Interview with Jim Lehrer
interview delivered 13 September 2001, Washington, D.C.
MR. LEHRER: And now a Newsmaker interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He joins us from the State Department. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good evening, Jim. How are you?
MR. LEHRER: Just fine. Exactly what is it that you and the President are asking these international leaders to do?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are creating a coalition to go after terrorism. We are asking the United Nations and every other organization you can think of -- United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Countries, the OAS, everybody -- to join us once and for all in a great coalition to conduct a campaign against terrorists who are conducting war against civilized people.
The attack that took place in Washington and the attack that took place in New York were directed against America, but they really are directed against civilization, and we have to respond with a full-scale assault against this kind of activity, beginning with the perpetrators of the attacks against us this past Tuesday.
We are asking all the nations to join together to use political action, diplomatic action, economic action, legal action, law enforcement action, and if necessary, join with us as appropriate and if necessary in military action when we have identified the perpetrators and decided what military action might be appropriate. And so there is a lot that we can do. And the point I also want to make is that no country is safe from this kind of attack. It crosses every geographic boundary, social boundary, religious boundary, cultural boundary. And we must see it in those terms and respond in a unified way.
MR. LEHRER: Has thus far everybody signed up?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am very pleased with what has been accomplished over the last 48 hours: an Article V declaration for the first time in its history from NATO; solid support from the European Union; the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that is a strong one; the General Assembly of the United Nations did the same thing. I have been on the phone this afternoon with the Chairman of the Organization of Islamic States, and I expect they will be putting out additional statements. And I have been talking to leaders around the world, as has the President, to mobilize this coalition, and we have been getting solid support from almost everyone.
MR. LEHRER: Almost everyone. Who have been the dissenters?
SECRETARY POWELL: As has been noted earlier in the day, Saddam Hussein, not to my surprise, is not somebody you would expect to share our sentiment.
MR. LEHRER: What about the president of Pakistan? You talked to him today.
SECRETARY POWELL: I had a good conversation with the president of Pakistan. He met with our Ambassador earlier this morning and we met with Pakistani representatives here in the United States. And we gave him some items we thought would be useful for us to cooperate on, and he expressed his desire to cooperate with us fully. He is reviewing that list now and I expect to talk to him again in the very near future. But I am very pleased with the response we have gotten from Pakistan.
MR. LEHRER: And that includes intelligence information about Usama bin Laden and possible military staging areas -- that sort of specifics?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it includes a variety of things. And when you look at all those things, it is very, very inclusive, all-inclusive. But I would not like at this time to go into the specifics.
MR. LEHRER: But there is no question that Usama bin Laden is a prime suspect; is that right?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think when you look at that region and when you examine the kinds of terrorist organizations that are around that have the sophistication to conduct such a series of attacks, you would certainly have to identify Usama bin Laden and his organization as being one of those suspects.
MR. LEHRER: And it would make it much easier for us to go after him with Pakistan's cooperation; is that what you told the President?
SECRETARY POWELL: If that were the organization we finally determined was responsible, then of course it would be a lot easier with the cooperation of Pakistan.
MR. LEHRER: Now, you and the President have talked to people in the Arab world as well; is that correct?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we have, and I am very pleased with that response. The President has spoken to President Mubarak and King Abdallah in Jordan. I have been in touch with Saudi officials, Qatari officials, and I will be making more calls tonight and tomorrow.
MR. LEHRER: Now, the Saudis are very important in this, are they not, because bin Laden is a native of Saudi Arabia. His money comes from Saudi Arabia, does it not?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, he is a native of Saudi Arabia, but I have to draw your attention to the very strong statement that the Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar made yesterday, which reminded everybody that his citizenship was taken away from him. Bin Laden's citizenship was taken away from him. The Saudis consider him a disgrace to their nation and to his own heritage, and they have condemned his actions. He has sources of money from various places throughout the world, but I am absolutely confident that the Saudi Government is not supporting his efforts in any way.
MR. LEHRER: Why have we been unable to dry up those sources? If we know he's got $300 million and they're all over the world, why haven't we been able to stop that flow of that money?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that we really do know what all of his sources of money are and how much he actually has access to and who else might be supporting him. I'm sure we know quite a bit, but apparently not enough because he is still in operation. And he has a rather far-flung network, and parts of that network are able to sustain themselves in the places that they are located.
MR. LEHRER: In general, Mr. Secretary, how close are we to knowing who was responsible and how they did it?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the evidence is building rapidly now, and the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies have done a terrific job in just a short period of time. And I think in the not-too-distant future we will have enough confidence in what we have gathered, the information and evidence we have gathered, to make a definitive judgment and then a definitive statement as to whom we believe is responsible.
MR. LEHRER: I know the specifics are off limits at this moment. The President spoke of what it's going to take to stop this kind of thing. Can you give us, as a military man before you became a diplomatic man, give us a feel -- give the American people a feel for the magnitude of what lays before them as a people, as a nation.
SECRETARY POWELL: What lies before them is a long, tough campaign. We should have no illusions that a few missile strikes will take care of this problem. They are well entrenched, they are well dispersed. It is not an enemy sitting out in the middle of a battlefield waiting to be attacked. They are clever. They are resourceful and they are thinking. They are always trying to think what we might do to them. So we have to see this as a long campaign plan, using all of the weapons and tools at our disposal -- political, economic -- to isolate them, diplomatically isolate them, isolate those countries that give them support and serve as their host; in terms of legal actions, go after their sources of money, go after their ability to move back and forth around the world, put them on watch lists, be on the lookout for those who we know are identified with this organization; and, always, always, be prepared to conduct a military strike when targets surface and targets become available that make it clear that you have found the perpetrators and somebody we ought to go after. And of course there are covert things that one can be doing that I wouldn't discuss here, but you are familiar with, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Sure. But if somebody is thinking that there is going to be Desert Storm II, 500,00 US troops and it's going to be over in a few days, forget it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Forget it. This will take time and we'll have to use all of the weapons and tools I've described. And the other thing we have to remember is that Usama bin Laden and his organization is not the only terrorist organization out there, and we have to see this not just in terms of Usama bin Laden if that is the one we determine we have to go after, because he is responsible for this, and we should go after him anyway and have been trying to get to him because it is a terrorist organization. But there are many others out there who are responsible for crimes against American citizens and crimes against citizens of other nations. So it's going to be a long campaign against many terrorist organizations, and the whole world has to be united in that campaign.
MR. LEHRER: But for Americans listening to you now, should they also know that this may not be free of casualties; this may not be a war that can be fought in such a way that either US military or even more civilians in counter-retaliation from other terrorists, et cetera? I mean, this is not risk free?
SECRETARY POWELL: Nothing is risk free in life, especially battle. And we are now entering a number of battles to deal with this, and it will not be risk free. But we are a proud people, a brave people, and I am confident we will do what is necessary to prevail in this conflict. And that will involve -- I regretfully have to say that will involve casualties, and we should not look for some cost-free options. They really don't exist.
MR. LEHRER: Finally, Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this. The President mentioned today as well that the people who committed these awful acts on Tuesday hate us and hate what we stand for. Where does that come from? You were a military man for years, now a Secretary of State. We think of ourselves as the good people of the world, we Americans. Why do these people hate us so that they would fly an airplane into targets and kill themselves in order to kill Americans?
SECRETARY POWELL: The reasons are very, very complex. In some instances, they don't like our value system. They don't like the system that treats every individual as a creature of God with the full rights of every other individual. They don't like our political system, our form of democracy. They don't like who some of our friends are in the Middle East and the fact that we are strong supporters of Israel and will remain so. They resent, in many instances, our successes of society. But rather than debating us on our values, rather than listening as we listen to them, they choose another form of debate with us: debate on the battlefield. And they choose terrorism, a weapon that is available to them because they can't defeat us on a conventional battlefield. And I wish that were not the case. What we also have to remember is that this is not a conflict against Arabs or Muslims or those who believe in one particular religion or not. This is a conflict against terrorists. The other day we saw some images from the occupied territories from the West Bank and people cheering what had happened, and that sort of was seared in our mind. But I got a message in from our Consul General in Jerusalem saying that his switchboard is swamped with calls from Palestinians -- Palestinian officials, Palestinian people -- expressing their distaste for that kind of display, and letting us know that they were expressing their condolences and sympathy to us as well. That is the civilized reaction.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Jim.
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