of State Colin Powell
Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
October 25, 2001
2:30 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for welcoming me back
to appear before the Committee. And let me also say that I happened to read
the same newspaper articles that Senator Helms did this morning, and when I
saw the glaring headline, I said whoa, wait a minute, this can't be right. So
I immediately asked my staff to get the transcript of what you had said. And
I saw that it was not right, that it was clear that you were speaking in a stereotypical,
what other people think. And then, at the tail end of that sentence that was
taken out of context, your final words were, "And that's not right."
And so I was much relieved, because I knew that couldn't have been your view,
and appreciative, as I have been, for these past weeks, and since I became Secretary,
of the support, Mr. Chairman, that you have provided to the Department, that
you have provided to me on a personal basis. And I express to you, and to Chairman
Helms and to the other members of the Committee the same sentiment: thank you
for your support, and especially, thank you for the solid bipartisan support
that the Administration has enjoyed from the Committee during this crisis that
began on the 11th of September. It means a lot to us, it shows a lot to the
world about what kind of a nation we are, what kind of a people we are. And
in the midst of all the anthrax scares and other things that are going on, we
are here on Capitol Hill to conduct the people's business. We will not be frightened,
we will not be scared. We will get on with the people's business, and I am pleased
to be here today to participate in that solid, historic, democratic process
that we enjoy and that we believe in to the depth of our hearts.
THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your comment and your confidence. I appreciate it.
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Chairman, if I may, I'd like to provide a written testimony
for the record, and I'd like to summarize it very briefly.
THE CHAIRMAN: Let it be placed in the record.
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Chairman, we will always remember the 11th of September,
where we all happened to be on that day, it's seared into our individual memories,
it's seared into our individual souls. I was in Lima, Peru at breakfast with
the President of Peru, President Toledo, when the notes were handed to me, two
notes in a quick row, making it clear that it wasn't an accident, but my country
had been hit by the worst terrorist act that we had seen in our history.
And it was a long day for me, as I got in my plane and flew all the way back
from Peru, unable to communicate with anybody in Washington until I arrived
and joined the President in the White House with the other national security
advisors to the President.
And when I walked into the Situation Room and joined the President, I found
a President who was seized with the mission that had been handed him that day,
a President who had already seen that a challenge had been presented to him
that would change the entire nature of his presidency and his administration.
And a President who took up that challenge, I think, in a bold way, a way that
history will long remember.
He knew right away that he not only had to go after the perpetrators of these
terrible attacks against us; he knew also that we had to go after terrorism.
It wouldn't be enough just to deal with these perpetrators, who were soon identified
as the al-Qaida network and Usama bin Laden. But in order to be the kind of
leader that he is, in order to show leadership to the world, we had to undertake
a campaign that goes after terrorism in all of its many forms around the world.
And it's a campaign that has many dimensions to it. It's a campaign that some
days involves financial attacks, other days law enforcement attacks, intelligence
attacks, and sometimes, as we see now in Afghanistan, military attacks. We have
to secure our borders. We have to do a better job of talking to other nations
about who travels across our borders. We have to make sure we go after the financial
networks that support terrorist activity.
And to do that, we built a broad coalition, a coalition of nations that came
together to respond to this attack, not just against America, but against civilization.
Hundreds and hundreds of people who were not Americans died in the World Trade
Center. Five hundred Muslims died in the World Trade Center. Usama bin Laden
and al-Qaida killed Muslims on the 11th of September 2001 in New York City,
as well as men and women representing every race, color and creed on the face
of the earth, and a large number of American citizens.
Are we're going after them with this broad coalition to make sure that they
are brought to justice or justice is brought to them. It was an attack against
civilization; civilization must respond.
People have said, well, you know, it was an attack against America, really not
civilization. No, it wasn't. It was the action of an evil man, and it was an
evil act. There is no connection or relationship to any faith; there is no faith
on the face of the earth that would sanction such an evil strike against innocent
people. And we cannot let Usama bin Laden pretend that he is doing it in the
name of helping the Iraqi people or the Palestinian people. He doesn't care
one whit about them. He has never given a dollar toward them. He has never spoken
out for them. He has used them as a cover for his evil, criminal, murderous,
terrorist acts. And he has to be seen in that light.
We have put together a grand coalition, and people have said, well, coalitions
sometimes come with problems. When you bring all these people together, don't
you have to take into account all of their interests, and don't these kinds
of coalitions sometimes hamstring the President and his ability to do what he
thinks he has to do.
The answer to the question is: the President has not given up any of his authority.
There are no arrangements within this coalition which in any way, shape, fashion
or form constrain the President and the exercise of his constitutional responsibilities
to defend the United States of America and to defend the people of the United
States. So that should not be a concern in anyone's mind.
At the same time, without this coalition, the President couldn't do what needs
to be done. Without this coalition, we couldn't be cooperating with 100 nations
around the world on going after financial networks of terrorist organizations.
Without this coalition, we wouldn't have countries that were supporting us in
the prosecution of our military campaign, giving us over-flight, giving us basing
rights and contributing military forces to fight alongside American forces.
So this is a coalition that is of enormous value, and what is unique about this
coalition that makes it different than any other coalition anyone has ever put
together is that, except for about three or four countries, every other country
on the face of the Earth has signed up. They have signed up in many ways, whether
it was NATO, 19 nations invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the NATO
Treaty, for the first time in history, saying that an attack on one is an attack
on all, and that attack in New York City and Washington and Pennsylvania was
an attack on one and was an attack on all of us, and NATO has responded.
The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the
OAS, the Rio Treaty was invoked, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked. The Organization
of Islamic Conference had a meeting earlier this month, and 56 Muslim nations
came forward and said this was a dastardly attack which does not represent Islam;
it's a disgrace; the United States is right to see it as an attack on civilization
and an attack on America.
One more point I would make about the coalition is that, whether we wanted it
or not, it showed up. Within 24 hours, NATO acted. Before I could really get
on the phone and ask them, they were there. The UN showed up within 48 hours.
A lot of people pat me on the back and said, "Good job with the coalition."
I have to sort of drop my head slightly. They all showed up. Our friends showed
up when we needed them.
People have also said, "Well, this coalition will start to come apart after
a while. They won't stick together." Well, they've stuck together. It's
now six weeks. The President just returned from an important meeting in Shanghai,
the APEC conference, where 21 Asian and Pacific nations all came together to
talk about economic issues, to talk about the world trading system, to talk
about breaking down barriers to trade. But the first thing they talked about
was terrorism, and all 21 of these nations reaffirmed their support for what
we are doing.
As my colleague Don Rumsfeld often says, "It's not just a single coalition.
It's a shifting set of coalitions, really, that come together." And members
will do different things at different times in the life of this coalition. Some
member-nations have said, look, all we can do really is give you political and
diplomacy support. We don't have the wherewithal, or because of our political
situation, we can't do much more than that. Others have said we'll participate
fully on intelligence-sharing and financial digging-up of terrorist organizations,
and we'll provide military assets as well.
We have said let each contribute according to your ability to contribute, your
willingness to contribute, and the situation you face within your country. And
so far, after six weeks, this coalition is gaining strength, not getting weaker.
Our attention now is focused on the military campaign in Afghanistan. I am so
proud of the men and women in uniform that I used to be so closely associated
with, as they once again go in harm's way in such a professional manner to serve
the American people, and in this case to serve the cause of civilization. They
are doing a fine job. But, as the Chairman noted, it is going to be a tough
campaign. It's a tough campaign, tough in the air and even tougher on the ground,
as we use not American forces directly, but other forces who are like-minded
in recognizing that the Taliban must be removed. It's quite difficult to coordinate
them, but we are working on that very hard, and with each passing day the coordination
links between the air campaign and what is happening on the ground become tighter,
become more direct, and are moving in the right direction.
Our work in Afghanistan, though, is not just of a military nature. We recognize
that when the al-Qaida organization has been destroyed in Afghanistan and as
we continue to try to destroy it in all the nations in which it exists around
the world, and when the Taliban regime has gone to its final reward, we need
to put in place a new government in Afghanistan, one that represents all the
people of Afghanistan and one that is not dominated by any single powerful neighbor,
but instead is dominated by the will of the people of Afghanistan.
We are working hard at that. Ambassador Richard Haass, the Director of Policy
Planning at the State Department, is my personal representative, working with
the United Nations, Ambassador Brahimi, the King and others to try to help Afghan
leaders around the world find the proper model for the future Afghanistan.
But we have got to do more than that. We also have to make sure that when the
Taliban regime is gone, we remain committed to helping Afghanistan finally find
a place in the world, by helping its people build a better life for themselves,
by making sure they get the food aid and other aid they will need to start building
decent lives for themselves and for their children.
And while we are going through this conflict period now and thinking about the
future, we also have to make sure that we are pumping as much humanitarian aid
into the country now as winter approaches so that we don't leave anybody at
risk of starvation. There are lots of reports about that, but I can say that
the reports I have this morning suggest that we have got quite a bit of food
going in, blankets going in. It is still a tenuous situation, but the situation
has improved in recent days, and I think it will improve in the days ahead.
We are giving it the highest priority, working with our friends in Pakistan
and Uzbekistan, and I was pleased to see the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan
in the hearing room today, and it gives me the opportunity to thank him and
his government for the terrific support that they have provided to us.
The Chairman mentioned that new strategic opportunities may come out of this
crisis. I think that is absolutely right. We have seen Russia do things in the
last six weeks that would have been unthought-of five or six years ago even,
long after the Soviet Union was gone. We are working with the Russians to take
advantage of these new opportunities.
At the APEC meeting in China, Mr. Chairman, you would be pleased to know that
while we were talking about trade and economic development with the People's
Republic, we made sure that they understood that even though we want to move
in that direction, we are not forgetting about human rights, we are not forgetting
about religious freedom. The President talked about the Dalai Lama. He talked
about relations with the Vatican. And we have seen improvement already with
respect to dialogue between the Vatican and Beijing, just within the last 24
We talked about proliferation. We told them what we don't like about what they
do with respect to rogue nations. So Senator Helms, I can assure you and assure
all the other members of the Committee that we are clear-eyed about this coalition
building. We are clear-eyed about the campaign we have embarked upon. We understand
the nature of some of the regimes that we are having some opening discussions
with. And they are not going to get in on the cheap. "We are against the
Taliban, but you've got to tolerate our actions with respect to other terrorist
organizations that we like" -- it won't work. The President says you've
got to choose now to move into a new world, where you no longer support those
kinds of activities if you want a better shot at good relations with the United
States of America.
And so I think we are off on a noble cause. I think it is a cause that is just.
It is a cause that we will prevail in, because we are doing the right thing.
Let me close by once again thanking the Committee for the support that they
have provided to us. I know how much it means to the President for you all to
visit with him every week or so. And let me once again express my admiration
for the men and women in uniform who are doing such a great job. And let me
also express my admiration for the men and women of the State Department, and
the other civilian agencies of the United States Government, who are serving
in missions all around the world, sometimes in great danger, sometimes at the
risk of their lives. They are doing a terrific job, and I know that you share
my admiration and pride in the men and women of our diplomatic service.