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Interview With Colin Powell

Aired March 2, 2002 - 17:30   ET


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: I'm Robert Novak. Al Hunt and I are in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room in the Harry S. Truman State Department building to question America's number one diplomat.

AL HUNT, CO-HOST: He is Secretary of State Colin Powell.


HUNT (voice-over): President Bush issued a cautiously optimistic report about the war against terrorism.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've had over 1,000 arrests around the world, different countries, different governments, that are putting these al Qaeda people behind bars. We're slowly but surely, methodically and patiently demolishing al Qaeda, so they cannot hit us again.

HUNT: But Democrats in Congress began finding fault with progress in the war.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Clearly, we've got to find Mohammed Omar. We've got to find Osama bin Laden. We've got to find other key leaders of the al Qaeda network, or we will have failed.

We are not safe until we have broken the back of al Qaeda, and we haven't done that yet.

HUNT: Colin Powell, commissioned as a second lieutenant after completion of the ROTC course at City College in New York, served for 35 years in the United States Army. Decorated for combat service in Vietnam, he served in a variety of national security posts in Washington, including national security adviser in the Reagan administration.

At age 52, he was named chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under the first President Bush. Following retirement from the Army, he declared his preference for the Republican Party. He was tapped as secretary of state by President George W. Bush.


HUNT: Mr. Secretary, thank you for having us here.


HUNT: IN Afghanistan, the Taliban has been toppled, bin Laden is on the run. But recent events suggest that country may be headed back to violent chaos. To head off any kind of debilitating anarchy, do you think right now we should increase the size and scope of the peacekeeping force in Kabul?

POWELL: Well, that's under discussion now with our colleagues in Europe, with the British and with the Turks.

I don't see an immediate need to increase the size of the ISAF. It's a bout 4,500, and it has succeeded in restoring calm to Kabul.

We're looking at some of the towns outside of Kabul to see whether there is a need for that kind of presence. Yes, there is still some continuing violence in Afghanistan, but it isn't quite as bad as some reports suggest.

We've seen some terrible incidents, such as the incident at the airfield where the minister of transportation was killed, a riot at a soccer stadium, and there's been some warlord disturbances.

But we're watching it very carefully. We still have American presence in various parts of the country, and we're examining what the needs of the ISAF are for its future missions.

As you know, the Bonn agreement provided for ISAF to work outside of Kabul as well as in Kabul. And we're examining whether or not that part of the mission should be executed, and whether forces should leave Kabul and go to outer cities in Kabul -- in Afghanistan.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, the Powell doctrine, in essence, says you go hard and heavy early. We did that in Bosnia -- sent 60,000 peacekeepers in right away. It worked. We're now down to about 15,000.

That's one-twelfth the size of Afghanistan. Why do we think we have any chance of a peacekeeping mission succeeding there with only one-twelfth as many people as we had in Bosnia?

POWELL: Well, it isn't Bosnia, and it's a different situation. And right now it is not clear that you would need 60,000 peacekeepers to do the mission in Afghanistan.

I think the ISAF is off to a good start. It's only been in existence for less than two months. And we'll be evaluating as we get to the end of the British participation, the British command of ISAF -- what is really needed?

But right now I don't think we can declare it anything but a success because it has restored calm in Kabul, it's first mission. And now we're reviewing whether it needs to do more outside of Kabul, and whether it need to increase its size.

HUNT: One more Afghanistan question. The Karzai regime seems a bit shaky right now. The Northern Alliance has dominated; 38 generals have been tapped. None have been Pashtuns, although 40 percent of the country is Pashtun.

Is it time to give the Northern Alliance an ultimatum to share power or else?

POWELL: Well, I think Mr., Karzai is off to a good start. And yes, the Northern Alliance does have quite a bit of participation in the government. But I think that will adjust over time. We are interested in seeing a multiethnic government, really, come into existence in Kabul. And I think Mr. Karzai has that same goal.

So we'll be watching carefully, working with all of the groups in Afghanistan to make sure we get the right kind of government, not only in the interim authority, but when we move to the permanent government after the next Loya Jirga.

I don't think it's necessary to start issuing ultimatums to anyone at this time. It's a new situation; it's just developing. And we'll watch it carefully and give Mr. Karzai all the help that he needs.

I'm impressed at the great start he's had, both with respect to international acceptance of his role and position, as well as the very difficult challenge he is facing in getting up and running. And we're going to give him all the help that we can. And I think he's off to a pretty good start.

And he's sensitive to the need to have multiethnicity (sic) within the interim authority. And he's got to work on that, and we'll help.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the president pro tem of the Senate, often speaks his mind. He did this week -- and we'll put it up on the screen.

He said: "If we expect to kill every terrorist in the world, that's going to keep us going beyond doomsday. How long can we afford this?" end quote.

Does he have a point, when the United States is talking about sending forces to Georgia, to Yemen, to the Philippines. Is that part of the war on terrorism, that we go after every terrorist in the world?

POWELL: Well, "every terrorist in the world" is a bit much. I don't think that's a mission that we've ever placed upon ourselves.

What the president said is we're going to go after those terrorist organizations that have a global reach and that threaten us and our friends and allies. And so far I think we've done one terrific job in Afghanistan. We're going to help the government of Yemen. We're helping the government of the Philippines.

And we're going to look at other places where we might be of some assistance. Georgia, for example. We sent an assessment team in to work with the Georgians to see how they could improve their capability to fight terrorists. And so it's not a question of us sending military units and strength all over the world. For the most part these are rather manageable, small missions that are within the capability of the armed forces to handle, and don't tie us down around the world for a lifetime of terrorist-chasing activities.

NOVAK: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was asked if he agreed with Senator Byrd, and he said absolutely. And then he said the things that we had at the beginning of this program.

DO you believe, quite frankly, that this kind of criticism from the loyal opposition undermines the forces that are fighting this war as it undermined the forces in Vietnam, where you were a young...

POWELL: No, I wouldn't say that with respect to either Senator Daschle or Senator Byrd. They're raising questions. And I think that's what a loyal opposition does. That's what we would expect them to do.

And I think these are questions that we can answer. And I think the American people have a pretty good idea of what we're trying to do, and that's evidenced in the strong support they have given to President Bush and his policies.

NOVAK: On the other hand, sir, do you think that the president's call for an attack on the axis of evil -- or his concentration on the axis of evil, I should say, which has caused a lot of criticism in the European community and our allies, has made it more difficult for you to hold together the global coalition against terrorism?

POWELL: No. There were some reactions to it, but I think now that we've had a few weeks under our belt and people realize that we're not ready to declare a war on anyone, and that we are following policies that have been in place for a long time -- people knew what we thought about North Korea, Iraq and Iran all along.

By putting them along this axis of evil, I think the president reinforced his strong feelings about these three countries and sort of cleared everybody's sinuses if they thought we were going to sort of walk away from the challenges that these three countries face.

So after a lot of discussion with my European colleagues and the president's trip to Asia, I think people understand that this president is one who acts with patience, with prudence and decisiveness, and he is not a hip-shooter as some people claim.

Quite the contrary. He has strong views; he has principled views. But he's very prudent and decisive and patient in taking action. He takes into account all factors. He listens to our allies, he listens to our friends, and he puts that into his calculation.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, you have praised Pakistani President Musharraf for his cooperation since 9/11, most recently during the ordeal and then brutal murder of our colleague Danny Pearl. Are you convinced that there were not elements of the Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, involved in this dastardly crime? POWELL: I have no evidence to suggest that ISI was involved. I can't totally rule out anything, but I have nothing to suggest that ISI was involved.

HUNT: Should we...

POWELL: I spoke to President Musharraf a number of times during the course of this crisis, and am deeply saddened by the loss of Danny Pearl, and my heart goes out to his wife and his still-unborn child.

But I know that President Musharraf did everything he could to try to find out who was holding Danny Pearl. And so I have seen nothing to suggest that the Pakistanis were in any way complicit with this.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, as you know, there's been tremendous speculation that the next step in the war against terrorism is Iraq. The Iraqis are indicating that perhaps they'd be open to returning U.N. weapons inspectors. People at the Pentagon said the inspectors won't find anything now, they've hidden them.

Do you think at this stage U.N. weapons inspectors would do any good in finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

POWELL: I think they would play a very useful role because, you know, you can have a covert program and you can have an overt program. And with inspectors in, you certainly can have an overt program. SO they would have to keep everything underground. And if the inspectors are good, and if they are given the kind of access we would insist on before they could go back in, they may have some success at finding the covert program as well.

But I have no illusions about the ability of inspectors to find everything. But I think they can play a useful role. IN my previous experience with respect to inspections in arms control regimes -- the INF Treaty with the Russians comes to mind. Inspectors are part of a system that you use to get at a problem like this., SO I certainly share the president's view that the inspectors should go in and be allowed to do their work without any interference on the part of the Iraqis.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we'll ask the secretary of state about chances for peace in the Middle East.


HUNT: Mr. Secretary, as you know, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah quoted a proposal to the "New York Times"'s Tom Friedman that said if Israel returns to pre-1967 borders, the Arab state may well recognize Israel.

Critics say there's nothing new in this, it's the same old Saudi proposal going back to King Fahd in 1981. Do you think it's something new and significant?

POWELL: Yes, I think nit is significant. But we've seen similar proposals, so it's not entirely new.

But what I think makes it significant is that it's coming from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia at this time. I think Crown Prince Abdullah should be congratulated and thanked for putting this on the table as a way of breaking through some of the barriers that we now have toward finding a way into the Mitchell peace plan. And so I think it's new in that sense.

What's also good is he talked about normalization of relations between all of the Arab countries and Israel. And so I think it is something that is still just a vision, just an idea, that will require more fleshing-out.

But coming a month before the Arab Summit, and therefore teeing this idea up for consideration at the Arab Summit, I think was an important step. And I -- we have thanked the crown prince for this. I spoke to him, President Bush spoke to him earlier this week, and Assistant Secretary Burns just came back from the region after discussing this matter with the crown prince.

HUNT: Just a few days ago, as you know, the Israelis attacked Palestinian camps, resulting in lots of bloodshed. Do you condemn those attacks?

POWELL: I just want to see all the attacks stop. I want to see the violence ended. I want to see terrorist attacks stopped. I want to see the response that the Israelis feel they have to make when these attacks occur stop.

It is absolutely essential the violence ends. And only with the ending of violence can we get into the Tenet work plan and then the Mitchell Plan, which leads to what everybody wants: negotiations on the basis of 242 and 338 -- land for peace in order to get this thing settled.

But both sides now have to do everything to apply restraint, to stop the terror, to stop the daily exchange of fire that's going back and forth. And I don't want to condemn anyone right now. I want both sides to exercise maximum effort -- do everything they can to get the violence ended, or else we're going to get nowhere.

People can come out with new ideas, new peace plans, new initiatives, have conferences, send emissaries to the region. It will all do no good unless the violence is brought to an end.

And I have particularly spoken to Mr. Arafat in the most direct terms I can with respect to doing everything he can to bring those organizations under his control, of those people under his influence to the understanding that violence achieves no objective. In fact, it's destroying the dreams of the Palestinian people.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, America's allies in South Korea would like to see United States get back to negotiations with North Korea, which is part of the axis of evil. You think there's any chance of that happening? POWELL: I don't know. We have said since last summer that we are anxious to begin discussions with the North Koreans, any time, any place, and we have ways of getting in touch with them. And the president in South Korea last week reinforced that point, embraced the sunshine policy as policy, the engagement policy of the South Koreans, and invited the North Koreans to come out. But he didn't step back from his characterization of that regime, because it's an accurate characterization. They are despotic. They have destroyed their country. They can't see their people.


POWELL: They are developing weapons of mass destruction. We have negotiated with very bad people in the past and gotten a lot of progress. So we are not looking for a war with North Korea. Nobody wants a war on the Korean Peninsula. But let's begin a dialogue to get them out of the dire straits that they are in, and reduce the tension in that part of the world.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, the Gallup Poll has just completed a massive survey of nine Islamic countries, and the results were stunning. We'll put them up on the screen for our viewers. But over half of these Muslims don't believe Arabs played any role in the September 11 attack. The majority view the United States and President Bush negatively, and only 9 percent say U.S. military action in Afghanistan is justified. Doesn't that suggest that American public diplomacy in the Arab world since 9/11 has been an abject failure?

POWELL: It suggests that we have got a lot of work to do. It's not just since 9-11. I think that we have -- not had the right kind of public diplomacy efforts in that part of the world for a long time. And one of the major challenges I have as secretary of state is to energize our public diplomacy.

HUNT: Is there one thing we're going to do to try to turn this around?

POWELL: We're going to do more broadcasting, we're going to send more people out on Arab radio an television. We're going to place more op-ed pieces. I want more Americans to go overseas and speak to Arab audiences. I went on MTV and spoke to 346 million households around the world, young people, ages 17 to 25, where I was asked some of the toughest questions imaginable, and I had a chance to speak directly to these young people.

So we're going to do a much better job in the future of reaching out to these populations. To some extent, this attitude that exists in the region is affected by the crisis between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we bear some of the burden of that crisis, because people think that we can just order the Israelis to do what they want the Israelis to do, and it is not quite that simple.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, just briefly before we take another break, you believe that there's any chance of democratization and improvement of human rights in Cuba, so long as Fidel Castro remains in power? POWELL: I think he has demonstrated over the many, many years of his rule that he is not interested in human rights and democratization of his society, or opening up the economic system. So as long as he's there, I doubt that we will see the kinds of improvements that the Cuban people deserve, and which would allow Cuba to become a democratized nation in this hemisphere. Thirty-four of the 35 nations are signatories of our charter of democracy and the responsibilities of a democracy in this hemisphere. Only Cuba is left out. And I'm afraid that's going to remain the case as long as Castro is there.

NOVAK: We have to take another break, and when we come back, we'll have "The Big Question" for Colin Powell.


NOVAK: "The Big Question" for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Secretary, many people who do admire you otherwise were a little shocked when on your MTV interview you suggested that conservatives, small C, values should not be taught. You seemed to reiterate that on "Meet the Press." I wonder if you'd like to clarify whether you think that American parents should not teach conservative values to their children.

POWELL: Sure they should. I think that American parents should teach their youngsters to refrain from sexual activities until they're old enough to understand what they are getting into, preferably within the bond of marriage. Alma and I, my wife and I are very deeply involved in abstinence programs, and have supported a number of them.

But at the same time, young people have hormonal drives that will cause them to say, well, thank you for all of that lecturing, but I'm going to participate in sexual activity. And I think it is our responsibility to let them know what precautions they should take and how they should protect themselves from the kinds of diseases that are out there waiting. So I at the same time have said the use of condoms is the wise thing. And in fact, the United States government has that as our policy.

We buy hundreds of millions of condoms and ship them overseas to help stop the plague that is affecting the whole world, that plague called HIV/AIDS. And I think small C conservative in the context of my interview had to do with taboos and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and let's not talk about this. Not political C, but conservative C in a sense that we're not going to educate our kids. That I think is the wrong, wrong approach. Educate your kids for the full range of experiences they may be getting ready to participate in.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, we only have about 20 seconds left, but you have a genuine commitment to doing something about the worldwide AIDS plague. Kofi Annan says we need $10 billion in U.N. funds, and the Bush budget only proposes 200 million. When are resources are going to match our rhetoric?

POWELL: Well, in the last year -- it's really 500; 200 last year and Congress said it's 100, another 200 next year. That's 500 million. But we have hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, in research and development and other activities directed toward HIV/AIDS. It's 500 million for the trust fund, and I hope it will be more. But I think we're off to a good start with that trust fund.

HUNT: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. Robert Novak and I will be back with a comment or two in just a moment.


HUNT: Robert, as always, the secretary was very diplomatic on the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, but outside of Kabul, the situation is rapidly deteriorating, and the United States is going to have to agree on a much larger peacekeeping force there very soon, or else.

NOVAK: That's right, Al. The general did not appear ready to leave American troops to do battle against the axis of evil, and in fact he thought that peacekeeping -- peacekeepers in Iraq would be valuable. That's quite different from the position taken by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who doesn't think it would do much good.

HUNT: But the diplomat was effusive in his praise of Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal. He didn't criticize the Israelis for their actions this week, but he later in the program did say he thought the Israeli and Palestinian question was partly to blame for the feeling about Americans in the Arab world. I think we may see a greater involvement.

NOVAK: I thought he did a better job with that condom issue than he did on MTV and "Meet the Press." He didn't give the impression there he was against conservative values. I think he's fine with conservative values, but he's also being realistic. That might not satisfy a lot of social conservatives, but I think what he said to us would satisfy the bulk of Republicans, ordinary Republican voters.

I'm Robert Novak.

HUNT: And I'm Al Hunt. Coming up at 7:00 p.m. on CAPITAL GANG, congressional partisanship erupts over the war on terrorism, and the battle over Social Security resumes. Senator John Breaux of Louisiana is our guest, and our "Newsmaker of the Week," Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

NOVAK: That's all for now. Thanks for joining us.




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