Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview with Brit Hume on Fox News Special Report
Washington, D.C.
September 20, 2001

MR. HUME: Secretary Powell joins me now. Welcome, sir. Thank you for taking this time.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Brit.

MR. HUME: As you look at this undertaking, just for the moment just the diplomatic side of it, as you try to build this coalition, is this a more daunting task than you faced a decade ago?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a more daunting task, in that it's a much larger coalition. But, to my great pleasure, the coalition is coming together rather quickly. We met with the European Union today and they signed on. NATO has signed on. The United Nations has passed a powerful Security Council resolution, as well as a resolution in the General Assembly. Nations around the world recognize that this was an attack against every nation and not just the United States.

I've just gotten an update report that we were saying 67 nations lost people in the World Trade Center. Now it turns out there were 80 nations that lost people in the World Trade Center. And so it was a tragedy for the whole world, and the world is coming together.

It's also daunting, in the sense that there is not an army staked out in the desert the way the Iraqi army was staked out in the desert 10 or 11 years ago. It's a much more complicated problem, with terrorists operating in many countries throughout the world, with networks that keep them interlinked to information and financial systems, and we've got to root all of that out, we've got to pull it all out. And it begins with the al-Qaida network and with its leader, Usama bin Laden, in Afghanistan.

MR. HUME: Now, there are those who are saying -- Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, testified -- the former Israeli prime minister was testifying on Capitol Hill today. And he said that any coalition against terrorism that would include such nations, perhaps, as Syria and Iran and the Palestinian Authority, would be an unfortunate failure before it even started. Do you believe, sir, that it is possible to cast that wide a net even in the nations that are on the State Department's list of terrorist sponsors?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, interesting. And the answer to your question is, it remains to be seen. But both Syria and Iran have expressed regrets over the incident, have condemned the incident. And, in their individual ways, have approached us. So maybe there are opportunities we can explore with both Syria and Iran.

But we have no illusions about the nature of those to regimes. They are on our list of states that sponsor terrorism. And, as we explore these opportunities, we will make it clear to them that you can't be for one kind of terrorism and against another kind of terrorism.

So we will see where this takes us. But I wouldn't rule anything out at the moment.

MR. HUME: Well, presumably what you are saying is that there would be some requirements for membership in this coalition and one of them would be, perhaps, that they move against terrorists that they have been supporting?

SECRETARY POWELL: That would certainly be an area I would like to explore with the Syrian leadership. And we have ways of talking to the Iranian leadership as well. Hopefully -- and this is just a hope at the moment -- they are starting to reach the conclusion that they ostracize themselves in the world when they support these kinds of activities. And as a result of what happened on the 11th of September here in the United States, that ostracism will be even greater for those nations that do not participate in this effort to rid the world of terrorism.

And by being part of the coalition doesn't mean you have to send forces somewhere. There are many ways that we will be asking people to participate. In some cases, it might just be rhetorically, because that's all they can do. In other cases, participating in our work against their financial networks, their information networks, their infrastructure, expelling them from your countries. And, in some cases, it might involve the commitment of armed forces to work along side United States armed forces, if the President finds it necessary to use our armed forces.

MR. HUME: Now, Mr. Secretary, the question has been raised and the point sharpened by some that so sophisticated was this recent attack that it is hard to imagine that there wasn't significant state sponsorship of it. And fingers have been pointed at Iraq.

Whether -- I don't want you to tell me what you know about that necessarily, but do you believe that a war on terrorism, in the end, can be won without coming face to face with that Iraqi regime?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are face to face with that Iraqi regime. We have no illusions about what kind of a regime it is, and that it does sponsor terrorism. That is why we spent the last 10 years making sure that it was contained with UN sanctions, and why we keep troops in the region.

But as the President will describe tonight, we have our priorities in how we will approach this problem, and you will hear that clearly in the President's speech tonight.

MR. HUME: Now, as this conflict goes forward, this effort goes forward, this campaign -- as the President and you and others are describing it -- I guess there are some things that will be obvious, but will we really know when we've won? Will we really know when we've had a victory?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think we will see a victory in the conventional sense. Let's hope we do get Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida. That does not mean that we will not face terrorism anymore. The real victory will be if we provide a high level of security for our people, so we can get back to the normal way of life here in the United States. And I think the President tonight will also make that point.

While we are fighting terrorism, we've got to get back to a normal way of life in the United States, start going to ballgames and the theater again, start using our facilities and not walk around in a state of fear. We are a proud people; we can overcome this.

But, at the same time, we will go after these terrorists so that security is provided to our society. That will be the ultimate measure of success. Are we a safe society without being a society that's living in a bunker.

MR. HUME: Now, there have been some signs, at least, of public disagreement between members of the administration, including you, for example, and Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz. You have pointedly disassociated yourself from remarks he made about the possibility of ending states that support terrorism.

I recognize that some disagreement and discussion is always part of the process in a situation like this, but how serious should people believe the disagreement may be in this administration at this time?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I might point out that Secretary Wolfowitz disassociated himself from that remark. But if you read the article you are referring to closely, you will see that Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Powell, as reported by the article, were in agreement. More importantly, the only thing that counts with respect to these kinds of issues is what the President believes and what the President wants done. And you will see tonight what the President wants done.

There is always a bit of noise level in any government administration that I have participated in, and this one is no different. But we are unified in this. We are behind the President and the President will let the American people know tonight what we are going to be doing.

MR. HUME: Would it be fair to assess this as a disagreement -- not really such as it is -- about ultimate goals, but about timing and phases?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are, obviously, different judgments about timing and phasing and it shouldn't be seen as all that shocking or striking. But I can tell you we are moving forward, and the only thing that counts is what the President wants done and what directions he has given to us, and you will hear that, once again, loud and clear tonight.

MR. HUME: A last question, sir, about the Taliban. Obviously not satisfied, I take it, with what is coming out of there so far, a requirement sought that bin Laden be turned over to what's called a "responsible state." What does that mean, exactly?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you will have to ask those who said it. But we want them turned over to Justice. We think turning them over to us would be the best way to handle it. And not just him but all of his lieutenants. And not just him and his lieutenants, but I think we have to take a look at those camps to make sure we have pulled up all the roots of his activity in Afghanistan.

MR. HUME: So we're not simply calling upon the Taliban to get rid of him; we're calling upon them to uproot his whole operation out of there as a condition?

SECRETARY POWELL: This is more than one individual. This is a network and a network with an infrastructure, and we're after all of that.

MR. HUME: Mr. Secretary, kind of you to take the time, sir. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Brit.