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Powell IV on Bill Bennetts Morning in America

Interview on Bill Bennett's Morning in America

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 28, 2004

(7:33 a.m. EDT)

MR. BENNETT: It's Bill Bennett. It's Morning in America, Thursday, October 28th. We are joined by the Secretary of State of the United States, Colin Powell. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Bill, how are you?

MR. BENNETT: Fine, sir. Thanks very much for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: My pleasure, Bill.

MR. BENNETT: Give me a minute just to say things on the air I've wanted to say for a long time, and then we'll let you go, okay? We'll let you talk, all right?

I think we met when I was Education Secretary. I remember you coming up to me on one of the Air Force planes saying, "I like what you're saying about education." I think that was our first meeting.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's right, Bill. That's the way I remember it. And I've always admired what you have done about education. And then, as you know, when I had some free time I formed America's Promise --

MR. BENNETT: You bet.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- and worked with young people and with corporations all across America to mentor kids and give kids the skills they need to be successful in life. We've got to do that not only for those of us who can afford good schools, but for those kids who are not in the best schools, and we've got to reach out and help them.

MR. BENNETT: And you also worked with Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Powell in the Best Friends Foundation.

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MR. BENNETT: You were a star for that one.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, your wife and my wife were quite a team when they worked on Best Friends, a great program that helped young girls find themselves and protect themselves until they were young adults.

MR. BENNETT: And you know there's now Best Men.


MR. BENNETT: You probably haven't been drafted for that yet, but you will.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I'm sure that either Elayne or Alma will get me involved in that. But I'm glad that that's finally gotten started and I've been following the progress of that program as well.

MR. BENNETT: Thank you. Two more things, then we'll get to world affairs. I wanted you to run for President in 1996 and I went around the country, I gave speeches, and I said here's why. I said: We've got some problems in this country. When people turn on the TV, they see Colin Powell. Adults can point to the TV screen and say to their kids, "You see that? That's a man. That's a real man, not these macho, phony types." Now, you've got to listen, Colin -- I'm sorry. (Laughter.)

"That's a real man. That's a man who serves his country, who has raised his children, who honors his wife. Be like that man." And I'll tell you, the response I got was close to overwhelming.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Bill, and I always did appreciate the support that you've given me, not only at that moment but throughout the years we've known each other, and it's been reciprocal.

MR. BENNETT: Well, now we've got to end on a light note. You know, you and I can't keep a straight face for too long. You preceded me once at a podium and gave a speech and you said, I don't know, gosh, before Bill Bennett, this guy's written 16 books, 18 books, he's so popular and so on. You were setting me up, of course. (Laughter.) But when I got up, I said, "Books, fine." I said, "But I'll tell you what really matters. There's a Colin Powell action figure."

SECRETARY POWELL: That's right. (Laughter.)

MR. BENNETT: And I've never had an action figure. Wind me up, I'll get to fight somewhere. (Laughter.) Anyway.

SECRETARY POWELL: Gosh, thank you.

MR. BENNETT: Thank you, sir, for joining us.


MR. BENNETT: Here's what we talk about here: America, America in the world, how we hold our head up, this election and so on. I won't get you into politics. But when you were confirmed, Secretary Powell, you said the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy will be that America stands ready to help any country that wishes to join the democratic world.

How stands that mission? What we are hearing, you know, from John Kerry and from others is, you know, opinion of the United States has never been lower. Are we still respected in the world? Do people still take us, you know, as a beacon of hope and freedom?

SECRETARY POWELL: They certainly do, Bill, and I'll tell you what. I travel all around the world and I receive dozens of visitors here in the course of a week. Foreign ministers from nations that used to be behind the Iron Curtain are now free and democratic, and they come here to develop a stronger relationship with the United States, they come here to learn about how democracy should work and how market economics should work. They all want to be part of a NATO alliance that has grown from 16 to 26 nations over the last ten years -- after the Cold War. Why? Because they want to be aligned with NATO and with America.

We are very well respected in Europe. We have disagreements with some of our old friends and allies in Europe. We've had disagreements with Germany and France over Iraq. But, you know, we're standing alongside French troops in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. It doesn't mean we can't find areas to cooperate.

We're doing a lot of things that are bringing people along. In Africa, we've had the most active program in African affairs of any administration in recent history: the President's expansion of the African Growth and Opportunity Act; what we're doing with the Millennium Challenge Account, the biggest increase in development assistance to nations that are coming along since the Marshall Plan; the HIV/AIDS program, you know, the greatest crisis facing the world, the President showed enormous leadership by putting forward a $15 billion program in addition to participating in the Global Health Fund with Secretary General Annan; free trade, open trade, bringing nations out into the democratic world and in the world of market economics.

That's what we're doing and we have done it ever since I gave my confirmation testimony back in 2001. That's been the President's agenda, that's been the President's goal, and we've been pretty successful about it. You don't read about it much because of issues like Iraq and the Middle East that tend to dominate the news.

MR. BENNETT: Yes. We're talking to Secretary of State Colin Powell. And one other thing. When you went to Sudan and we saw you there, mobbed by people, it was a very proud moment. I remember I said on this show, I said, "This is the guy you want representing this country." I was very proud, if I might say, sir, say so, sir, to you, of you, the President of the United States. We stepped up on that and led, didn't we? We're still leading. And what's the resistance? Why can't we get -- we don't want another Rwanda. How do we -- how are we doing there?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're still leading and we're working with the United Nations and so many of the great nongovernmental organizations that provide assistance to desperate people.

Since I went there and since the President really stepped out in front of this whole issue, we have done a better job in getting aid and assistance to these folks, and I think we've been able to stabilize the situation in terms of people being able to survive in the camps. But the security situation hasn't been stable. We don't want to keep them in the camps. We want to get them back home.

So we've been working with the African Union to put in more African Union troops in order to provide a presence throughout the countryside that will give the people some security and some assurance that they can go home in safety. We've been pressing the Sudanese Government to do a better job of reining in these terrible militias.

Just today, the first plane has headed into Sudan with African Union troops. They'll be coming initially from Rwanda and Nigeria to build up the force of about 300 now to several thousand, and I hope that will help.

But it's been a tough issue. There's still a long way to go. But the United States has been in the forefront of this and President Bush has been speaking about this for a very long time, and I think he's mobilized the international community to help these people.

MR. BENNETT: Another area, and maybe I'll ask a two-part question, Colin, if I may. One, as I count it, the last five or six times that we have used American military, it has been to save Muslims, and yet that doesn't seem to be something that a large part of the Muslim world is grateful for.

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, that's so true, and I've used that argument quite often. In Kosovo, to help Muslims. The first Gulf War, to rescue a Muslim nation, Kuwait, that had been invaded by another Muslim nation, Iraq. In Afghanistan. It's quite a pattern. And when we do this, it is not for the purpose of us imposing sovereignty on these people; it's for the purpose of giving them the opportunity to put in place their own government, their own democracy.

Afghanistan is a perfect example, where we had a most successful presidential election a couple of weeks ago, when a couple of years ago the place was still totally under the Taliban and with al-Qaida running the place, and women couldn't go to school, women couldn't vote, women couldn't do anything, and they all came out by the millions to vote three weeks ago. People said Muslims won't do that, it's not in their history or culture to do so, and they did so. They wanted to pick their own leaders.

But we don't get the kind of credit that I think we should get for that kind of success. We are respected, Bill, but to some extent we are also resented, and this is something we're working on. But when we have similar kind of results in Iraq, when the insurgency has been put down, when we have elections in Iraq, and hopefully if we can get some traction in the Middle East peace process, then I think these attitudes will change.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Secretary, you've mentioned the UN several times. We have a -- we try to do it a little different on this show. We pitch it a little higher. We don't yell at callers and so on. We've gotten cultivated and, I think, gotten a very good audience. The people that listen to this show aren't reflexively anti-UN but they're troubled by UN stories, they're troubled by the Food-for-Oil or Food-for-Blood stories, criticisms from the UN. People say, "How can you respect an organization where Syria sits on the Human Rights Commission?" And so on.

How should we think about this and think about the UN?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the UN is an important organization and it does important work around the world. We have to remember, though, that we are the UN. We are one of the 191 or 192 nations in the UN. It's the only body in the world where every nation is represented. And they are not all nations to our liking. There are some whose policies we deplore. I mean, we sat in the UN on the Security Council with the Soviet Union for all those years and with the People's Republic of China for all those years.

It does give us a way to talk to people that we might not otherwise talk to. You don't want to ask the UN to undertake a war for you. That's not what they do well. And you can't expect the UN as a body, either in the General Assembly or in the Security Council, to always agree with every U.S. position. And so there are days when I am enormously frustrated by what's going on in the UN, but most days I see the UN as an organization that we can achieve progress in. I have seen them settle wars. I have seen them put in place new governments, in Cambodia, in Timor Leste and other parts of the world.

So the UN performs a valuable role. We have to help improve it, we have to work with it, even though from time to time you can be frustrated by the actions that come out of the UN.

MR. BENNETT: Yeah. We're only down to about a minute and a half. My callers are calling like crazy and emailing. I want you to address, if you would, this explosives or munitions story in Iraq, and people are dying to know what you think about the military votes and problems with getting those military votes to count, as a soldier.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, with respect to the explosives that may be missing, I think we're going to have to wait until the Iraqi Survey Group, the group that looks into these kinds of things, can actually get to the facts. The facts are really kind of muddled right now and we are just going to have to try to do the best we can in the very near future to get the ground truth out.

MR. BENNETT: And if the facts are muddled, it's wrong to accuse our Commander-in-Chief.

SECRETARY POWELL: Absolutely. I mean, we just don't know the facts yet. There is some suggestion there might not have been that much explosives missing in the first place.


SECRETARY POWELL: And when did it go missing? So the facts are not clear, and it's unfortunate it's become such a hot political issue in the presence of these unclear facts.

The other thing about it, though, is you have to remember that this amount of explosives, while significant, a couple hundred tons, is insignificant compared to the amount of explosives and munitions and weaponry that we were able to bring under control and, to a large extent, destroy. That's in the hundreds of thousands.


SECRETARY POWELL: And so our troops did a terrific job in bringing huge quantities of explosives and ammunition and weapons under control and destroying it. And we'll get to the bottom of this particular incident, but it's kind of being, I think, it seems to be overplayed as a political matter.

MR. BENNETT: We're very proud that you're there, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Bill.

MR. BENNETT: Secretary of State Colin Powell.



Released on October 28, 2004

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