of State Colin Powell
Interview on ABC Good Morning America
September 12, 2001
QUESTION: There is a report that American embassies around the world are being
asked to shut down. Is this true?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have given discretion to all of our ambassadors to close
down or temporarily suspend operations based on their judgment of the threat
level. Twenty-five percent of our embassies overseas are currently shut down
or have suspended operations, but there are no direct threats yet to any of
those embassies. It is precautionary in nature, and I expect they will all be
resuming operations as soon as possible.
Let me also express my deepest sadness and my condolences to the families
of those who lost their lives, and once again reinforce the determination
of the United States Government to respond with all the forces at its disposal,
as the President said last night. And we are hard at work at that already
on the diplomatic front here in the State Department this morning.
QUESTION: Do you have signals that there is more to come today?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have no signals that there is more to come today, but
one never knows. But so far, nothing to suggest that there is something waiting
to happen today, and let's hope that is the case.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did we miss any signals in the last couple of weeks,
or were there simply no signals?
SECRETARY POWELL: In the first 24 hours of analysis, I have not seen any
evidence that there was a specific signal that we missed. There is always
the general level of concern about terrorist activity and there are always
warnings that are out there, but they are seldom specific enough to be actionable.
Many times they do happen to be actionable, and a lot of terrorist incidents
have been stopped because we did get intelligence. In this case, we did not
have intelligence of anything of this scope or magnitude.
And so America has suffered a terrible loss, but what has not been lost is
our spirit, our resiliency as a society. They have failed in that. As the
President said last night, we will go after them, and what we will especially
do is go after those nations, those states, those organizations, that provide
haven for this kind of activity. And we will not let up, and we will make
sure that all of our friends and allies and those who would be our friends
who have anything to do with harboring this kind of activity will discover
that they cannot have a friendly relationship with the United States if they
continue to do so.
QUESTION: But, Mr. Secretary, do you share the sense, as so many do, that
this was so sophisticated, so well planned, that it had to have taken years?
SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't say it had to take years, but it certainly took
an extended period of time. It was a very sophisticated, well-planned, well-coordinated
attack, showing that it just wasn't done by your average car bomber, but a
very sophisticated organization. And the evidence will accumulate in the course
of the next several days which will, I think, point us in the right direction
as to who is responsible for it.
QUESTION: But we know there is so much anger welling up in the country right
now. I've got the Daily News here, the New York Daily News, which has a headline:
"It's War." First of all, is it war, as you see it? And if it's
Usama bin Laden, what is going to work against him?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the American people had a clear understanding that
this is a war. That's the way they see it. You can't see it any other way,
whether legally that is correct or not.
QUESTION: You do, too?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I do. And we've got to respond as if it is a war,
and we've got to respond in the sense that it isn't going to be solved with
a single counter-attack against one individual. It's going to be a long-term
conflict, and it's going to be fought on many fronts -- the military front,
the intelligence front, the law enforcement front, the diplomatic front. And
it's a war not just against the United States. It's a war against civilization.
It's a war against all nations that believe in democracy. Democracy can't
be defeated, but now it's going to require all nations who believe in democracy
to come out and condemn this kind of activity, to work together to go after
those who perpetrate such activity. And it requires that kind of coordinated,
complete response on behalf of the civilized communities of the world.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, so many equations have been made to Pearl Harbor
in all of this. It may well be, could well be, that we wind up with a death
toll from this higher even than occurred at Pearl Harbor. These were civilians,
unsuspecting civilians that were hit in what they thought would be a secure
And you wonder. You're very judicious about the commitment of American forces,
but you wonder just in terms of planning what's going on and in terms of thinking
what's going on and what is when we find out who did this, a kind of appropriate
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first we have to find out who did it, and the response
may have many dimensions. It may be military. And I certainly hope we can
find people that are targetable and we can take action directly against them.
But we shouldn't just wait for a single target and then go after it militarily.
There are many other things we can be doing to root out these networks, to
pull up these places of Haven, to destroy training camps. And it is going
to take a concerted, long-term effort.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there were reports -- this is George Stephanopoulus
-- reports from Afghanistan this morning that UN officials are being evacuated
and also diplomats from Australia, the United States and Germany. Has the
United States recommended that evacuation?
SECRETARY POWELL: George, I need to check on that. I hadn't received those
reports at the time I came down here. But that would seem to be a prudent
QUESTION: One other thing, Mr. Secretary. Do we have any idea what happened
in Kabul last night?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not entirely, but does not appear to be related to what
happened in New York and Washington. It seems to be a separate incident that
relates to other activities not directly related to this attack.
QUESTION: But may have been occasioned by what happened in New York? Was
it some sort of a rebel group going after the Taliban?
SECRETARY POWELL: That seems to be the case, but I do not have any reason
to believe it is related to what happened in New York.
QUESTION: And I just want to follow up on what I thought I heard you say
earlier. If it came to US ground troops in Afghanistan in order to go after
Usama bin Laden, would you back that?
SECRETARY POWELL: As the President said, we will do whatever is necessary
to deal with this, and I would not remove any of the options available to
the President. As you said, I am judicious in the use of force, and I also
believe that when it is time to use force you use it in a decisive way. But
we are far from selecting any particular military targets or how to go after
those targets at this time. We've got to build the case first.
QUESTION: But talk to me a little bit about very specific language in the
President's speech. It was the sentence that struck all of us, that we will
not only move against those who perpetrated this, but those who harbor them.
SECRETARY POWELL: The reality is that there are nations, there are organizations
out there, that give support to these kinds of terrorist activities; they
provide facilities, they provide homes, they provide support for them, they
provide money for them. And we're going to go after all of them. We're going
to make it clear to them that you cannot have any kind of decent relationship
with the United States if you do this, and we will go after the support that
allows terrorists to perform these kinds of acts that gives them haven.
QUESTION: But that could be many states. That could be not just Afghanistan;
it could be other states. And do you contemplate -- contemplate -- the possibility
of military action against --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, not necessarily. We are contemplating a full court
press, whether its diplomatic, legal, intelligence-sharing. And for
those nations that we believe can do a better job of policing their borders,
of going after this kind of activity, we're going to work with them. We're
going to make it clear to them that this will be a standard against which
they are measured with respect to their relationship with the United States.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the response you're talking about could take a long
time and could be quite controversial in the Middle East. Have you been in
contact with Jordan and Egypt, and do you have any indication that they will
support this kind of effort?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have calls in to all the leaders in the region. So far
this morning, I have spoken to the Secretary General of the United Nations,
Lord Robertson in NATO, and Javier Solana of the European Union. And as soon
as these interviews are over, I will be on the phone to leaders in the Middle
East as well.
QUESTION: All right, Mr. Secretary. We'll let you get to work, then. Thank
you very much for joining us this morning.