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Powell: Marines to help restore stability in Haiti

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As part of a U.N. multinational peacekeeping force, U.S. Marines are helping secure the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday, a day after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation and departure.

CNN anchor Bill Hemmer spoke Monday with Secretary of State Colin Powell about the events in Haiti that led to U.S. intervention.

HEMMER: Let's talk about the mission for the U.S. Marines. What is their intention and purpose there in Haiti?

POWELL: To help restore stability to the country, particularly in Port-au-Prince. I'm pleased the Haitian National Police have started to restore order, and I'm pleased that the Marines will soon be joined by other nations, and I'm pleased to hear the French have started to arrive.

This will be a multinational force now endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution to restore stability and help the new Haitian leaders put in place a functioning government, which is what we did not have under President Aristide.

HEMMER: If the looting and killing continues today, will the Marines have to stop it?

POWELL: Well, we'll have to wait and see. Of course, we prefer for the Haitian National Police to do it. The looting and disorder has gone down somewhat overnight. We'll have to see what daylight brings. There are only a limited number of Marines there now, but the force will build up in the course of the next several days --as will multinational forces, other nations arriving.

HEMMER: How do you defend yourself against the charge that the White House was too slow to respond?

POWELL: We responded when there was something to respond to that we felt was appropriate to respond to, and that was a change in the political situation. In this case, the departure of President Aristide.

All those who say we should have gone in earlier were advocating a position that we should have gone in on the side of a president who was really running a flawed government, a flawed presidency.

We were not prepared to do that and find ourselves trapped once again for an indefinite period, supporting an individual who may have been elected democratically but was not governing effectively or democratically.

We tried to find a political solution. We worked very hard with the international community, our French and Canadian colleagues. We couldn't find that answer. So we felt by the end of the last week the only real answer was if President Aristide would take a hard look at the situation and decide to step down, which is what we did.

We said that under those circumstances we'd come in, and we came in immediately.

HEMMER: What is the contact you've had with the rebel leader Guy Philippe, and what contact have you had to make sure he stays at bay, if that's possible at this point?

POWELL: We have ways of talking to the various rebel leaders, and [we're] pleased that at least so far they've said they are not interested in violence anymore and want to put down their arms. We will have to sort this out with the new Haitian government.

Some of these individuals we would not want to see re-entering civil society in Haiti because of their past records, and this is something we'll have to work our way through in the days ahead.

HEMMER: Can you explain why this poor struggling nation continues to find itself in the middle of turmoil and strife almost decade after decade throughout its history?

POWELL: It's been a sad story for almost 200 years now that they have not been able to put in place the political institutions and the political philosophy necessary to organize this desperately poor nation and move forward.

We have tried over the years to help the Haitian people and help Haitian political leaders, but it just hasn't taken. We find ourselves in a situation every decade or so, as you noted. We'll try again this time.

I know the international community wants to help the Haitian people. They are desperately in need. We also have to expect their political leaders to put in place responsive functioning, noncorrupt governments, and not just continue to fight and argue with each other and watch the whole thing fall apart again.

Massive investment was made in 1994. President Clinton sent 20,000 troops in. I went in with President Carter and Sen. [Sam] Nunn to talk the generals out of power and brought Aristide back in.

The international community stayed for years after that with police monitors, rebuilding the police force, only to see over time Aristide or his successor watch that police force we trained become corrupt again.

We really have to help the Haitians this time put in place political systems that work and start to create institutions that are responsible to and accountable to the people.

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