Secretary 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 bin Laden.

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 it yet?

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 is playing.

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 to justice.

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 civilized world.

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 the world.

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 terrorism?

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 aviation schools.

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 we?

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 to take.

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 button?

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.