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Powell Interview on ABC's Good Morning America

Interview on ABC's Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
September 8, 2004

(7:08 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as everyone knows now, the number is 1,000 dead, no end in sight. As a former military commander, doesn't that number just torment you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we mourn the loss of every one of those brave Americans who fought in the cause of freedom and our hearts go out to their families who mourn their loss. But they're fighting in a good cause. We have to remember what the stakes are. The stakes are whether or not freedom and democracy triumph or whether or not we fall for the rule of the bomb, whether people can just simply kill others, innocent people, in order to impose their will, in order to take us back to the past, to take us back to the days of a Saddam Hussein-like regime.

The same situation applies in Afghanistan, where we've also lost brave young Americans fighting in the cause of freedom. In Afghanistan yesterday, a free election campaign began with 18 candidates running for office. That's progress. And we're going to see that same kind of progress in Iraq.

So the greatest tribute we can pay to these brave, wonderful young Americans who have given their lives is to persevere, to keep moving forward, to defeat this insurgency, to defeat this enemy, to give the Iraqi people what they deserve. And that is a country that rests on the rule of law, that rests on popular representation of the leaders of that country, and not get faint at this point but to persevere and to defeat the insurgency and to go forward with elections at the end of this year, the beginning of next year, and turn over increasingly security responsibilities to Iraqi forces as they are trained.

QUESTION: But that answer presumes that this was a necessary war, which a lot of people dispute. And the President keeps asking on the campaign trail: Aren't we better off with Saddam Hussein gone? There's been no link between Saddam Hussein and Iraq and terrorism and a lot of people feel the question ought to be: Was this war really worth 1,000 lives, getting rid of Saddam Hussein worth 1,000 lives and $200 billion in American treasure?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you answered the question partly by saying we've gotten rid of Saddam Hussein. There was linkage between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. There was linkage. He was a state sponsor of terrorism. He was listed as such for many years. We don't have to go through all of that issue again, but the fact of the matter is that Saddam Hussein is gone. A dictatorial regime has been removed, a dictatorial regime that gassed its own citizens, gassed its neighbors, invaded its neighbors, put people into mass graves, had rape rooms, torture rooms. That regime is gone. And what's replaced it? An interim government that is working hard to bring stability to the country, to get the country up and going again, with the support of the coalition, the support of the American people and the American Congress.

And what we have to do is to keep our eye on the goal, and that is to have a free Iraq with a democratically elected government. And it is tough going. It is tough going. But let's not forget that we are capable of dealing with these kinds of challenges. We've done it before in our past and we have to keep moving forward.

QUESTION: But, Mr. Secretary, how can you maintain we're making progress? The average number of attacks in a week against U.S. troops has more than tripled since the beginning of this year. It's getting worse.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have said that once the interim government took over at the end of June, early July, and as we move toward elections, those who do not want elections, those who want to go back to the past, those who want to see a dictatorship again, will increase their attacks. They will challenge this new government. And what we have to do is respond to that challenge. Now we're paying the cost for it. The Iraqis are paying the cost for it -- their police forces, their military forces, political leaders, coalition forces. But there is no alternative to persevering and going forward.

Now, the whole country is not in an uproar, as would be suggested. The south, once we resolve the situation in Najaf and Kufa, is relatively quiet. The north is relatively quiet. The major problem is in the Sunni triangle in the center, where we're having difficulty with Sadr City and some of the other cities in the Sunni triangle and with the lines of communication.

So we know what the problem is and we have to go after that problem with our forces, other coalition forces and increasingly with a built-up Iraqi force, which we are working on as our first priority.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us. Appreciate you joining us this morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Charlie.

2004/949 [End]

Released on September 8, 2004

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