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Powell Interview on CBS’s Face the Nation

Interview on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer and Gloria Borger

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
November 10, 2002

MR. SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And, as advertised, here is the Secretary of State. Mr. Secretary, a big week for you. The UN passed a very strong resolution. I guess the first question: Have you had any reaction from Iraq at this point?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not yet. I understand that Saddam Hussein has called the national assembly in to conference to begin to meet and consider this. And the only quasi-official statement we've received is that they would look at this resolution calmly. They should look it calmly, they should look at it seriously, and they should comply.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What do you now feel that the United States has a right to do? Do we need to go back to the United Nations at some point now if they don't comply with these various deadlines that you've set up?

SECRETARY POWELL: If they don’t comply, the resolution provides for the Security Council to convene immediately and consider what should be done. And the resolution also says Iraq can expect to face serious consequences.

Now, while the Security Council is meeting once again in the presence of this noncompliance, the United States will be participating in that debate in the Security Council. But at no time have we given up our authority. If we find that debate is going nowhere, if the UN chooses not to act, we have not given up our authority to act with likeminded nations who might wish to join us in such an action.

So we found a compromise where the United Nations gets the opportunity to consider this violation again, this new material breach, and to decide what the Security Council should do. But, at the same time, the United States has not given up its ability to act if it believes it's necessary to do so.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So let me just make sure I understand what you're saying. And as I understand it, the last deadline they have to meet is sometime in late February, around the 21st or so. If, sometime between now and then, the United States feels that Iraq has violated this in some way, made what you've called a material breach, we could, and believe we have the right, to take military action at that point?

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe the first thing that would happen would be it would go to the Security Council. We would bring it to the Security Council if we saw that Iraq simply wasn't cooperating with the inspectors.

Say they let the inspectors in; they provided us a declaration that seems to be something we can accept. It remains to be seen whether they will do that or not in 30 days. The inspectors go back in, but Iraq is not cooperating with them. They are playing the same game they played before.

Then we can say to the Security Council we need to get together and talk about this. Or, Dr. Blix or Dr. El Baradei of the IAEA -- International Atomic Energy Commission -- Dr. Blix of UNMOVIC -- the inspectors -- can report to the Security Council under the terms of the resolution that they are not doing what they are supposed to do, in which case the UN Security Council can decide whether or not action is required. At the same time we will participate in that debate but also reserve our option of acting.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And not necessarily be bound by what the Security Council might decide at that point?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are not bound. But, clearly, if the Security Council acts, it acts with the force of international law. We will see whether it chooses to do so or not.

MS. BORGER: Mr. Secretary, there are reports today that there's going to be a first early test, and that is that the weapons inspectors are going to say to Saddam Hussein, give us a comprehensive list of where these weapons are, and then they are going to compare that list with their own list. How long would that take?

SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution requires Iraq to come forward with that declaration in 30 days. So 30 days from this past Friday, Iraq has to come forward with a declaration listing everything called for by the resolution.

MS. BORGER: So, if Saddam gives what you consider to be a false declaration, would you consider that to be a material breach?

SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution says that if the declaration is false, and if they're not complying -- and if the declaration is false, they're not complying -- then that constitutes, in and of itself, the very fact of that noncompliance is a material breach under the terms of the resolution, at which point this material breach is reported to the Council for the Council to decide what to do.

At that point, the United States will participate in the Council discussions, but also retains the ultimate right, if it chooses to do so at some point, to take action separately from the Council if the Council does not act.

MS. BORGER: When you get down to these inspections, can you tell our viewers and us exactly how these inspections are going to work -- unannounced, no notice, everywhere at the same time?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have gotten in this resolution a tough inspection regime where Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei can go wherever they have to go, whenever they want to go, with little announcement. There has to be some announcement, but it will be very short, that they are coming so that there isn't --

MS. BORGER: How short?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're talking just a matter of hours. We're not going to give him days to cook the books once again. But at the same time, you have to let someone know you are coming so that they are ready to receive you.

But it is not so much whether they catch somebody doing something as it is are the Iraqis finally cooperating. If they are cooperating, the inspectors can do their job. If they are not cooperating, they can inspect for 12 years and not get anywhere. And that is the big difference in this resolution. The resolution says we are expecting cooperation, and if there is no cooperation, that lack of cooperation will be reported to the Council because the inspectors cannot get their jobs done.

We are going to give Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei all the support we can, all the information we can, with respect to the things that they should be looking at. I am confident, after a number of meetings with both of these gentlemen, that they are thorough professionals; they know what they have to do; they have to call it the way they see it. Then the judgment is up to somebody else, the Security Council or the United States and likeminded nations, as to whether or not because the Iraqis are not complying, not cooperating, it is time to take military action to remove this regime.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, what's your hunch right now? Do you think that Saddam Hussein is going to comply with these rules, or are you skeptical?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is such a sensitive moment, Bob, that I would rather not toss out hunches. We will know soon enough what he is going to do. His first opportunity to speak is between now and next Friday. By next Friday, he is expected to say he accepts the resolution.

Now, whether he accepts it or not, it became international law. It has the force of law. And, in fact, he must accept it at the moment that it was voted. But in order to get an early indication of whether he plans to cooperate or he plans to play the same game he has played before, the resolution called for him to provide an acceptance by next Friday.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, what if he doesn't?

SECRETARY POWELL: If he doesn't, then the Security Council will have to sit and make a judgment about this early indication of noncompliance.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about two leaks mysteriously appear in the major newspapers of America this morning, The New York Times and The Washington Post, outlining the size of the force that the United States is putting together. We're talking about a quarter of a million men.

Can you put that on the record for us? Is that true?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I never talk about military plans, and especially now that I'm no longer in the Pentagon. But when I was in the Pentagon, I would not talk about military plans. There's a lot of speculation in the press about what a plan might look like. Some of it is informed speculation and some is not.

But one thing I would say is that, sure, the Pentagon is hard at work. My military colleagues and their civilian leaders are working on contingency plans. The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the plan that they come up with will do the job. The President has made it clear that if we have to use military force, there will be no question about the outcome. I know the kind of plan they are putting together, I can assure you, but it is not the kind of thing I would discuss in public.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But if you were Saddam Hussein and you picked up The Washington Post and The New York Times this morning and you saw what was there, how would you take that, if you were Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: If I were Saddam Hussein, I would take it with a great deal of concern and seriousness, and understand that this is not some idle threat that has been issued by the United States and this is not some resolution to be ignored, as he has ignored all previous resolutions.

What makes this resolution different is the third element that I have spoken about many times, and I think on this show. The first element, he is in breach; the second element, tough inspection regime to see whether or not he is willing to comply by cooperation; the third element, ‘serious consequences’ -- that's a nice term, but what it means is force to disarm him.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you also this: If you were Saddam Hussein and you saw the picture that mysteriously appeared last week of what happened when that drone aircraft pretty much obliterated those al-Qaida officials, would you take that as something to mean that this could happen to you, to Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: If I were Saddam Hussein, I would look at the resolution of Friday which showed that nobody came to his assistance this time. It was not like the last resolution four years ago where Russia, China and France abstained. Everybody was there this time to include the only Arab member of the Security Council, Syria. That is the first thing he ought to look at.

And, secondly, he knows that the United States military has been planning. He knows what we are doing. He can see what is going on in the region. He can see now that the whole international community is unified against him -- not just with a resolution of words but a resolution of purpose, a resolution of action. Action, that will come if he doesn't cooperate, in the form of military force either under a UN umbrella or with the United States and likeminded nations acting together.

MS. BORGER: Mr. Secretary, do you expect top military officials to defect, and even help you discover where weapons may be stored?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. I think it would be -- if it comes to this, if it comes to a military action, we think that top military officials of the Iraqi regime would be wise to defect, and might have every incentive to defect because if military action comes, the outcome is certain. Of this, I am absolutely sure. The outcome is certain: the regime will be destroyed, the regime will be defeated. These generals had better make a judgment as to which side of the wall they want to be on when it is all over.

MS. BORGER: Do you expect that Saddam Hussein would fall from power very quickly if there were a military action?

SECRETARY POWELL: One thing I have learned is that military action has a dynamic of its own and it would be best not to predict what the enemy will do. You should make a judgment as to what you are going to do and make sure that we have the initiative. We will have the initiative. What he may do or not do, that is up to him.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think the United States, the people of the United States, are ready to go to war?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the people of the United States have come to the understanding that this is a serious problem that has to be dealt with. The polls last week were very instructive on this question. If you had UN support for it, if it was the international community speaking, then the American people are solidly in support of such action. If it was just us acting unilaterally, then the support dropped considerably. And I hope that with the vote on Friday, this made it clear to the people of the world and to the people of the United States that we are not alone in this. The international community has come together.

This was a wonderful day for the United Nations. The Security Council demonstrated its relevance. The Security Council demonstrated that faced with a challenge, they were able to meet it and not walk away. I am very proud not only of what our negotiating team did in New York under Ambassador Negroponte and Ambassador Cunningham's leadership, but the way all of my colleagues in the Security Council came together to deal with this problem.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're welcome, Bob.


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