Karen P. Hughes IV on ARD Breakfast TV Germany
Interview on ARD Breakfast TV ("Morgenmagazin"), German TV One
Karen P. Hughes, Under Secretary of State for Public
Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Interview by Anne Gesthuysen
February 22, 2006
(7:35 a.m. local time)
QUESTION: Karen Hughes is a journalist who worked for ten years as a personal advisor to George W. Bush. She's now at the State Department to improve America's image in the world. Good Morning, Madame Under Secretary.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Good morning, Anne. I've had a wonderful visit here to Germany.
QUESTION: A lot of people in the world say it would be very easy to improve America's image -- just close Guantánamo.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well. I wish it were that easy, Anne. Unfortunately, we face in this situation in Guantánamo people who are sworn to -- their stated goal is they want to kill as many Americans as possible. In fact, they want to kill all people who don't agree with them. They've said they want to kill Christians, they want to kill Jews, they want to kill fellow Muslims who don't agree with them. The people who are there, the 490 people, were caught waging war against my country or supporting Al Qaida, which waged war against my country in an unprovoked attack, as you know, on September 11. And so it is very difficult to know how to deal with these people, and we have wrestled with this, we have debated this extensively. This has been a subject that we have constantly worked to improve, how we handle the situation; but these are people who -- they've not signed on to any international convention, they don't respect the rules of war, they don't wear a uniform or represent any particular state or country, so it's really an unprecedented situation, and we have tried to deal with them in a fair and humane way. That report that you referenced is just plain wrong. There are -- no prisoners at Guantánamo are tortured. I've had members of my staff visit Guantánamo. In fact, prisoners are allowed to exercise, they receive mail, they are given copes of the Koran and allowed to worship; they are treated very humanely, and those are the orders of the President. But, again, these are people whose stated intention is they want to kill Americans; and governments around the world are going to increasingly have to deal with this issue themselves, as we face terrorists who want to attack the civilized world, and it's a very difficult situation to know what to do with people like these.
QUESTION: But we don't only want to speak about Guantánamo. Now how would you like to improve America's image, and what is your strategy, did you explain it, and what is your strategy to improve America's image in public opinion?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I think it's important that Americans seek to reach out, and that's what I've been doing here in Berlin. I've reached out to representatives of your government, I've had meetings with leaders here in Berlin, to talk with them about the types of things that America and Germany have in common. I come here at a time of a new chapter in American and German relations, when our leaders are working closely together. Your chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, came to Washington and had a wonderful visit there; the American people were very charmed by her; they felt her candor, her forthrightness -- even stating disagreements with us -- were a breath of fresh air. And so we believe America and Germany have much in common, and that we need a strong transatlantic partnership. America needs a strong Germany within a strong European Union, in order to solve some of the big problems that we face around the world.
QUESTION: But is it enough when you explain the American position?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I hope so. I hope the people can understand our position. America, again, and Germany have many common interests throughout the world. From right now, America and Germany are working together to make sure Iran, for example, does not continue to defy the international community and develop a nuclear weapon, because we think that would be destabilizing for the region and bad for the world. America and Germany are working together in Afghanistan to make sure that that country emerges democratic and stable and unified and free. And I've been to Afghanistan and the people there are very grateful for the assistance of the American people and the German people in helping them achieve their freedom. America and Germany have a big interest in Africa, where America is involved in an unprecedented effort to deliver AIDS relief to Africa, and I know Africa is the largest recipient of Germany's development aid. So we have much in common, including our values -- our belief in freedom and democracy, in free speech and peoples' rights, and in a free press. And so America and Germany have much to work together in common, and I think that it's important that our countries be seen as working together to address difficult problems around the world.
QUESTION: Another question. You are explaining that you are helping, and in an interview with the news magazine "Der Spiegel," you said you listen. What do you listen to, to the people, what do you hear?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I hear concerns. I hear ongoing concerns about things like Guantánamo that you mentioned. I hear concerns about Abu Ghraib. And I want to tell you, as an American, I think those pictures are disgusting, they're horrible, and they are embarrassing to me as an American; frankly, they're totally against American policy, and what you see in those pictures are crimes. And I don't think the good people of Germany would want pictures of criminal acts committed here in Germany to somehow represent the image of their country around the world; because we all know that even lawful societies, societies that have rule of law, have criminals in those societies, and what we do in a society based on the rule of law is, when people engage in criminal acts, they are punished, they're investigated. The people who perpetrated those crimes at Abu Ghraib are now serving prison sentences in the United States, including one who is serving a lengthy ten-year prison sentence, and another who is serving an eight-year prison sentence. So, I hear concerns, because obviously this is a difficult time, a time of challenge in the world, but I also hear about how much we have in common. I mean, all of us, Americans and German, we want education for our children, we want a better life, a better future, we want jobs and opportunity, and, for many people around the world, I think, although there are some disagreements on issues, America still for many people represents the hope of a better life. I meet people around the world who tell me they want to come to America to study, and we welcome, by the way, students to come to America. We want more Germans to come to America.
QUESTION: Please, I have to interrupt you because time is over. Thank you very much for explaining your opinion. Thank you very much. Goodbye.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Thank you so much.