of State Colin Powell
Interview with Noah Adams on NPR
September 27, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Hello.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. It's Noah Adams here.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hello, Noah. How are you?
QUESTION: I'm fine. I appreciate you helping us. Can we go ahead and start?
Are you all set?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Good. You've had meetings today with King Adbullah of Jordan and the
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Cem. And I'm just curious, what sort of assurances
were they looking to you for? In other words, sort of in private conversations,
what do they really want to hear from you?
SECRETARY POWELL: I met with King Abdullah and with Foreign Minister Cem of
Turkey, and also Foreign Minister Downer of Australia, as well.
And what they were all looking for was a sense of where we were taking this
campaign. And what I tried to reassure them all of is that it is a long-term
campaign in which the United States will be patient, will persevere, and it
is directed against terrorists; it's not directed against Arabs, it's not directed
against those who believe in Islam. It's directed against terrorism; in the
first instance, terrorism reflected in the presence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan
and elsewhere in the world, and the leader of al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden. But
terrorism exists in other forms, other organizations, and we will be pursuing
them as well, because this is a plague on all civilized nations, not just on
the United States. I reminded them that it was the World Trade Center that was
bombed. Almost 80 nations lost citizens in that terrible tragedy.
They assured me of their support. Each member of this coalition we're forming
-- that's "coalition" with a small "c", not a new organization,
but just a coalition of nations that are inclined to join in the struggle against
terrorism -- but the nations in this coalition will participate in different
ways. Some are prepared to give direct military support; others, it will be
mostly rhetorical support or help with intelligence activity, financial network
uprooting, and the like. And we are pleased that almost every civilized nation
in the world has joined us in this effort, Iraq being a rather significant and
And I just expressed my appreciation for their efforts, and they expressed their
appreciation for knowing that the United States is serious about waging this
campaign in a careful but persistent way. And they were all very admiring of
President Bush's speech last Thursday night, which essentially laid the campaign
QUESTION: You have mentioned before that the campaign might present a chance
-- sort of looking through a wider view of history -- an opportunity that countries
could redefine themselves, could have a fresh start in dealing with the US.
Do you think it's possible?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's possible if they seize the opportunity. The President,
in his speech, made it clear that he was putting out that opportunity for them
when he said that, if you continue to act in this way, then you can expect us
to be hostile toward you. "Continue" means, this is the time to stop
supporting terrorist organizations. A number of the countries who have spoken
up, such as Syria, for example, are on a list of states that sponsor terrorist
organizations. And what we were saying is, where is this getting you; what is
this doing to the world; look what it's doing to culture and civilization; and
look at the effect it's having. It's time to stop this kind of support for such
organizations and providing them a haven.
And we'll see whether or not nations who have been doing this in the past take
the opportunity. If they don't take the opportunity, then just as President
Bush said, I think the rest of the world will treat them with hostility.
QUESTION: Richard Perle, who heads the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon,
said last night on PBS that the US is going to have to do all the heavy lifting
here. "It's wonderful to have the support of our friends and allies, but
our foremost consideration has to be to protect this country and not take a
vote among others as to how we should do it."
Could there be a downside to coalition building?
SECRETARY POWELL: As Richard noted, we will do this because we are protecting
our own citizens, and I have not scheduled a vote for any member of this coalition
to participate in. The President reserves all of the authority that the Constitution
gives him to act in a way that he believes is necessary to defend the citizens.
But the President has made it very clear that the kinds of things that will
probably be most successful in the campaign against terrorism are intelligence-sharing,
controlling people going across our borders, financial transactions and how
to get at their financial systems. You can't do this, America alone. You need
coalitions. And it seems to me if you can put a coalition of likeminded nations
together that have all joined in a campaign against terrorism, that is a good
thing, not a bad thing, as long as it does not restrict America's ability to
defend itself. And rather than restricting our ability, it enhances our ability
to defend ourselves.
The President issued an Executive Order earlier this week going after the financial
resources of terrorist organizations. The UN will pass a similar resolution
in the next few days. And many of our coalition members have already put in
place a similar executive order. So that doesn't restrict the President's authority;
that enhances his authority and makes us a safer place, not a weaker place.
So I think we met Richard's standard of not tying the President's hands, but
at the same time, using coalitions to enhance our security.
QUESTION: Many people around in the US, as well as overseas, are waiting for
evidence of a connection with Usama bin Laden. The NATO defense ministers were
grumbling a little bit yesterday in Brussels. And you have said that the US
has put out a persuasive -- will make a persuasive case before the American
people. Is the schedule of that disclosure slipping a little bit here?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I didn't have a precise schedule in front of me. We're
assembling lots of information. Some of it is intelligence information; some
of it is law enforcement information. And as we assemble it, we will release
that which is unclassified and we can share, protecting that which is classified
so that we don't give away sources and methods, or tell the enemy what we know
that we don't want them to know what we know.
And so we will be careful with that. But I think it's important for us to put
the case out. The case is already out there. Usama bin Laden was indicted for
blowing up two American embassies in Africa a few years ago. And so just on
that alone, we have a basis to go after him. But it is also clear, when one
looks at what happened to our ship in Yemen, the USS Cole; when one looks at
an entire chain of events; and when one looks at the information that I have
seen, both classified and unclassified, there's no question in our mind that
he and the al-Qaida organization is responsible for this. And we think it's
in our interest to give as much of this information to the world as we can,
while protecting our intelligence assets, so that everybody will see the case
as clearly as we do.
So the information will be coming out. And it is not that the schedule has slipped.
It's just that there's a lot of information we have to go through.
QUESTION: I have a question about Afghanistan. President Bush asked this week,
in a way, for the cooperation of citizens within Afghanistan, he said, who may
be tired of having the Taliban in place. Now, I wonder if there is concern that
that could be giving the false hope to the people of Afghanistan, as has come
up in the past with encouragement for the Kurds in northern Iraq, and way back
in another era, encouraging the revolutionaries in Hungary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think what the President was saying in response to
the question put to him was that our goal is to go after the al-Qaida organization
and Usama bin Laden. It's up to the Afghan people to determine how they will
be governed and what the nature of their leadership will be. And I think there
is great dissatisfaction with the Taliban leadership. It has impoverished the
country; it has suppressed fundamental human rights in a most vicious way, especially
the rights of women. And we know that there are many factions within Afghanistan
who would like to see the Taliban machine go. And if those factions come together
and push that regime aside, then so be it. But the President was just making
that observation to show that is a possibility, and if that happens, that is
a choice of the Afghans.
But I don't think he was in any way giving them false hopes about our role.
Our role, to the Afghan people, in the very near future will be to try to help
with some of these humanitarian problems they are going to be facing over the
fall and winter. So we are really ratcheting up our ability to provide humanitarian
aid, food aid and shelter aid, to the people who are already displaced and more
who are liable to be displaced as a result of this current situation.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, thank you for your time, sir.