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Powell Briefing For High School Newspaper Editors

Powell Briefing For High School Newspaper Editors

Press Briefing For High School Student Newspaper Editors

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC November 18, 2002

(11:02 a.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning, everyone. Forgive me for being a few moments late. I had a meeting that I couldn't break off fast off, and then finally I said -- (Photographs being taken.) What did I walk into? A camera club? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: They told them they can take pictures. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: But I finally told my guests that I have to go, I had a bunch of wonderful young student reporters and editors and Pulitzer Prize winners of the future waiting for me and I did not want to keep you waiting. And since I am a few minutes later, we will, of course, let it run a few minutes over time so that nobody feels pressed.

But it is a great pleasure to welcome you to the State Department, and on behalf of all of us here, I thank you for coming. And I especially thank the American Society of Newspaper Editors for helping us make the selection of those of you who are here this morning and for working with the Department of Education. We are certainly supporting International Education Week.

I am pleased to have to here and glad that you are going to get the opportunity to learn a little bit more about foreign policy and how it's conducted and what it all means and how exciting it can be. And perhaps in the course of learning a little bit today, it might whet your appetite for a career in foreign policy; or, if you are intent on being a journalist, which is a great and noble profession and part of our governmental system -- journalism, the free press, watching the government -- then perhaps you might focus on foreign affairs, which is very exciting.

I know that Matt Lee spoke to you earlier this morning and mentioned to you that diplomacy sometimes is a difficult thing to cover because Powell won't tell us what's going on late at night when he's making all those phone calls -- (laughter) -- and when he's trying to keep all of these secrets to himself. This is true, but the very best reporters do find out what's going on. And there's a great deal going on. And, frankly, the role of a government official such as myself is to make sure that you do know what's going on because I have an obligation as the Secretary of State -- and it's the same obligation I had when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- to let the American people know what we are doing in their service.

We are not here to keep secrets from the American people, although sometimes secrets must be kept for the American people to protect them. But we are really here to let the American people know what we are doing in the service of them. And so we take the opportunities presented to us to speak to the reporters, to speak to the media, to do everything we can to make the American people knowledgeable. A knowledgeable people, citizens who are informed, citizens who study the issues of the day, make for a better society, make for a better foreign policy, because then when they go and they vote, they're voting in an informed way with respect to foreign policy and it helps the President and it helps the Members of Congress and it helps certainly the members of the foreign policy community to do their job.

These are exciting times to be in the foreign policy business, and I'm sure that you will have lots of questions about the headlines of the day, whether that has to do with Iraq or North Korea or UN resolutions and things of this nature. But before we go to that, let me just say that even though the news tends to be dominated by the crisis of the day -- that's what makes it news, the crisis of the day is news, people want to hear about the crisis of the day -- you have to sometimes lean back and reflect a broader vision and a broader context of how things are going in the world. And I'd like to do that for just about five minutes to give you a deeper sense of what's going on before we get into the issues of the day.

For me, as a rather older person who has been around this business for many, many years -- almost many, many decades, I'm ashamed to say, but it's true -- what is so exciting about the year 2002 and being in government service at this time is that it's so different from my years as a solider where, for 35 years of my adult life as a soldier, I essentially was watching a clash of ideologies, communism versus democracy, and in my life that clash was represented as being as soldier on a battlefield prepared to fight communism, either in Europe, Vietnam, Korea or wherever they sent me.

And then, about 12 years or so ago, that contest was ended, with communism losing -- no longer an ideology that people really believe in because it doesn't work as well as democracy. And so you see the whole Iron Curtain went down. The Bamboo Curtain that used to be referred to as represented the Iron Curtain equivalent in China, that went away. And rather than seeing this clash of ideologies, the President leaves tomorrow morning to go to Prague in Czechoslovakia. To do what? To welcome some of those nations that used to be communist into the great alliance of the West called NATO, which was created to fight communism, politically and militarily. And now it is an enlarging club of nations that used to be communist and now want to be part of a great North Atlantic community. It's fascinating.

And sometimes we forget what a historic change this is and how fundamental it is. When you see that there are still -isms in the world -- terrorism is there, but communism is no longer a threat, it's no longer a challenge. Terrorism is a threat and a challenge. Terrorism can knock down our buildings. Terrorism can kill innocent people. Terrorism can be a very dangerous thing, but it can't destroy us as a society. It can't change our way of life except with respect to our personal security. But in terms of who we are as a nation, who we are as a society, terrorism can't change that. In fact, 9/11 strengthened it by us realizing that we had a new enemy that we had to deal with. But it was an enemy that could be dealt with and will be dealt with, but it couldn't fundamentally change who we are.

So we have been working for the last almost two years in this administration to recognize that this world is new and different and to reach out to nations that used to be enemies but which are enemies no longer. And the President is fond of saying, as he has said so many times with respect to Russia, and when he talks to President Putin, "You are not my enemy. Russia is not our enemy any longer. We're partners. We're friends." We're working together in ways that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. And he will see President Putin of Russia a little bit later this week in St. Petersburg.

We are more interested now in economic exchanges than wondering where our armies are located. The old days when I pored over maps looking at Soviet missile fields and where their armies were located, and the old days when I first became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 14 years ago and I could tell you how many minutes it was for the submarines that were off Norfolk to launch missiles that could reach Washington -- something like 10, 11 minutes. Gone. All gone. Now we're talking about economic exchanges. We're talking about student exchanges. We're talking about how can we help their economy.

China, the other great nation that we have to keep a focus on, also used to be seen as an adversary, as an enemy. President Bush has met now with the Chinese President three times; most recently he had President Jiang Zemin to his home in Crawford, Texas. And we find that China is anxious to be part of a different kind of a world, has joined the World Trading Organization. It is reaching out.

And we are reaching to China, but not at the expense of principles. We still don't like their political system. We don't think it is the best political system for them. But that's up to them to decide. We still believe that some of their practices with respect to human rights are not appropriate and some of the things they do with respect to proliferation is not right. And we don't hide these facts. We don't hide this point of view. We let them know candidly so they know where we're coming from and we know where they're coming from, and let's now build on the opportunities and those things we have in common.

And that's what diplomacy really is about, working with different nations throughout the world to find areas of common interest where we can work together but not moving away from areas where there are differences -- explore those differences, discuss those differences, argue about those differences -- and find ways forward.

China, Russia, very good relations with both of them right now. In our own hemisphere, we are working to have free trade throughout the Americas. Fifteen years ago when I was National Security Advisor, we had generals running countries. We had Cuba, Castro's Cuba, fomenting revolution and insurrection all over the hemisphere. Now, 34 of the 35 nations of this hemisphere are democracies. Some of them are fragile. Some of them are having difficulty figuring out how to make it work or how to make market economies work. But only Castro's Cuba remains an anachronistic dictatorship. And in due course, the waves of freedom will wash over the Cuban shores, as well.

In Africa, we are working as hard as we can to relieve regional problems and crises. We are working in the Sudan, we are working in other parts of Africa, to bring these regional conflicts to an end -- very challenging, very difficult. We are trying to do everything we can to improve Africa's ability to compete in the economic marketplace of the 21st century, with advanced efforts to make what's called the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act more successful, opening our markets to African nations.

We are working with our African friends on HIV/AIDS, the greatest catastrophe, potential catastrophe, on the face of the earth now -- millions and millions of people who will not survive because of this terrible disease -- and we need to invest more in it.

We are working friends in other parts of the world. We were helpful, I think, this past year in keeping a conflict from breaking out between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed nations. We now see that they are starting to deescalate, move their forces back. But, at the same time, we have to keep engaged with that country.

Europe, one more area I'll touch on. The President goes to Prague tomorrow. He will meet with his NATO allies and he will meet with other European nations, as well. And in those meetings he will make, once again, his case for a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.

We are often accused of being unilateralist, that we don't listen to our friends. We do listen to our friends. He will be listening all this week. We were listening in the UN for seven weeks as we worked on a resolution. We will listen, we will cooperate, we will collaborate with our friends, but we will stick with our principles. When we believe in a principle strongly enough so that we stand alone on that principle, we will stand alone on that principle if we can't convince others. We won't yield in our principles, but we will work very hard to convince others of the correctness of our principle or listen to them and see if they can disprove the correctness of our principles.

And that's what politics is about. That's what diplomacy is all about. Washington can sometimes be a noisy place to cover. You see arguments breaking out within the bureaucracy. You read about fights in your newspaper every day between Congress and perhaps the President and the administration. There are great debates taking place. It's noisy. It's fractious. How can it possibly work? Good heavens, people look in at this American democracy and say, "What a mess."

Except it works. Because all of that noise, all of that clash of ideas and clash of egos and clash between the Administration and the Legislative Branch, with the Judiciary watching it all and the free press looking at it and commenting on it and criticizing everyone. All of that noise, all of that ferment, has a name. It's called democracy. Democracy was never intended to be pleasant, quiet, you know, everything is in its place. That's called a dictatorship.

Democracy is intended to be noisy. The founding fathers are up there now, in heaven, looking down, and having a heck of a time every day laughing at it. It's working just the way we thought it was supposed to work. And still going 220-odd years later because it's based on pretty straightforward, fundamental principles: the individual rights of men and women to enjoy inalienable rights given by God, not by a state, not by a king, not by a government, by God. And governments are instituted among men to do what? Anybody remember the Declaration?

Governments are instituted among men to secure -- not to give, not to take, not to protect, to secure -- to secure these rights for the citizens. And that's what we are all about in government.

And so I hope that you will enjoy your conversations here today. I hope that you will keep studying foreign policy and I hope that you will have your appetite whetted enough that some of you, one day, might be in this Department as Foreign Service Officers, as Ambassadors, as Civil Servants, who knows? Only you know. And only the future will tell.

On that note, I will turn it open to questions.

You're first.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. My name is William Brewer. I'm from Archbishop Carroll High School and I'm a journalist for the Carroll Crescent. Let's say I'm a student from a Muslim country who takes part in one of these exchanges. What are you hoping that I take back to my country?

SECRETARY POWELL: I hope you will take back to your country an understanding that America is a very diverse nation, that we have many races, religions, cultures. I was telling an audience last week that I could walk out of this building, get in my car, and in five minutes I can be at a mosque, a synagogue, 14 different kinds of Protestant churches, a couple of different kinds of, perhaps, Catholic churches, Orthodox churches -- you name it. I can be there all in one city, all living together. Nobody is killing anyone else, no one is attacking anyone else. America is an open nation, a diverse nation, where people can find a new life people can travel to safely, people can come and see this place, see how our noisy democracy works, and take that experience back home -- not to impose it back home, but as an example of how many people can come together and make a nation such as ours.

And if you have any doubts about this, everybody just look around you. Look around you. Just everybody kind of take a spin around. Sometimes we forget. I mean, here is America in this room. And another expression I love, "We are a country of countries. We touch every country and we are touched by every country." And we are open, and we respect the faith of Islam, we respect Muslims, we respect Jews, we respect all of God's children worshipping God in a manner that they saw fit.

QUESTION: Good morning. I'm Jyotsna Singh from Flint High School. I have two questions. My first is --

SECRETARY POWELL: Cheating, cheating, cheating. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- about NATO, the Prague. Will President Bush be meeting with Germany's Chancellor? I know he's having one-to-one meetings with Jacques Chirac and Blair, but will he be meeting with him, too?

SECRETARY POWELL: He'll certainly see Chancellor Schroeder in the course of the meetings. They'll be in meetings together for two days, so they'll see each other. And they will have an opportunity to, I'm sure, exchange greetings. We don't have a separate meeting planned, but I'm quite sure they will see each other and exchange friendly greetings with each other.

You had another one, you say?

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry. Concerning North Korea, they've said that they had secret weapons programs. Will the -- and the pact of 1994, I believe, was broken. Is it a wise decision to be antagonizing towards that nation, as well as Iraq at the same time? Isn't it more dangerous for the United States to make these moves?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're trying -- they are the ones who have antagonized the international community by violating their agreements. They are not supposed to be developing nuclear weapons and they are not supposed to have nuclear weapons. There is a mixed story this morning as to whether they are or not acknowledging that they have nuclear weapons. One change in pronouncement of a single syllable in what their reporter said yesterday makes a difference between having and not having.

If they have them, as my Russian colleagues announced in Moscow today, they are not supposed to. They are violating the Nonproliferation Treaty. So they are the ones antagonizing. We have responded, I think, in a very careful, patient, deliberate way, working with our friends and allies -- the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese and the South Koreans -- making it clear to North Korea that we can help you with the problems you're now having. But it has to begin with the end of any such nuclear weapons program.

And we have not taken precipitous action. We are allowing the current fuel ship to head in, but we're suspending all future fuel deliveries. That was the agreement of all of the members of KEDO, which Korean Energy Development Organization, and I think we have been responding in a very prudent way. But it's North Korea that has to fix the problem.

I might also say at this point that the North Koreans should understand that the United States has no hostile intent toward North Korea. We have no intention to invade. We have no intention to impose our sovereignty upon their sovereignty. We recognize them as a sovereign nation that perhaps, at some future time, there will be a way to unify the Korean Peninsula, and we don't intend to threaten them or to invade them. We would like to help them if they will allow themselves to be helped, and it begins with ending this program and some other programs they have that we believe that are destabilizing.

I will, now, have to keep you to one question each or else I won't get anywhere near as many as I would like to.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I'm Allison Horton from The Raiders Digest at JEB Stuart High School. What is it like working with President Bush on a daily basis?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's great. If you think I would say anything else, you're wrong. (Laughter.) No, the President is easy to work for. He gives straightforward guidance. He's very accessible. We have a lot of fun. We crack jokes. He encourages each of us, all of us, to speak our mind and he makes it clear what he wants done and then he gives us our leeway and enough flexibility to make sure that it gets done.

He is in charge of foreign policy, not me or anyone else, and he conducts foreign policy in the name of the American people. And he finds out what the American people want him to do through elections. And I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with him on a daily basis and to help him achieve the goals of the American people.

Let's go way in the back, this young lady. I don't mean to point. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: That s okay. My name is Sharifa Monawar from Woodbridge Senior High School.


QUESTION: Woodbridge Senior High school.


QUESTION: This is in reference to an article in yesterday's Post by Bob Woodward. He depicted you and the sole advisor to the President that pushed for an international coalition in respect to action taken against Iraq. How do you respond to his claims that you were the only one opposed to the unilateralism proposed?

SECRETARY POWELL: The terms "unilateralism" and "multilateralism" are shorthands that are not terribly accurate. None of my colleagues in the administration would not want to see a coalition formed if a coalition is appropriate to the task before us. We sometimes debate with each other about ways of going about raising a coalition and how to work with other nations. It's good that we can have healthy, open debates among people who have respect for each other, people who have known each other for years. And I have a little rule in the back of my book that says don't let your ego get so close to your position that if you lose a position, an argument, your ego goes with it. And I believe in that strongly.

So we have an open process to resolve issues within the administration and I am pleased to be a part of that process where we argue, we debate -- always for the purpose of finding out what's the best recommendation that we can give the President, recognizing that he is the one who is in charge, he makes the judgment as to what we do. And one has to be a little cautious about labels such as that which seems -- that people use to try to characterize everything.

Some days I am seen as a multilateralist, some days I am seen as a unilateralist on some issues, and I just try to include as many people into our foreign policy objectives as I can because I think it's best when you have friends and allies working with you.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Forgive me. I'm not being rude; I'm just trying to make sure there's no confusion when I point. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: My name is Catherine Burk and I'm a senior at Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia. Besides Great Britain, what country is our most important ally, and why?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have many, many allies, and Great Britain is certainly one of the very best. I am always reluctant to say best or number one because I would not want to give short shrift to other nations that mean so much to us, as well. Canada, Mexico, France, many nations are close friends and allies and who have fought alongside of us over the years. Australia. See, now I have to go through 179 or else I'll offend somebody. (Laughter.)

But let me just cut if off by saying we have lots of friends and allies. There are none better than the United Kingdom, but we have many who have been with us throughout the years and I'm proud of all of them.

And we saw that when we were working on the UN resolution. Because a country doesn't agree with you right away and it takes a little time to, say, bring them along, or they bring us along, if they'd prefer to put it that way, doesn't mean they're not a good friend of ours. Good friends should have strong views, as well. And the job of the diplomat is to blend this all together. I was trying to think of some way to capture this all, and I guess diplomacy is the art of not giving people what they want, not giving people want they want but making them want what they can get. Think about that. It works.

Young man.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Prentice Whitlow from Fairmont Heights High School newspaper, The Hornets Nest. Do you have any comments about America being seen as the big brother? As was said earlier, we have alliances with almost 150 to 160 countries. So how do you feel about that, being seen as a big brother, always meddling and things like that?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's it? (Laughter.) We are a superpower. We have the largest, strongest economy in the world. We are the biggest trading partner to a number of countries. We have the most powerful military on the face of the earth. And we have been given, by those factors and by destiny, a unique place on the face of the earth.

What some people might call meddling, others would call, "Thanks heavens the Americans are here." When we went to the rescue of Kuwait a little over 10 years ago, I guess 11 years ago now, that wasn't meddling. That was saving one Muslim country that had been invaded by another Muslim country, Iraq.

When, a few years ago, we went into Kosovo, that wasn't meddling. That was rescuing another Muslim population.

When we went into Afghanistan, that was to protect our own people and, frankly, to get rid of terrorists who had taken over a country in Afghanistan and get rid of the regime that would not get rid of these terrorists. And we've put in place a new government now, more representative of the Afghan people, and we're going to stay there and help them build a new government. This would not be called meddling.

When we have American troops -- wonderful young men and women a little bit older than you who are out there serving all over the world in defense of freedom and to help people in need, not to invade anybody, not to take over anyone's country -- this isn't meddling. This is going where we're invited.

Now, it is clear that there are nations in the world that do not mean us well. There are organizations in the world that are not affiliated with nations, terrorist organizations, that do not mean us well. And we have to respond to this kind of threat and this kind of challenge. And so what one person might call meddling, I would view it as protecting our interests around the world and working with friends and allies to protect and serve their interests, as well.

But, you know, America did not choose to be a superpower. We are a superpower. And what's fascinating about it from my perspective is that an enormous number of problems come to me and some days I will say to myself, "Why is this my problem? I didn't have this problem when I woke up this morning. Why are they bringing this to me? It's got nothing to do with me." Some dispute between two countries about a piece of land or something, or some other problem elsewhere in the world. And I'm saying to myself, "What's this got to do with me?"

And the answer is, not a lot, but they trust us. They trust us to use our power wisely -- a democratic system, a pluralistic system, a lot of military and financial and economic power. They trust us to use that power wisely, which is why people come to us for help and it is why people come to us to be in alliances with us, either economic alliances or political alliances because we are trusted.

Are we also criticized? Yes. Are there people out there who go after Americans? Yes. Are there situations in the world where we're not doing that well because people think we haven't solved a problem -- for example, the Middle East, we haven't been able to solve the problem in the Middle East -- and so we pay a price for that.

You could easily say, "Well, why should we pay the price? We're not in the Middle East. It isn't our problem." The fact of the matter is people look to us to try to solve that problem, and if we don't solve that problem, we pay a price. So very often we're paying a price because we haven't been able to solve problems that people think it's our obligation to solve.

I don't find that meddling. I find that trying to serve the interests of the world and those people in the world who want to be free.

MR. REEKER: We have time for one more question, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: No we don t. We've got time. It's good to be the Secretary. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I'm Michael Beder from Winston Churchill High School Observer. Regarding Afghanistan, it seems to have kind of slipped onto the back burner with a lot of the talk about Iraq. President Hamid Karzai had talked about a need for a greater peacekeeping force in the area and the need to establish more order in the countryside. We haven't heard a lot about that in recent months. Is there any plan to expand the peacekeeping force and to give more aid to Afghanistan to build up their institutions?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the last part of your question, we're always looking to find more sources of aid to build up their institutions, and we've done rather well in terms of getting commitments. Now we have to have everybody pay those commitments. And there's still a long way to go in Afghanistan, but we've come an awfully long way in less than a year. They've got a functioning government. It's slowly starting to reach out of the central government into the provinces. There is still some fragility out in the provinces.

At the moment, we don't see a need to bring in additional members of the -- or additional units into the International Security Assistance Force. The US military forces there and other coalition forces that are there are starting to redirect their efforts so that they can put greater presence around Afghanistan and help settle things down that way. And by training the Afghan national army and national police and extending their reach outside of Kabul, we think we'll be able to bring a little bit more stability to the country.

It's off the front page principally because there isn't anything that's terribly newsworthy right now in terms of a battle or a crisis in Kabul. So we're into the process of steadily trying to improve the central government's ability to control the country. We've just announced a new road construction project that will put a beltway in Kabul, a major ring road that will start to connect the country.

We're helping them put in place financial systems, aid systems, healthcare systems, school systems. My colleague at Department of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, is in the process of working with some people to put in a brand new maternity hospital in Kabul. A lot of things are going on. The Japanese and the Saudi Arabians joined with us in helping to put in this new beltway road, the ring road that I made mention of.

And so there's a lot going on and it's not on the front page right now, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't get our constant attention, and I assure you it does.

Okay, let me go way in the back. The young man right there.

QUESTION: In regard to Iraq and the latest material breach, does the United States still believe that compliance is a realistic outcome?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I mean, it is an outcome that is to be desired. Whether it is achievable or not remains to be seen. Material breaches are easy to identify and the very fact that they conduct one makes it a material breach. What one does about it is another matter and there are different kinds of breaches, but we will see.

The challenge is now up to Iraq to comply. The United Nations came together. Last time the United Nations tried this, they could not come up with a unanimous vote. This time we did, with a much tougher resolution, a resolution that contains consequences. Consequences means that if Iraq does not comply with this resolution, force of arms will be used to disarm Iraq. And there should be no doubt about it: force of arms either administered with the UN as a coalition or with the United States leading a coalition of likeminded nations. And so it's up to Saddam Hussein as to whether or not he's going to cooperate with the inspectors.

Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei, who have now arrived or are in the process of arriving in Iraq to set themselves up, are starting to do their work in a very effective way and both of them have made it clear that they didn't go back to Iraq to waste their time chasing around in the countryside trying to catch the Iraqis who are trying to deceive them. So we will see whether Iraq cooperates or not.

If Iraq cooperates then there is a possible of a peaceful solution; and if it does not, then the force of arms will be required.

Young lady.

QUESTION: Is it a tactic or goal for the use of arms against Iraq?


QUESTION: Is it a tactic or a goal for the US Government to use arms against Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Is it a tactical --

QUESTION: Is it a tactic or is it a goal?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I'm sorry. Oh, I'm sorry. Excuse me.

Our goal is the disarmament of Iraq. The President has made that plain. He has made it very clear repeatedly that he hopes it can be done peacefully, but he is also sure that if we're not prepared to use force, then it won't be done peacefully. Saddam Hussein isn't going to do just because he woke up one morning and decided, "Gee, that's what I ought to do." He'll only do it with the threat of serious consequences for not doing it, and we'll see whether or not he thinks we're bluffing. We're not bluffing.

Did that answer your question? No.

QUESTION: I have a second question.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there's so many, I think I had better -- I'm going to go real fast now. I'm going to prove I can answer questions in brief terms.

QUESTION: Derron Thweatt, Northwestern High School in Maryland.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry. Where am I looking?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: That's okay. My question to you is what type of indicators that leads the government to believe that Saddam Hussein is lying about weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have intelligence information, as well as some of our allies having intelligence information, that make it clear he is continuing to try to obtain the materials and the technology needed to develop weapons of mass destruction. And we will make as much of our information available to Dr. El Baradei and to Dr. Blix as is possible so they can do their job.

The young man in front of you.

QUESTION: Antoine Williams, Central High School, Central Express. The United States has given China a favored nation status, and despite this there are unjustifiable human rights records in China. Do you believe that China can reverse this and improve their human rights record?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have seen improvements over the last 20 years, and, frankly, over the last two years. Those improvements still do not bring China up to a point where we would find their human rights behavior acceptable. We'll continue to work with them. We have an Annual Human Rights Report that points out the shortcomings, and I can assure you that we never have a meeting with China where the overall human rights situation and individual human rights cases are not discussed with the Chinese leadership and we have made progress.

Let's see. Who haven't I -- if you've already asked, don't ask.

The young lady in the yellow sweater. I'm trying to hit McLean High School. Is that you? Okay, I'm coming to you. (Laughter.) The hometown girl. I mean, you know, in McLean.

QUESTION: I'm from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia. Are you worried that if we do go into Iraq, will there be an -- there will be an increase in terrorist attack against US citizens here and abroad?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we'll remain in a threat situation for the foreseeable future. I suspect that there might be heightened level of concern if there were a conflict with Iraq, but it's a risk we'll have to take and we'll have to prepare ourselves for that if it comes. I don't know that it would be necessarily excessive here in the United States.

I think we would have to be much more cautious and on guard at our embassies in that part of the world and elsewhere in the world.


QUESTION: My name is Helen Sim and I'm from McLean High School. If we do go to war with Iraq, how much time and expense do you think will be spent, and what are the short-term and long-term economic ramifications that US businesses and citizens will go through?

SECRETARY POWELL: I really can't answer that and I would be speculating too widely. And I know there's a great deal of interest and focus on "the war." We're trying to prevent "the war." We're trying to find a peaceful solution, and if it's not possible and there is a war, we will try to do it in a way that brings it to an end quickly and with minimum impact to our economy.

Our economy is a big one, it's a strong one. It can absorb quite a bit. But I would not pretend to be able to say to you today what that impact might be or what the recovery period would be if one was even needed.

Lake Braddock, are you here? No?

My son went there. (Laughter.)

Okay, I'm going to take two more. The young man with the gray shirt.

QUESTION: Andrew Satten, I'm from Annandale High School representing the A-Blast. Assuming Saddam Hussein's regime is toppled, how does the US plan to handle competing interest for Iraqi oil both globally and within the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people, and if Saddam Hussein were no longer there and the regime changed and a regime that is more representative of the people and wants to build a better life for the Iraqi people comes into power -- and that would be our goal, of course -- then this treasure that the Iraqi people owned in the way of oil would be used not for purposes of buying weapons or developing weapons of mass destruction, but to benefit the people.

And oil is a very fungible market. The market will respond to whatever additional quantities of oil are made available through this and we'll see what happens. But the United States is not going there to start dividing up that which belongs to the Iraqi people.

And we'll have to wait and see how the government, new government, would be created and what the interests of that new government were and how we could help that new government to use this treasure that belongs to the Iraqi people and has essentially been squandered for the last 20 years.

And now one more, I'm afraid. Let's see.

You've already asked a question, didn't you?

QUESTION: I didn't ask a question yet.

SECRETARY POWELL: You didn't ask a question?


SECRETARY POWELL: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Elizabeth Pans from Thomas S. Wootton High School, Common Sense. And I would like to ask, at what age should children be informed of what is going on around the world and how would you recommend teaching today's youth about foreign policy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Children are being informed every time they turn on a television set. They can't avoid knowing what's going on in the world. Even my two grandsons, now 13 and 7, they've been exposed to foreign policy since they were infants, whether they like it or not, just by watching what's on television. And so you have to assume youngsters are developing some sense of the world that they live in at a very early age.

I think it's important though that by time children are in first, second or third grade that they are exposed in their reading to issues in the world. Now, I'm not expecting a second-grader to focus in on what comes after the Saddam Hussein regime, but I think it's important for youngsters to read newspapers or news magazines early in life as part of their reading education.

I recall when I was a young kid in New York City -- I don't know why this sticks in my mind, but as a kid in New York City, one of the first things we learned in school was how to fold a large newspaper in a certain way so that you could read it on a subway without interfering with everybody else around you.

And as a youngster, I guess by age 8, 9 or 10, I was already reading a couple of newspapers a day. And this was in the pre-television days, if you can believe that. And I think it's important for youngsters to start to inform themselves as early as they are able, and reading a newspaper is the best way to do that. And it doesn't end. I've been doing it now for all these years, and now I have to read seven newspapers a day. So I'm now progressing.

Learning never ends. For you young people -- you're mostly juniors and seniors? Is that a good guess? -- learning never ends. I've discovered that I spend more time doing homework now than the homework I didn't do when I was in high school. (Laughter.) And in high school I could get away with not doing homework and my grades reflected that. But I can't get away now without doing homework. So I take home more papers, more books, more analyses, I watch more television, I stay on the Internet more in order to gather information about the world. And I hope that at this point in your lives you are developing those habits of study and concentration and the ability to take in large quantities of information and know what to dump and what to keep and how to analyze it.

And I hope you're also learning -- and I suspect you are because of what you're doing in the newspaper business -- how to filter stuff. A lot of the information that you get everyday these days is just patent nonsense. And learn quickly how to be discriminating, not to believe everything you hear or read and to make informed judgments based on common sense, most often.

And develop those analytic skills now and those analytic habits now. And that'll all stand you in good stead. Not everybody who is on television is right. Not everything you read is correct. And a lot of what you read is intending to shape your opinion one way or the other.

So learn early to be discriminating and to be analytic in your work and study and reading habits. And I think that's not bad advice.

I want to thank you all so very much for being here with us this morning.

Thank you. Bye-bye. (Applause.)


Released on November 18, 2002

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