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Powell Interview on The Michael Reagan Show

Interview on The Michael Reagan Show

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
January 14, 2005

(4:35 p.m. EST)

MR. REAGAN: Mr. Secretary, welcome to the show.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Michael. How are you?

MR. REAGAN: I'm doing just fine, sir. Tell me how you're feeling. You're in your last throws of being Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I'm feeling pretty good. I have been here for four years. I'm leaving after a great time, frankly, rebuilding the Department. We have increased its size again. We have put more money into the kind of development assistance that the needy world out there requires. We have increased our spending for HIV/AIDS. We have taken out a couple of dictatorships. We've pulled the world together in this global war against terror, seen free elections in Afghanistan. We're going to see them in Iraq at the end of the month. We've gotten rid of nuclear weapons and chemical and other kinds of weapons from Libya. We put the spotlight on Iran and North Korea. Good relations with China, Russia.

And although we had some tense days with a couple of countries in Europe, most of Europe is pleased to be aligned with the United States and the Transatlantic Community is strong. We've expanded the size of NATO. The European Union has expanded. And so, I am feeling pretty good about having been a part of the Administration that has accomplished this. We've got a lot more work to do in Iraq and we've got to see progress in the Middle East, but, by and large, I've had a great assignment here I think.

MR. REAGAN: Do you ever go to work and close the door and just shake your head and say, will this ever stop?

What I mean is, you just get back from Africa, you sign an historic agreement there to try and bring peace to that area of the world, where you said yourself there was genocide taking place. You get home, you're about ready to walk out the door, and then you read that this very day Israel is cutting ties with the Palestinians.

Your thoughts?

SECRETARY POWELL: I hope that's just a temporary breach. We have told the parties there for the entire four years that I have been there that terror has to be stopped and we will never get anywhere as long as there are groups in the Palestinian community who are trying to create a Palestinian state through the use of terror. It is not going to happen nor are they going to destroy Israel. So what is the purpose of this terror? What is it trying to accomplish? And the answer is: It's not going to accomplish anything. It hasn't accomplished anything.

And so, the new president, Abu Mazen, who I know very well, knows full well, and we've talked about it many times, that he's got to get these terrorists under control. And what Prime Minister Sharon did today by temporarily, I hope, keeping contacts from taking place is once again say to the Palestinians, "I want to be your partner for peace. I want to move forward and I welcome the election of President Abu Mazen but you've got to get these terrorists under control."

MR. REAGAN: Terrorism in the Middle East is not new. It's been going on for a long period of time. You say what is it all about? Isn't it about maintaining control and power over their own people?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is always about control and power but their own people are the ones who are going to have to reject this because for the Palestinian child, who is not growing up in a proper environment with good schooling and being prepared for a job and a job is not being created for that Palestinian child when that child grows up, the Palestinian people have to start asking themselves, what are we getting out of this? What are we getting out of the Intifadah?

The whole world stands ready to help us: the United States with economic assistance; Egypt with security assistance; the European Union is ready to help us. And what are we doing? We're setting off bombs, killing Israelis, killing our own people and not moving us, as a people, one day or one step closer to having a state of our own.

Prime Minister, now-President Abu Mazen understands that, so do the other Palestinian leaders, and they're going to have to work hard to get these groups under control. And we'll help them with the rebuilding of their security forces, but ultimately it's going to have to be something that the Palestinian leaders do and the Palestinian people do.

MR. REAGAN: The elections in Iraq, so very important to that area of the world. What are your thoughts on that as the insurgents ratchet up the terrorist attacks every single day?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they don't want to see -- they just don't want to see elections. They want to go back. They want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein, when they were in charge and oppressing everybody else in the country in one of the great totalitarian regimes of modern history. And so democracy threatens them. A free vote threatens them. Because it means that there will be a Shia majority in the legislature, but it will be a Shia majority that under the law that we are operating under, what's called the Transitional Administrative Law, there will also be Sunni representation and there will be Kurd representation, and the government that is ultimately appointed from the national assembly so created will have Sunni, Kurd and Shia representation.

And so the Sunni citizens of Iraq have every incentive to come out and vote, and these terrorists and murderers are doing everything they can to keep people from coming out to vote because they don't want to see that kind of democracy. And we cannot say, well, this is too hard or we can't face these casualties, and therefore let's let the terrorists win and let the murderers win and let's not have elections. It's not what the Iraqi people want. The Iraqi people want an election.

MR. REAGAN: Mr. Secretary, let's go down that road for a moment, because there is or there are many people in the United States who would like to see us come out of Iraq, bring our military home, and, in effect, lose the war to the terrorists. Tell me about the world we would live in if we did that.

SECRETARY POWELL: There's an old expression you may know. Patton used to use it. Once you put your hand to the thing, the thing must be done. And we and the coalition that we are working with and the Iraqi Interim Government have put their hand to the thing, and the thing is a democracy that will be a unique feature in that part of the world. And we can't fail because we'd be failing the Iraqi people, we'd be failing the coalition and we'd be failing those young men and women who gave their lives -- Iraqi, American and some other nations who gave their lives for this. And it would be a major strategic defeat for the coalition and for the United States, and therefore we can't let that happen.

And those who are saying let's pull out, I'd like to see our troops come home as soon as possible. But we can't come home until we have built up the Iraqi forces and we have accomplished the thing that we set out to accomplish with the Iraqi people.

MR. REAGAN: The other day when the announcement came that we were no longer actively searching for weapons of mass destruction, we're going to use those people in a different area in Iraq, and we have not found weapons of mass destruction, I thought of you because you're the one that went to the United Nations, you're the one that went to the nation and described where the weapons were, what they looked like, after being told by the head of the CIA it was a slam-dunk. Do you feel that you were let down by the CIA and the Administration at all?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very disappointed that part of the information I presented -- and that part had to do with the actual existence of stockpiles -- turned out to be not accurate. But it was what the CIA and the intelligence analysts in the CIA believed. It is what they had been telling the Congress. It was also the judgment of the intelligence communities of other nations. The British intelligence community certainly believed the same thing. And it's the same information that the intelligence community had been providing to the Congress, to the President, to Don Rumsfeld, to Dr. Rice, and for that matter, to President Clinton back in 1998 when he bombed some of these facilities.

So it was not people who didn't believe in what they were saying or trying to deceive me or anyone else. They believed what they were saying. And I presented the information that was provided to me by Director George Tenet and his colleagues at the CIA.

Now, intelligence isn't a perfect science and it turns out that we were badly mistaken with respect to the existence of stockpiles. And I regret that that was the case. And now what we have to do is find out why we were so wrong with respect to the existence of these stockpiles, and there are a number of inquiries underway to get the answer to that question.

MR. REAGAN: There are many people who questioned, because of that information, the fact that the CIA Director, George Tenet, was given a Medal of Freedom Award. Did you have any thoughts on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. George served the country nobly for a long period of time and the President certainly thought that he warranted the award and he presented it to him, and he did it publicly and gave his reasons in the citation that was read.

MR. REAGAN: There has been a lot of talk over the years about you at the State Department and others in the Administration being at odds in all of these issues that we've discussed. Tell me about that. Tell me about the relationship --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, you know, Michael, everybody wants to talk about this. And all of us have a mission, and that mission is to present the President with our points of view and our best advice. And most of the time, we all are in agreement. When we are not in agreement, then the President does what the President is paid to do, and that's to make a decision, and then we all execute the President's decision.

The President would be ill-served if he did not have advisors who, from time to time, disagree with each other, perhaps even strongly. I was in an administration -- let me think -- what was the name of the President? Ah, yes. Reagan.

MR. REAGAN: Ah, we've been friends for too long.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. And there was a Secretary of State named Shultz, a dear friend of mine, and another Secretary by the name of Weinberger who was Secretary of Defense. And, lo and behold, they were in disagreement from time to time. And President Reagan was served well by having people with strong disagreements.

And, of course, the press loves to focus on these disagreements and run a scorecard with respect to these disagreements. All I know is that my job here was to give the President the best of my advice. I did that. And because of the advice that I gave him, he made certain choices, and those choices have caused us to have good relations with China, one of the most important nations in this 21st century world; good relations with Russia; expanding the transatlantic alliance and all the other things I talked about. And these are issues in which I made positive recommendations to the President, which he accepted, and for the most part, all of my colleagues in the Administration concurred in those recommendations to the President. We were a unified group.

MR. REAGAN: Tell me about Condi Rice. She's going to step in, take over as Secretary of State. I think a wonderful decision by the President. You've worked with her now for many years. Your thoughts?

SECRETARY POWELL: She is going to be a very gifted substitute for me and I think highly of her. I've known her many years.

MR. REAGAN: She's going to be able to step in and do the job --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure of it.

MR. REAGAN: -- and deal with everybody in the Middle East the way you did, or in a different way? How is she different?

SECRETARY POWELL: Michael, she is a very capable person and I'm sure she's going to do a great job as Secretary of State. And she will make a record that we all can be proud of.

I've got run, Mike.

MR. REAGAN: Tell me about the future.

SECRETARY POWELL: The future is I'm going to go and take a long rest, and then we'll see what the future holds.

MR. REAGAN: Stay in touch, friend.

SECRETARY POWELL: Take care, Mike.

MR. REAGAN: You take care.



Released on January 14, 2005

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