of State Colin Powell
Interview with Al-Jazeerah
Washington, D. C.
September 17, 2001
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for allowing Al-Jazeerah to be
a vehicle for your voice, a voice of moderation and wisdom in this country,
to reach out to the Arab world.
Let me ask a question first that we always hear in the Arab world. This war
that we are about to launch from the US, war against whom, who is the enemy,
where is the attack coming from?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I hope there isn't going to be a war in the traditional
sense. It's not a war against Arabs. It's not a war against those who believe
in Islam. It's a war against terrorism. And it isn't a war in the usual sense
of just battles fought by the military. It's a war for intelligence, it's a
war that will use legal weapons, it is a war that will use financial weapons
-- all for the purpose of getting at terrorism, terrorism that destroys lives,
terrorism that destroys our lives as well as anyone else's lives.
When we look at what happened at the World Trade Center, thousands of Americans
were lost, but also hundreds of Arabs were lost. And so it is a war against
those individuals, those groups, who have forsaken the teachings of the Bible
and the Koran, and they have used terrorism for political aims, terrorism that
kills innocent people. That's what this war will be about.
QUESTION: Some people were upset when they heard President Bush on Sunday naming
that war a crusade and wonder what Muslims are going to do in that crusade.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think that the best description of what we are doing
is to launch a campaign, a campaign that everybody can be a part of. We believe
that there are so many Arab nations that should be a part of this campaign because
they have suffered from terrorism over the years.
So people have said to me, well, should Arabs be a part of this? Of course.
And so I hope people will see that this is a campaign of the civilized world
against uncivilized forces within the world, and those uncivilized forces attacked
all nations throughout the world, and that's why we must all come together.
And it is as much a cause for Arab nations and Arab leaders as it is for other
leaders, such as American leaders.
QUESTION: Israel was not allowed to be in the previous war, the Gulf War, for
Arab sensitivities being the target and the victims of that war will be (inaudible)
Arabs and Muslims. Israel is participating this time. How do you see this?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't tell yet. I think that there are many nations that
could provide assistance in the form of intelligence or in the form of removing
from their lands these terrorist organizations and saying, no, we cannot have
you here any longer. And there may come a time when there is military force
to be applied, and I suspect that will most part be American power. There will
be other nations. I don't see a nation such as Israel having a role with that
kind of participation.
QUESTION: Some people think that Israel is capitalizing on that war against
terrorism and on the victims of the US by intensifying their efforts in the
area -- in the Palestinian areas. Are you trying to do something about that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm working with both sides. I speak regularly with Chairman
Arafat, with Prime Minister Sharon and with Foreign Minister Peres.
I have a singular goal. One of my biggest priorities since I became Secretary
of State was to eliminate the violence in that part of the world and begin the
peace process again. And so that is why I have been working so hard to get the
Mitchell Plan started. The Mitchell Plan leads to negotiations, negotiations
that will be the basis of UN resolutions 242 and 338, Land-for-Peace. That's
where we have to go.
And what I have been saying to both sides, right now, let's not take advantage
of what happened in New York and Washington last week. Let's see that as a way
of sobering ourselves to what we are doing when we suffer with violence, and
let's both sides exercise maximum effort to get the violence down, get the counter-
response to violence down and see if we can get started on a cease-fire and
into the Mitchell Plan, leading to negotiations on the bases of 242, 338 and
My heart breaks with every death that I see of a Palestinian or an Israeli.
A child is a child; a child has a family, no matter what that family might call
their religion or their ethnic background. And so we all should work to end
the killing totally and begin the peace process.
QUESTION: Should the Mitchell Plan be implemented without the seven days that
Mr. Sharon enforced?
SECRETARY POWELL: Right now, we would like to see the Mitchell Plan implemented
immediately, if that were possible. Mr. Sharon has asked for seven days of quiet
previously. Now he has asked for two days of quiet in order to have Mr. Peres
meet with Mr. Arafat.
I am just anxious to see enough quiet so that both sides have confidence that
a sense of trust can be rebuilt so that they can start talking to one another.
We must get away from the battlefield and into the conference room. The United
States will play every role we can and make every effort that we can to not
only see that happen but then to be a party to those discussions, if need be.
QUESTION: Many people in the Arab world repeat the question why the US has not
asked itself, or herself about the (inaudible) obligations, (inaudible) why
the US is perceived in the Arab and Muslim world and hated in the Arab and Muslim
world is because of what they call blind support of destruction, of killing
Palestinians and others. Do you have an answer?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's not a correct characterization of the United
States. We deplore violence. We also know that very often violence and terrorist
acts come out of political frustration, a sense of hopelessness, a sense of
helplessness. I am not unmindful of those kind of motivations. But I am also
of the view that the best way to deal with this sense of hopelessness is not
through violence and terrorism against someone against whom violence and terrorism
will not prevail, will not achieve a political agenda.
And so I can assure you that America is trying to play a unifying role, trying
to play a helpful role in bringing the violence down, ending the killing on
both sides and getting to a peace table, where we can discuss the kinds of issues
that cause a sense of hopelessness. Terrorism is fueled by these sorts of grievances
over time, from the past. And I am not insensitive, nor is America. We are prepared
to do whatever we can to get through these barriers to understanding.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, who is out that we will not even accept their offer
to be in the effort (inaudible) Arab to Arab, that another question would be
(inaudible) in the Liberation Organization in Damascus or the other Arab world
would be targeted in the same countries?
SECRETARY POWELL: We believe that terrorism, in whatever form it shows up, is
an uncivilized act. Now, right now, our principal concern is the Usama bin Laden
and al-Qaida organization. But there are other organizations in the world that
conduct terrorist activities and conduct them against the US -- US citizens
and US interests.
To the extent that we have to defend ourselves and protect ourselves, we obviously
have to go and see what we can do about those terrorist organizations as well.
And we have identified a number of them who have attacked our interests over
time. But for this particular situation, our initial focus is against the al-Qaida
QUESTION: Syria does not have to ban any of these organizations --
SECRETARY POWELL: Syria -- as you know, we have had concerns about Syria and
Iran over the years, because of their sponsorship of terrorist organizations.
And even though both of those nations have come forward in this current crisis
and expressed their condolences and also a willingness to explore how we might
work together, at the same time we cannot overlook the fact that for years we
have expressed to them our concern that they have been harboring what we consider
and what the world considers are terrorist organizations.
So I am hoping that the difficulties that we have had with these two countries
in the past, because of this we might be able to explore a new way for the future.
But you can't just pick the terrorist group you are against and then say all
the others are okay. If we are going to explore this with those countries, Syria
and Iran, I think we will have to explore the entire issue of terrorist organizations
QUESTION: Including two Jewish organizations that are on your list, the terrorist
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Your last word to the Arab world.
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me say to my friends in the Arab world and all other people
how much we admire them and let them know that this conflict, this campaign
we are about to begin is not directed against Arabs or anyone of the Islamic
faith; it's against terrorism. My heart also goes out to those members of the
Arab community overseas, as well as the strong Arab American community here
over the loss of life of Arabs and Arab-Americans at the World Trade Center.
This afternoon, President Bush visited the Islamic Center and conveyed similar
feelings and emotions, and let them know that President Bush and I will continue
to do everything we can in the quest for peace so that Israeli and Palestinian
can find a way to live together in peace and harmony in this blessed land.