of State Colin Powell
Interview on CBS' Face the Nation
Washington, D. C.
September 16, 2001
MR. SCHIEFFER: Secretary of State Powell is here. Mr. Secretary, thank you so
much for coming.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Bob.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me start with this report from Pakistan this morning where
the government, I understand it, has told the Taliban that they are going to
send a delegation to Afghanistan, and they have told them to hand over Usama
What can you tell us about that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I have seen that report. I can't confirm it through
our Embassy at Islamabad, but if it is an accurate report, then I am encouraged
that the Pakistanis continue to play such a positive role in moving this campaign
forward against those who might have been responsible for the tragedies of the
11th of September.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, isn't that a little odd that, if, in fact, this report
is true that the US Government hasn't -- doesn't have any information about
SECRETARY POWELL: I can assure you we're working hard to confirm it. But it
is a press report at the moment, and we'll be confirming it in the course of
the day with the Pakistani Government.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, this obviously is what we want the Pakistanis
to do, but by announcing this as they have, is there another side to this that
perhaps they're telling Usama bin Laden you better get out of town?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I can't speculate on that. All I can say is that for
the last several days the Pakistani Government has been very supportive and
forthcoming. I spoke to President Musharraf several days ago, and he indicated
full support. We provided him a list of things that we might be needing in the
days ahead, and they said they would provide that support. We'll have to get
into the details of it over time.
And yesterday, President Bush spoke to President Musharraf and got the same
kind of assurances, so we're very pleased with the role that the Pakistani Government
MR. SCHIEFFER: Was this, in fact, one of the things we asked them to do?
SECRETARY POWELL: We asked them for a variety of things, and I think it's best
that we keep those between the two governments at this time until we have an
opportunity to see their reaction, and then it will all become public.
MS. BORGER: Let me just add one more question to this. If the Pakistanis did
get Usama bin Laden, what would we want them to do with him?
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I can think of many things. But I think let's wait and
see if they do get him. I hope that they will. If they do get him and he is
available in a way that would allow justice to be served, then I would want
to see justice served. There are all sorts of UN resolutions and other statements
out there, other requirements out there to bring this kind of terrorist to justice,
to get it to stop -- to get terrorism to stop, to bring these sorts of people
MS. BORGER: A war tribunal?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we'll see. It remains to be seen what charges can be
placed against him and what Pakistani law might be and what Pakistan might do
if they get this individual into their custody. But let's not over-speculate
before anything has really happened.
MS. BORGER: Mr. Secretary, you have told Americans to be prepared for war, the
President has. What will this war look like?
SECRETARY POWELL: It will be a campaign. It will be an integrated, comprehensive
campaign. We're not fighting an enemy that is located on a battlefield where
we all can see the enemy and just go after him. This is an enemy that intends
to remain hidden. It's a very resourceful enemy. And so we have to attack on
all fronts and we have to do it with a broad coalition because this enemy is
spread out across the world.
And it will take the international community. It will require intelligence actions,
legal actions, financial actions, military actions, diplomatic and political
actions -- all part of a comprehensive campaign not to go after just one person
but to go after a network, the al-Qaida network and to go after other terrorist
organizations that are practicing this kind of evil upon the civilized world.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Explain what the al-Qaida network is.
SECRETARY POWELL: Consider al-Qaida as something of a large holding company.
And the head of that holding company is Usama bin Laden. And within that holding
company you have got groups of terrorist organizations that are located in countries
throughout the world that are loosely and sometimes tightly knit into Usama
bin Laden. But there's no doubt that the support for all of them, the essential
nervous system for all of them flows up what is all al-Qaida. And at the top
of al-Qaida is Usama bin Laden.
MS. BORGER: Should Americans be prepared to send ground troops?
SECRETARY POWELL: We should be prepared to do whatever is necessary to deal
with this threat. We are at war, the President said. But let's not speculate
on what particular type of military response might be required.
MS. BORGER: Well, should we be prepared to kill civilians in this process?
SECRETARY POWELL: You don't want to kill innocent civilians. But if civilians
are terrorists and they have made themselves the object of our wrath, as the
President and Vice President have said.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You have already said -- or we already know that the reserves
are being called up. Do you think that under any conceivable circumstances there
would be a reinstitution of the draft?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't see any need for that right now. The armed forces
are strong and with our very, very capable, loyal and so patriotic reserve forces
I think we probably have enough without considering reinstitution of the draft.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You have been focused in recent days of putting together this
coalition. How is that going? Who is in it and who is not in it yet?
SECRETARY POWELL: It's going very well. I'm just deeply grateful for the responses
we have received, whether it was NATO invoking Article 5, the mutual defense
article of the NATO treaty, the Washington treaty; or the United Nations passing
a very strong resolution both in the Security Council and General Assembly;
the Organization of Islamic Conference is making positive statements; the Organization
of American States making a statement and now getting ready to have a meeting
in Washington to take further action. I have been very pleased. On a bilateral
basis, so many of our friends and allies have come forward, whether it's Israel,
whether it's Saudi Arabia, whether it's Japan, Australia.
I don't want to offend anybody by leaving them out, but just about every country
has come forward, with a few exceptions. One, of course, is Iraq, and we wouldn't
expect it to come forward. It is that kind of regime that causes so much trouble
in the world. And there are one or two others that have not yet been heard from,
but we've heard from such nations as Syria, for example, which we have always
said is a state that sponsors terrorism. But they provided a rather forthcoming
statement, and perhaps there are new opportunities with respect to Syria, not
just going after the Taliban and al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden, but perhaps also
dealing with other terrorist organizations that they have been supporting in
the past. Let's see if they recognize that terrorism does not belong in the
MR. SCHIEFFER: Is it because they now see the Taliban as a threat to their regime?
SECRETARY POWELL: I hope they see terrorism as a threat to the entire world,
but I am not under any illusions about the nature of the Syrian Government.
But let's see if there is an opportunity here to work together on the elimination
of terrorism as a cause of violence in the Middle East and everywhere else around
MR. SCHIEFFER: Is it, in fact, true that we have made approaches to the Government
of Iran for help on this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Iran made a rather positive statement, for Iran. We have serious
differences with the Government of Iran because of their support of terrorism,
but they have made a statement and it seems to me a statement that is worth
exploring to see whether or not they now recognize that this is a curse in the
face of the Earth. And of course Iran has always had difficulty with the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan.
MS. BORGER: On the other hand, Saddam Hussein of Iraq did not make a positive
response to this. In fact, he said the American cowboy is reaping the fruits
of its crimes against humanity.
SECRETARY POWELL: This is an irrelevant individual sitting there with a broken
regime. He pursues weapons of mass destruction. He is the greatest threat in
that region because he refuses to abide by the simplest standards of civilized
behavior. So we'll continue to contain Saddam Hussein. We will keep his regime
under sanctions, and we will do what is necessary when it becomes necessary
and when we choose to.
MS. BORGER: But any Saddam Hussein fingerprints on this particular attack?
SECRETARY POWELL: At the moment, we see no fingerprints between Iraq and what
happened last Tuesday. But we are looking. We will pull it up by its roots.
We will find out who is responsible and we will determine what connections exist
between various regimes around the world who participate in this kind of thing.
MR. SCHIEFFER: There are reports this morning that some of these people who
were on these airplanes, in fact, may have gotten training from the US military.
Now, we know that people don't just wander off the street and get enrolled in
US military programs. Those are government-to-government exchanges.
First I would ask you, is that true? And the second thing I would say, does
this increase the possibility that perhaps this is some sort of state-sponsored
SECRETARY POWELL: I am familiar with the report, and I would rather let the
FBI and the Justice Department answer it precisely. But keep in mind that as
a result of our relations with a number of countries, friendly countries over
many years, we have trained pilots for other countries in our training facilities.
So that is possible. But it doesn't necessarily reflect state-sponsored terrorism.
It just means that we trained somebody who subsequently moved in that direction,
unfortunately, but he did get training in the United States, just as we know
that the others were trained for the most part here in the United States in
MS. BORGER: When you consider some kind of a first strike in this war, what
do you worry about in terms of retaliation against this country? That has got
to be part of your calculations.
SECRETARY POWELL: I assume that there are those out there who are still planning
activities against the United States whether we retaliate or not. We should
not see this just in terms of retaliation for the sake of retaliation, just
to strike for the sake of striking. We should see it in terms of a campaign
that goes after not just retaliatory satisfaction, but goes after eliminating
this threat by ripping it up, by going after its finances, by going after its
infrastructure, by making sure we're applying all the intelligence assets we
can to finding out what they may be up to. The measure of success at the end
of the day will be no more attacks likes this or over any other nature against
the United States and our interests around the world.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We have never had anything like this, so perhaps that's one of
the reasons for it. But clearly it seems that the United States was unprepared
for an attack on the homeland. We're told now that even after people at the
Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, even after it was known that there were
aircraft heading toward the Pentagon that the Secretary of Defense didn't know
that. Jets were scrambled but everything happened too late. How prepared were
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we all understand that homeland defense is an important
mission and one that will be getting a lot of attention. The Vice President
is personally directing our efforts with respect to homeland defense. I think
it is a little unfair to say that the Pentagon was unprepared when suddenly
a plane -- an American commercial airliner shows up in air space just a few
minutes away from impact from the Pentagon and say, well, why weren't F-16s
up there ready -- or F-15s up there ready to shoot it down?
Nobody would have anticipated that kind of threat without some sort of cueing
or warning that such an attack was on the way, or we had some kind of intelligence
that such an attack was coming. So I think it's a little unreasonable and frankly
unfair to suggest that the Pentagon was at fault and our military was at fault
because we weren't prepared to shoot down an American airliner full of Americans
just because it happened to be in the wrong air corridor.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Just speaking of increasing security, I'm told -- just while
you were talking -- that David Martin, our correspondent at the Pentagon reports
that we have begun to increase security around America's nuclear stockpile.
SECRETARY POWELL: I yield to David Martin who is an excellent reporter.
MS. BORGER: Are you worried about biological and chemical retaliation here?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have to be worried about any of these threats --
chemical, biological, radiological. I think this is going to require a full-court
response on the part of the American Government, the American people, state
and local governments to prepare ourselves for whatever eventuality might be
out there. We can't dismiss that possibility. But at the same time, remember
this is a fairly unsophisticated weapon when you think of it. The planning that
went into it was very, very sophisticated. But they found a way to create a
bomb using an airplane loaded with fuel.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me go back -- and I want to talk a little bit about Pakistan
here because the thought occurs to me that we have asked the Pakistani Government
to do certain things. There's no question that they have these Islamic fundamentalists
in Pakistan and that that government could well topple as a result of nothing
more than the United States asking them to help on this. Joe Biden, the chairman
of the Foreign Relations Committee, says that that is simply a risk we have
But the other part that I think about, and I must say worry about, is that Pakistan
has nuclear weapons. Are we running the risk here of having a government take
over in Pakistan that would be able to, as it were, have its finger on a nuclear
SECRETARY POWELL: We are very sensitive to that, and I know that President Musharraf
is very sensitive to that. So in our conversations with the Pakistani Government
in the days and weeks ahead, we will be mindful that they have internal problems
that they are dealing with. But that was part of his calculation as he and his
senior advisors and military leaders sat down and examined this earlier in the
week. And they came to the judgment that even with the difficulty it might cause
them internally, this was such a problem, such a crisis, and the need to show
solidarity with America and to help America and to help the rest of the civilized
world, that was so important that they were willing to take risks. And I compliment
them for that.
MS. BORGER: Do you trust the Pakistanis?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't see any reason not to trust the Pakistanis. So far,
they have been forthcoming. They have given assurances to me, they have given
assurances to the President. And we will see now what they are actually going
to do when specific requests are put before them. We have had a strong relationship
with Pakistan for many, many years. We have been friends of Pakistan and the
Pakistani people for many, many years, and I hope that friendship will continue
and the relationship will grow.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, the last time you were on this broadcast, the
Chinese were holding American airmen captives after the forcing down of the
reconnaissance plane. And the first question I asked you that morning was, "What
is your message to the Chinese?" I ask you the same question this morning
because I remember that message. What you said was later put on Chinese television,
and after that the crisis broke and the men were eventually freed.
I would ask you this morning: What is your message to the terrorists? What is
your message to the American people?
SECRETARY POWELL: My message to the terrorists is that you don't know what you've
gotten yourselves into. You have pulled America together in a time of tragedy.
You will now see what we are made of. You will see the steel that holds up this
country. You will see our determination. You will see our firmness. And you
will realize you are at war with a powerful adversary who will defeat you.
And we will do what is necessary. We will use all the instruments of power available
to us: domestic power, the strength of our society and protecting ourselves
domestically; internationally with our diplomatic efforts, our military efforts,
intelligence, law enforcement. You are going to see the full weight of the American
Government and the American people brought to bear against this kind of activity.
To the American people, I would say we have a tragedy that we will get through.
It is so reassuring to see American flags out again, to see the pride that exists
within our country, to see our country coming together. It shows who we are
and what we are. And I would say to the American people: We will prevail.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thank you so much.