Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview on NBC's Dateline
Washington, D.C.
September 12, 2001

MR. BROKAW: Joining us now from Washington, DC, is Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr. Secretary, NATO today invoked Article V, which means that an attack on the United States is an attack on any NATO member. That will give you great military and political cooperation. But what about the states like Kuwait and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who were so critical to us during Operation Desert Storm? Do you expect from them outspoken positions of support?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I do, Tom. And we have been in touch with many of them in the course of the day and I'll be talking to more of them this evening and tomorrow. I have been very, very satisfied with the degree of support we have received, not only from our NATO allies but other European countries, from our friends here in the Western Hemisphere at the Organization of American States summit yesterday. And as I have called around the Persian Gulf region, I am getting expressions of support.

I got a letter from Mr. Amr Moussa, who is the Chair of the Arab League, expressing condolences, and I also spoke to him on the phone. And they find this an outrage against humanity. It should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics; it is something that was done by terrorists, and we ought to see it that way and we ought to rally the entire civilized world against this kind of activity.

MR. BROKAW: Are you sending a message to Afghanistan tonight through Pakistan? And if you are, what is that message?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are sending a variety of messages to any nation that might have knowledge about such terrorist activity. We are not accusing any organization yet, but there is a body of evidence that is slowly growing. And what we are saying to the Pakistanis is that we would like to have any information that you might have that would shed light on this incident or who might have caused it, and as we go forward, we might want to come to you for assistance if the response turns out to be in an area where you can be of assistance.

With respect to Afghanistan, we have always told the Taliban leadership that they should not be harboring Mr. Usama bin Laden and a network that he controls. And we are reinforcing that message and also making it clear to them that they should disavow themselves of any kind of involvement with such organizations if they want the world to try to help them with these serious problems that they have in their society and in their economy. And we are doing this throughout the region, throughout the world wherever terrorists find host nations to take care of them, to give them support.

The President was very clear last night. We are not only going after the perpetrators. We will go after those nations, states and organizations who give them succor, who provide them assistance and give them a place from which they an launch their terrorist attacks.

MR. BROKAW: But, Mr. Secretary, it is one thing to go after a headquarters of a terrorist organization or even its leader, but when you begin to attack the country that may be harboring them, that can change the political equation very quickly, can't it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it can, and we will be very cautious in how we might use our military strength. And I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but one always has to consider that. But at the same time, these countries tend to put themselves at risk by harboring terrorist activity of this type. That is why it is in their interest to become part of a civilized world and get rid of this sort of activity and not let it perpetuate and exist within their borders.

MR. BROKAW: After the terrorist attacks on the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, there was a swift response at two targets; later, some question about whether or not, in fact, one of the targets was appropriate. Are you going to take more time this time?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, let's first of all determine who is responsible and then determine the best response. The response may be political, certainly diplomatic, and it may well be military. And you can be sure that we will do it carefully, we will do it prudently, and we will make sure we've got the goods on them, or at least a high probability of having the goods on them, before launching military strikes, if that turns out to be the proper recommendation coming from the Pentagon to the President and the President approves it.

MR. BROKAW: Mr. Secretary, you grew up as a military man and in a bipolar world. We formed NATO, the greatest military alliance in the history of mankind, to face down the Russians if it ever came to that. Are we going to have to form more permanent alliances now to deal with terrorism long term, not short term?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we do have to form other kinds of alliances. I'm not sure we need a new organization. I mean, you saw what NATO did today. They invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty, which was never designed for this kind of purpose, but when you look at the spirit of the Washington Treaty, where all of these nations are going to come to each other's aid in time of danger in the event of an attack, this in the 21st century is the kind of attack that we have to be prepared to defend against, to respond to. And NATO came forward today and understood the nature of this new threat, and I think correctly invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty. Any nation attacked, all other nations will be expected to assist in the response and come to the defense and assistance of the nation that has been attacked from outside the Alliance.

MR. BROKAW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks very much for being with us tonight, and obviously we wish you all the very best.