Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview on NPR
Washington, D.C.
September 12, 2001

QUESTION: The Secretary of State Colin Powell today pledged a global fight against terrorism involving not only NATO but also Muslim states.

Secretary Powell, do you expect to have the active support of friendly Muslim states in that effort?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I have already been in touch with some Arab states in the region. They realize that terrorism of this kind is a threat to any civilization. And they are friends of ours and they want to work with us and they want to help us, so I know that there will be a number of nations in the region, in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East region, that will be cooperating with us. And I am continuing to make phone calls to that end.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to people in Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have spoken to people in Saudi Arabia. I have spoken to the Chairman of the Arab League, Mr. Amr Moussa. And I have calls in to other leaders in the region now.

QUESTION: When you spoke with them today, did they raise the linkage of this terrorist attack to Israeli actions in the Middle East or to US policy on the Israel-Palestinian dispute?

SECRETARY POWELL: They did not. And the simple reason is that this act is so horrible, so horrendous in its nature and dimensions, that there can be no justification. Even though we have a difficult situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, no way could that justify this kind of attack against innocent people which costs thousands of lives. And none of them suggested that, nor would I have expected them to.

QUESTION: How strong a link would you say there is now from all that you know about yesterday's attacks between what happened and people associated with Usama bin Laden?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I am going to let the intelligence community and our law enforcement agencies describe the strengths of links to any particular terrorist organization or network. Let me just say that there is a body of evidence that is developing that I think in the very near future will point us in a specific direction. But I don't want to handicap that with describing it as being either strong or we're this sure or that sure.

QUESTION: How important is it in whatever the United States does, say if there is some military retaliation down the road, how important is it that there be allies, including Muslim nations, in that action?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is always best to have a coalition when you are going after a problem or dealing with a threat that really is not just directed at America; it is directed at civilization. And so to the extent that you can put a coalition together, you are bringing the weight of the international community along with you. It doesn't mean that every member of that coalition has to participate in some military way. Political support, diplomatic support, other kinds of support can be just as useful. It is not clear to me we would need anyone's direct military involvement should we go down a road of military retaliation.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, the newspaper headlines in New York today, a lot of them, screamed the word "war." I wonder, is that appropriate? Do we regard this as the equivalent to war?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President believes that it was an act of war against us, not a war of the kind that we have seen before such as World War II or Korea or Vietnam. And Korea and Vietnam were not called wars but they certainly were wars. But it is an act of war. When you attack our homeland, when you attacked two places such as the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, that is an act of war against our sovereignty, against the security of our people. When you kill thousands of our civilians, there is no other way to characterize it.

It doesn't mean necessarily that it results in, say, a declaration of war -- Congress would have to make that judgment anyway -- but it means that we have to really mobilize ourselves and all of the assets at our disposal -- political, diplomatic, legal, law enforcement, intelligence and military -- to deal with those who perpetrated this act of war against us.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, thank you very much for talking with us.