Powell IVon CBS's Early Show with Harry Smith
Interview on CBS's Early Show with Harry Smith
Secretary Colin L. Powell
September 8, 2004
(7:07 a.m. EDT)
MR. SMITH: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Harry.
MR. SMITH: You supported this war. You helped sell it to the United Nations and to the American people. Is the price in human life -- has it been worth it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Harry, you know we mourn the loss of every one of these brave Americans who served their nation so well and they served their nation in the cause of freedom. In Afghanistan and in Iraq, what we have achieved is the removal of two terrible regimes that were sponsors of terrorism, that were dictatorships and that threatened not only their own people in the region but threatened us ultimately. And so to the extent that those regimes are gone and they're not coming back, it was a good cause in which these young Americans lost their lives.
MR. SMITH: But when we --
SECRETARY POWELL: The challenge before us now -- The challenge before us now is to make sure that that loss was not in vain, to persevere, to not grow faint, to recognize that we have challenges ahead of us. But an election campaign began in Afghanistan yesterday with 18 candidates in Afghanistan out lobbying and looking for votes. That, I think, is progress. In Iraq, we are facing a rather determined insurgency and we have to defeat that insurgency using coalition forces and increasingly built-up Iraqi security forces.
And we knew that this would be a difficult time. We said that once the transition to Iraqi leadership took place, the insurgents would come after that leadership and come after us. And we'll have to deal with it and we will deal with it.
MR. SMITH: Let me ask you this, though. So much of this war was based on "what if's." What if Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction? What if he has nuclear capabilities? Should a war be based on "what if's"?
SECRETARY POWELL: It wasn't a "what if." In our judgment, at the time that the President was making his decisions and at the time that we were presenting our case to the world, to the United Nations, the body of intelligence that we had, that our allies had and that the UN, frankly, had accumulated over many years suggested that he did have the intention and the capability to have weapons of mass destruction. And there is no doubt about that. What was not clear in, you know, in retrospect, was whether or not he actually had stockpiles.
But there was no doubt in my mind that a regime of this nature which had used such weapons in the past against its own people and against its neighbors, and retained that intention and had that capability, would eventually reconstitute stockpiles if they didn't have them now. And anyone who thinks that if Saddam Hussein had gotten out from under those sanctions, out from under the pressure that was being applied against him, had gotten a free pass on this, would not have returned to past behavior, I think is mistaken. And the President was not about to put the region and America at that risk.
MR. SMITH: All right. Secretary Powell, we thank you for your time today.
Released on September 8, 2004