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Powell Ties Iraqi Reconstruction to War on Terror

Office of the Spokesman
June 15, 2004


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell On the Sean Hannity Show

June 15, 2004
Washington, D.C.

MR. HANNITY: Secretary of State, our good friend, Colin Powell, how are you, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sean, how are you?

MR. HANNITY: Well, thank you for taking time out of your busy day. We always love having you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Always a pleasure.

MR. HANNITY: You know, I thought a lot about you last week. You were National Security Advisor under President Reagan. You worked very closely with the president. You deserve a ton of the credit. You knew Gorbachev well, in helping to bring about a safer world and confronting the evil empire. What do you remember about these two men, because Gorbachev, obviously, being at the funeral?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I worked closely with both of them. As you know, that I was President Reagan's National Security Advisor the last two years of his administration, and that's when we really did the bulk of the work with Gorbachev -- two men who were quite different, Gorbachev was much younger and much more of a detailed person, a person trying to preserve communism in a new form, to see if he could make it viable; and there was Ronald Reagan, older, not quite the same kind of detailed man, but a man of pure vision, knew where he wanted to go, and he knew that communism couldn't succeed but he was going to let Gorbachev take a try at it because he wanted to work with this guy.

And, frankly, he wanted to give the Soviet people a better life. That's what Ronald Reagan wanted. And that's what was accomplished under his watch, and then following up with President Bush, 41.

MR. HANNITY: Yeah. Well, you know, Gorbachev, last week, was quoted in one newspaper, I forget where I read this, that in all the talk that it was Reagan's arms race forcing Gorbachev to look for some arms reductions, whatever, and I said that's not serious, that the Soviet Union could have withstood any arms race. We know that that is not true, and Reagan really brought the former Soviet Union, with your help, to its knees.

SECRETARY POWELL: I saw that statement by President Gorbachev and I had to smile. I think the point he was trying to make is that many things brought about the change in the Soviet Union, but one of them certainly was the simple reality that America had the ability to defend itself and did defend itself under President Reagan's leadership and it was from that position of strength that President Reagan was able to reach out to the Russians and say, you know, you really want to change.

What Gorbachev was not acknowledging in his statement was that, yeah, they could build a first-class army and they could keep building it, but they were destroying their economy and so doing it they would never have anything but a fourth class economy. They could not afford guns and butter; we could.

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean when I look at President Reagan, I consider myself, Mr. Secretary, a Reagan Republican. I loved the spirit of this man. I loved the fact that he understood economics, putting money back in our pockets which stimulates economic growth. In fact, he doubled revenues by cutting taxes.

But, more importantly, I mean when he went out there with a backbone of steel and confronted the evil empire, modernized weaponry in Europe, wanted to deploy the Persian 2s, walked away from Rakovic, challenged him to tear down the wall, and you were a part of that. When you think of that and you think of this man, I mean what an incredible life opportunity for you to be part of all that.

SECRETARY POWELL: It was really one of the highlights of my life to just be with him for two years and to watch what he was doing and how he went about it. And he had all of this power, he had all of this inner strength; but he didn't have to show it. He just had to manifest it, if you know the difference in my meaning there, Sean.


SECRETARY POWELL: He just had to manifest that value system. I like to tell people that when we would plan trips for Gorbachev, Reagan would always say, President Reagan would always say, "Well, you know, I want to take him to a car factory. I want him to see a suburban neighborhood. I want him to come to my ranch." He never said, "Let's go show him some submarines or battleships or anything like that.

He wanted him to see America and how we had become successful as a society and as a nation. And all he was saying was, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," meaning not just the physical wall that was in Berlin, but the invisible wall that separated us economically and politically and value-wise for so many years. Tear down those walls, the walls of the mind, and look what is waiting for the Soviet people, the Russian people.

MR. HANNITY: Yeah. I remember -- and, by the way, Secretary of State Colin Powell is with us -- I remember when Reagan one time described, he wanted to take Gorbachev on a plane ride over any American city so he could see all the swimming pools below.

SECRETARY POWELL: He did. I mean, he's deadly serious. That's what he wanted to do. He wanted to show what you're capable of achieving in a society such as ours.


SECRETARY POWELL: But President Gorbachev, who I also consider a remarkable man and a major historic figure, really thought he could reform
-- remember the term they used, "perestroika" -- and he could open up the Soviet Union -- the other word, "glasnost" -- and still hang on to communism and make it work, and it just -- once he opened it up and once he started to reform, the people ran out and he lost power.

MR. HANNITY: You have an enormous amount of good news coming out of Iraq, not the least of which is you had a 15 to zero vote in the United Nations last week. You have the Iraq's interim government receiving a big boost yesterday when their neighbors, the meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference sessions, welcoming the transfer of sovereignty that's taken place and that seal of approval there. We're really making some serious progress in the last week or two.

SECRETARY POWELL: We are making some progress. The 15-0 vote in the Security Council, which we got after just about a little over two weeks of debate, that's not long by resolution standards. But what it showed was the international community coming together, even the French and the Germans and the Russians, who opposed us last year are now with us this year as we go about endorsing this interim government, endorsing the plan we've come up with to go to elections at the end of the year, a transitional government, and then the writing of a constitution, endorsing the multinational force, endorsing the role of the UN.

Now, this isn't going to cause a huge number of troops to be added to our presence there. There aren't going to be large French, German and Russian troop contributions. None at all, in fact. We didn't expect that. But what we have is the power of the international community. It's political power, and to some extent, it's economic power, with debt relief, with reconstruction money, joining the Iraqi people in rebuilding their society.

And then when you saw the reaction of the world to the new Iraqi government leadership, Prime Minister Allawi is very impressive, President Ghazi al-Yawer came to the G-8 Summit in Sea Island and he's been to New York at the UN, very impressive, talking about democracy, talking about freedom, thanking America, thanking the coalition for having freed the Iraqi people. It's very encouraging.

We've got a lot of work ahead of us and the President's going to talk about this tomorrow down in Tampa when he gives a speech at our headquarters down there. He's going to talk about all the radio stations that have opened, all the newspapers that are now functioning. Did you know, Sean, they have talk radio over there now?

MR. HANNITY: You know, I did read that, and I was hoping they'd pick up the Sean Hannity show. We could --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm sure they will. You know, perhaps, a good word from me might have something, you know, to do with that, Sean.


MR. HANNITY: Do you think you could help me out there? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: You'll have to wait till I retire.

MR. HANNITY: Oh, okay. Well, you know --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll be your agent. (Laughter.)

MR. HANNITY: You're in. I absolutely would love to be on in Iraq. I hope they can understand me.


MR. HANNITY: The -- yeah, well, the President did warn everybody that things, especially as we head into the June 30th deadline, that things would get worse before they would get better. We had the assassination of a couple of senior Iraqi leaders in the last week. We have to anticipate more of this coming. I mean, it's hard news to take, but I guess it's inevitable, right?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's hard news to take, and I'm afraid it is inevitable. Because while I would say, you know, 99 percent of the Iraqi people want no part of this -- all they want is the same thing we want: electricity in their homes, a job to go to, a school for their kids to attend, hospital care when they need it, and a decent income coming in, so they enjoy life. And we're going to give that to them, and their new government is going to give that to them.

But this one percent of old regime elements and terrorists are going to fight like the devil for the next few weeks to try to deny them that dream, and we have got to fight right back. And, increasingly, the Iraqis want to take on the fight themselves, but they need training, they need equipment, and they need a government that they are loyal to. And we're going to stick with them until they have all of that in place before we leave.

MR. HANNITY: Iraq's interim Prime Minister said yesterday that the United States should hand over former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and all other detainees to Iraq's new government over the next two weeks, as the transfer of power is effected. Is that a good idea?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, on Saddam Hussein, we'll be working with them to determine when the best time is to hand him over. Surely, as a sovereign nation, they should have responsibility for him. But I know they also don't want to see him not being properly protected and raise any probability or likelihood of him escaping, or in some way, escaping justice in some fashion or form.

So we'll work this out with them. I don't think there is any problem there. And we have put together a committee of coalition people and Iraqi interim government people to work on the whole detainee issue and how we transfer responsibility, a legal transfer of responsibility for these people, as well as maintaining custody over them in the detention facilities. All that's being worked out now on the ground.

MR. HANNITY: Let me talk a little bit about Abu Ghraib. And one of the things that really frustrated me -- and we're joined by Secretary of State Colin Powell -- Mr. Secretary, I think -- you're a career military officer. You're an American citizen. I know and I have read a lot of comments that you have made about this, that you are upset, you are deeply troubled. I even think at one point you used the word you were devastated by it.

But what has bothered me about the coverage of this, Mr. Secretary, is that it has never been put in perspective. Everybody found it morally repugnant, but we never told the story that our Armed Forces were dealing with it in January, long before the public ever dealt -- heard about it. We never put it in the context that we have 140,000 troops over there serving honorably, how they have liberated 25 million people, and how -- where they had once had genocide and tyranny, now they have their best shot at freedom. And it was never put in perspective.

You know, seven bad officers or seven bad soldiers out of 140,000, while we condemn it, it needs to be put in perspective.

SECRETARY POWELL: It really does and it has to be condemned and it's unacceptable, and we've said that, but we're the ones investigating it. And we're going to have a thorough investigation of this whole matter to see where responsibility should be placed and what accountability is required.

But, you know, most of our youngsters are over there living in the most difficult conditions, hot summer, irregular -- you know, they don't get a hot meal three times a day -- just doing their job, protecting the Iraqi people, helping the reconstruction effort, opening schools, working in hospitals, helping people as construction teams put sewer lines back in, doing tremendous work. And we are so proud of them. They do such great noble work that the American people should spend as much time thinking about these youngsters as we do grinding our teeth down over the Abu Ghraib problem.

MR. HANNITY: One of the criticisms of perhaps the Administration and maybe the President directly has been that perhaps they have not communicated well enough, the Administration, to the American people why this is important in the ongoing war on terror. Do you find the fact that people do not understand it frustrating, number one? And number two, maybe -- can there be improvement in the communications area?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, on the second point, we're doing everything we can to get the message out. The President has been giving a lot of speeches. We all have been on the media every chance we get to make the case that this is all part of a global war against terrorism.

Mr. Zarqawi is in Baghdad organizing efforts against the new government, against the coalition forces, against the people of Iraq. And he is a terrorist; he always was and he always will be and you can't ignore it. And if we can beat him here and put in place a democratic government resting on a solid foundation of law, freedom and democracy, it is going to put a lie to all of these terrorist claims: that the United States is a bad country that means ill for Arab and Muslim lands. It will show once again that it's a lie.

If you look at what we've done, we liberated Iraq last year, we liberated Kuwait in 1991, we liberated and saved the Muslims in, oh, in Kosovo, we did the same thing with the Muslims in Afghanistan. This isn't anti-Muslim. This is pro-Muslim. This is freeing them from dictatorships in the worst kinds of regimes. And we don't get that kind of credit. People like to criticize us without criticizing that which we have saved those populations from.

MR. HANNITY: You know, I watched the exchange with Tim Russert and you over the weekend, and Tim Russert will be on Hannity and Colmes tonight, but -- and I thought your answer to a particular question -- he talked about a basketball player from Notre Dame and a quote that she had made that, to quote, "They don't want us there. I don't think we should have gone into Iraq, not the way things have turned out, a lot more people getting hurt." And one of the things that you said in your answer, "I hope that she will in time that her sacrifice was worth it," and how we're going to leave in place a nation that is better.

Explain why it's not only better for Iraq but it's better for us.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's better for us if the world is a more peaceful place. It's better for us if we have shown in the Middle East that democracy can flourish and Israel is not the only democratic nation in that part of the world.

It stabilizes the economic situation in the world with respect to oil, and that will affect our economy in a positive way. And I hope that this young lady -- and of course she has a certain degree of bitterness in her; she's young, she used to play basketball as a star and she's lost her hand. My heart goes out to her. And I am saying to her and to all those who have lost loved ones or had them injured, that this was a noble work. And I hope that later in life, when they are talking about it with their children, they will look at a map or they'll look at a television set and say, "That's Iraq. And the reason these people are free and the reason these people are our friends, because of what I did and the sacrifice I made."

MR. HANNITY: Secretary of State Colin Powell, and you have served your country, incredible with your background and your history, and it was good to hear from you as always. Thanks for being with us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, Sean, take care. Bye-bye.

MR. HANNITY: All right, Mr. Secretary.

(end transcript)


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