, I would assume that in the aftermath of Iraq my colleagues at the Defense Department will take a look at the whole footprint. We will not withdraw from the region, but certainly you don't have the same requirement any more. And overseas forces are expensive and they are problematic with respect to family life and all kinds of things. So I would expect there to be a reexamination of the footprint, but I wouldn't speculate on what's coming out and what's staying and if anything's coming out. I think I'll leave that to Don.

QUESTION: Some day I would love to quiz you more about the combination of growing democracy and ant-Americanism because I think that's an interesting trend to manage, especially when you've got places that you need to run. I don't want to keep you.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it is interesting and I'm troubled by anti-Americanism, but I really think that a lot of the anti-Americanism is driven by anti-American -- anti-Americanism directed to our policies, rather than against America as a nation or as a people. There will always be a level of resentment, but there will also be a high level of respect, and we have a responsibility.

But what's driving it right now, particularly in the Muslim world, is Iraq and the Middle East. And with progress on both of those, I think we can begin to turn the needle or, you know, get the needle moving in another direction -- not to zero, but moving in another direction.

What was interesting to me during the Iraq period during the last month is that even though there were large demonstrations around the world and there were large demonstrations in the Middle East and the Gulf area, the demonstrations in Europe tended to be bigger than the ones, for the most part, in the Middle East and North Africa, although in any one day one might be large. Morocco had some really big ones. But for the most part, we didn't have riots and stoning of embassies. There was a little bit of trouble in a few places, but it wasn't anywhere as large as anticipated or as problematic as anticipated. I mean, I thought I would have to close embassies. All I had to do was, really, authorize departure from some embassies, draw down some embassies. But not all of them, just some of them. And we're now in the process of taking away those drawdowns, or removing the drawdown from (inaudible). So it was less of a hiccup, if that's the word to use, less of a problem, than I thought it would be.

QUESTION: Interesting. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you very much. [End]

Released on April 28, 2003

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