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Powell Interview With Russ Spence of WAGA/Fox 5

Interview With Russ Spence of WAGA/Fox 5

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Atlanta, Georgia
October 1, 2004

(10:40 a.m. EDT)

MR. SPENCE: Well, now, you do this all over the country. What do you hope the kids get out of these meetings and what do you get out of it personally?

SECRETARY POWELL: I get a lot out of it. It's just fulfilling to me to go into a Boys and Girls Club somewhere in the country and, one, see what the community has done for the young people in their community, and to realize that here again we've given young people growing up a safe place in which to learn and to grow, protect them from some of the problems that exist in our society, that might exist in their lives.

We've got to do more of it and the Boys and Girls Club, headquartered here in Atlanta, I was proud to be on the board of the national organization and it went from, like, thirteen, twelve, thirteen hundred clubs in 1997 to over 3,000 clubs now around the country. And that's an incredible, incredible growth rate and I enjoy being with kids.

Now, what they get out of it, I've learned over the years that you need to ask the kids because they are usually getting something out of it quite different than what you think they're getting out of it. They're listening to some adult lecturing them again.

MR. SPENCE: As you pointed out, many of them didn't know who you were.

SECRETARY POWELL: They don't know who I am, I know that, and -- but what I've also found is that for almost every one of those kids something will stick, a little something will stick, maybe it's what I've said to them or it's maybe what they internalized, what they saw, but it sticks. And it's so important for people who have been relatively successful in life to talk to young people, not just their own kids.


SECRETARY POWELL: But young people who may not have successful family life, and may not have successful parents, may come from broken homes and wonder, "Does anybody care about me? Am I of value?" You've got to tell them they are of value.

MR. SPENCE: Especially, given where you came from, it's a shining example.


MR. SPENCE: Let me ask you about the war in Iraq for a moment. What do you say to the charge that the war in Iraq was a diversion from what should have been the priority of trying to hunt down Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are hard at work hunting down Usama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban. I mean, we crushed the Taliban and chased them into the wild regions of the Afghan/Pak border, and now we are working with Pakistan to finish their destruction, both of al-Qaida and the Taliban. But it wasn't a diversion. It was a challenge that we faced head on. We don't think what was happening in Iraq was divorced from the global war against terrorism.

And we've got thousands of our troops in Afghanistan. We have thousands of NATO troops and thousands of Afghans, who have been trained to protect themselves. So the real success in Afghanistan is going to come from the free election next weekend and from reconstruction in the country; 3 million refugees have come back into their own country and that's quite a success. And the defeat ultimately of the Taliban and al-Qaida and like movements, will be when we have democratic countries such as Afghanistan that have thrown off the yoke of tyranny and put on the mantle of democracy.

MR. SPENCE: Do you have real hope that democracy will be the result of the election in Afghanistan and the one in January in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, why shouldn't it be? There is almost the presumption that, well, they're -- they can't, that Afghanistan can't possibly have a free election. Why not? They're busy. They're out there arguing with each other now. They're cutting deals. People are surprised. There are 18 candidates, to include one woman, who are running for president of Afghanistan. We've only got two candidates well, three.

But, I mean, it is fascinating to watch this process. Does it look exactly like our process? No, it's quite different. They have to do it consistent with their culture, their experience, their history. But going in three years, from one of the most oppressive imaginable, tyrannical regimes in the world, the Taliban, women couldn't go to school. Women couldn't be seen. Children weren't being educated. The country was being run into the ground, had been turned over to terrorists. Al-Qaida was essentially running this country for the Taliban. In three years time, 3 million refugees back, reconstruction taking place, and an election where 18 presidential candidates argue with each other. That's progress.

MR. SPENCE: Yeah. Now, you made the point to the kids that you talk to world leaders all the time, every day. The suggestion was made last night that because we didn't find weapons of mass destruction and other justifications for the war didn't ultimately pan out that our credibility has been damaged. What's your opinion about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: That charge has been made but I can just tell you that all the world leaders recognize that, whether they supported the war or didn't support the war, felt the justification was solid or not, they all now know that we have to be successful in Afghanistan and in Iraq. There is no world leader that I speak to that wants to do anything but see the United States and its coalition partners succeed in Iraq.

That's why, for example, NATO has now -- by consensus, all 26 nations -- agreed to participate in the training mission in Iraq. That's why we'll have another donors conference in two weeks time and more money will be raised. So the international community, whether they like the way they got to where they are, or where we are, or didn't, now know that the job has to be finished.

Can you imagine stepping away from this task now or saying we'll be out of there in six months or eight months? No, we'll be out of there when the job is finished, and it is not an impossible job to accomplish. We have had tough times before. We have faced determined enemies before. We have defeated determined enemies before. And we believe that with the build up of the Afghan security forces, we can get them to the point where they can handle their own security.

They want to handle their own security. They don't want us to do it. We want them to do it. So there is a mutuality of interest there. And while we're building them up, we'll help them. When they are ready to take it over we'll slowly back away, and we can start to drawdown at that time and have a good handle on it. We will be their partner and friend, but ultimately, their security will rest in their own hands.

MR. SPENCE: Yeah. Now, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry agreed last night that nuclear proliferation is the biggest threat that we face. You met yesterday with the Chinese Foreign Minister. What's your take on the best way to keep North Korea in check? Theres seem to be some disagreement over whether we should have bilateral talks or whether we should maintain the stance that China ought to be part of any negotiation.

SECRETARY POWELL: Not just China, but China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. They are North Korea's neighbors. We're not. And so, this suggestion that somehow we have done something wrong by getting North Korea's neighbors to say to North Korea, we want a denuclearized Peninsula. We do not want you to have nuclear weapons. And to get North Korea to agree to that, North Korea has agreed to the denuclearization of the Peninsula.

What we're arguing about is how to go about it, how can they feel secure without nuclear weapons -- and they think they can't and we know that they can, they are more secure without them than with them -- and so how to go about making this happen. And to say that, no, we shouldn't do it that way, we should forget about North Korea's neighbors and enter into a bilateral discussion, I don't think is the right way to go. The reason for that is the North Koreans want to know in the first moment of the first meeting, how much are you going to give us for our misbehavior?

MR. SPENCE: Right.

SECRETARY POWELL: And we've got to teach North Korea that misbehavior does not obtain a reward; misbehavior gains you condemnation of the international community. We had a bilateral agreement with North Korea and it froze that facility at Yongbyon that was producing plutonium, but in a misdirection of a historic nature, while we were watching Yongbyon they were off finding another technology with which to develop nuclear weapons, enriching uranium.

And so, the agreed framework did not do what it was intended to do in North Korea. In due course, when it tried to get us to pay for the enriched uranium program, what we've said is: no, look, we can't keep doing this. We need to get rid of all of the programs, and it is now in the interest of all the region. North Korea is more of a danger to China, Japan, Russia and South Korea than it is to the United States.

It is in the interest of those nations for North Korea to denuclearize. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to stick with the six-party framework, and my Chinese colleague, Foreign Minister Li, confirmed that yesterday at the State Department.

MR. SPENCE: May I ask one more question about Darfur? Would that be all right? Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

SECRETARY POWELL: You have spoken strenuously about the situation in Darfur at the UN. Both candidates last night admitted that it is genocide. Is there any frustration on your part that the UN seems content to talk about it and not step in and try to stop the killing?

MR. SPENCE: That's not a fair characterization. The UN is hard at work. The Secretary General has been to the region. He has a special representative there. The UN is coordinating all of the humanitarian effort. Working with the UN, we, and the UN, and the rest of the international community have been able to open a humanitarian pipeline. Food is flowing into the region. Shelter is flowing into the region. We have been able to get political discussions going between the rebels and the Sudanese Government; they're not going well yet, but they're they've started.

The big challenge which nobody has been able to solve yet is the security situation in Darfur, and we have now mobilized the African Union to send in additional monitors and protection forces for monitors, not only will that, I think, give us a chance, a better chance to see what's going on in Darfur, but it will give some comfort to the people of Darfur that with these AU monitors in place they will be a little more comfortable going back to their homes.

So the UN is seized with this. But keep in mind what the UN is, the UN is us. It isn't a separate organization that exists separately from its members. It is a creature of its member states and the member states came together and passed a resolution not too long ago with four abstentions to the vote that said, we've got to get more people involved and place demands on the Sudanese Government. And so, it is the responsibility of the entire international community and it can't just be said that, well, the UN isn't doing enough.

The UN is us. We're doing a lot. America has been the lead country on this effort. We've given more money than anyone else, over $200 million to Darfur, over $600 million to Sudan, to the region, that part of the world, and we're going to do more because these people are in desperate need.

MR. SPENCE: You've been very generous with your time.


MR. SPENCE: Mr. Secretary, thank you. It was a pleasure.



Released on October 1, 2004

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