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Not Every Problem Requires a Military Solution

Not Every Problem Requires a Military Solution

Interview of US Secretary of State, General Colin L. Powell by Christian Malar, France 3 TV Corporation, at the State Department. Washington, DC. March 25, 2003 (Aired 10:30 a.m. EST). Source: US Department of State. Photos: Misa & Kerry Rossetti.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, the ongoing military developments in Iraq, are they going the way you expected them? I heard people saying it doesn't go as well as expected. Does that mean that you face toughest resistance from Saddam Hussein and his troops right now?

Secretary Powell: Well, let me try to put it in perspective. Battles such as this are always confusing and they have a rhythm to them. What have we accomplished in the first six days of this war? Coalition forces have penetrated almost 300 miles inside Iraq. This is a remarkable advance over such a short period of time.

We are on the outskirts of Baghdad just miles from Baghdad. We have crossed all the bridges going across the Euphrates River. We have conducted our air strikes with a level of precision that is rather remarkable. People were saying Baghdad is being destroyed, but they see it is not being destroyed. Military targets are being destroyed. So I think all of that has gone very, very well.

Obviously there had been some problems. When you get going in a battle like this, there will be ambushes, there will be irregular forces attacking, there will be difficulties in particular places such as there is now in Basra. But what is also important to note is that the Iraqis are not putting up a cohesive, coherent defense across all of Iraq -- it's spotty defense: a unit here, Fedeyeen here, the regulars here, Republican Guard there.

I'm quite confident that the strategy we have to take our time and to do it well is a strategy that will work, it will prevail and it will have its ups and downs.

Christian Malar: Can we say, Mr. Secretary, that the truth hour will be in the days ahead when we have face-to-face the U.S. and British soldiers with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Are you optimistic about the fall of Baghdad and the fall of the Saddam Hussein's regime?

Christian Malar

Secretary Powell: Yes. I'm absolutely sure of the ultimate fall of the regime and troops liberating Baghdad. Look where we are now. We control almost all of the country except for the area around Baghdad. We have coalition forces in the west, we have coalition forces in the northern areas with the Kurds, we control the whole southern part of the country, so we are now slowly encircling Baghdad and it's just a matter of time. The regime will fail and it will fail miserably and we will be able to show to the world and especially show to the people of Baghdad and the people of Iraq throughout the country what a miserable regime this was and how a better life awaits the people of Baghdad.

Christian Malar: What about Saddam Hussein?

Secretary Powell: Saddam Hussein will be of no consequence when this is all over. He will no longer be in power. Now --

Christian Malar: Dead or alive?

Secretary Powell: I don't know whether he will be dead or alive. I can't predict that and it would be foolish to speculate. The important point is that he will no longer be in charge of Baghdad. Coalition forces will be in charge of Baghdad and the country, and then as rapidly as possible, we will transfer authority, transfer responsibility to civilian authorities, get cooperation from the UN to work with the UN in the rebuilding effort and give this country back to the Iraqi people, putting in place a responsible government that no longer threatens its neighbors and that wants to live in peace with its neighbors.

Christian Malar: Would you expect, Mr. Secretary, would you expect Saddam Hussein to use chemical arms for the Baghdad battle?

Secretary Powell: I don't know. There's a speculation that there is a box around Baghdad, that if we penetrate that box he would use chemical weapons. Those are reports. I don't know if they are true. But if he did, it would not stop the assault. And if he did, it would show the truth of the fact that he does have chemical weapons, so he would essentially be admitting his own guilt, guilt that he has denied for all these years if he used chemical weapons.

Christian Malar: French President Chirac said if we have the proof that Saddam Hussein is using chemical arms against the U.S. troops it would change his position, it will revise his position. What would you expect from President Chirac with whom, and with France in particular, the relations, unfortunately have been deteriorating between the two countries?

Secretary Powell: Well, I don't know if President Chirac said that or his ambassador said it.

Christian Malar: It was confirmed.

Secretary Powell: It's a little confusing. But I think that would be an interesting development but the fact is that if the French wanted to help us, our troops are in just as much danger from high explosive rounds as they are from chemical rounds. So I'm not sure what the particular distinction is. I regret that we have not been able to see eye-to-eye on this issue with France and we will move forward from here.

The important thing now is not for the United States and France, the United States and Germany, Britain and Germany and France to debate what happened earlier this year or debate what happened last year. That's happened. What we need to do now is to recognize the fact that this regime is finished. It will be removed, and then how do we get together quickly to help the people of Iraq to a better life.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, would you still consider that France has still a role to play inside the UN for the reconstruction of Iraq in the future?

Secretary Powell: France remains a permanent member of the Security Council, so anything that is done within the Security Council framework would require the support of France; and hopefully, France will play a helpful role.

Christian Malar: A lot of observers do fear about what they call a "humanitarian catastrophe." Do you share their worries?

Secretary Powell: There are some problems right now as the battle is unfolding, but now that the Port of Umm Qasr has been opened in the south part of the country, humanitarian aid will start to flow rapidly. And we have stockpiled millions of rations. We are getting ready to fix the water system in the south part of the country. Medical teams will be coming in. The real humanitarian catastrophe has been the way Saddam Hussein has run the country over the last 20 years and particularly the manner in which he dealt with the people in the south, treating them as lesser human beings and denying them resources from the Oil-For-Food program and suppressing that population. They will have a better life with the victory over Saddam Hussein.

Christian Malar: Probably one question you have already been asked. If we have a long-lasting war with a lot of casualties and POWs, do you think it might have a negative effect for President Bush for the internal affairs, and at the same time on the Middle East public opinions, and for the U.S. policy in the Middle East -- that the U.S. policy you want to lead with Israeli and Palestinian, the new roadmap to peace?

Secretary Powell: The United States understands what casualties are about. We know that war produces casualties. Nobody likes to see pictures of a loved on television. Nobody wants to know that their son or daughter is a prisoner-of-war. But so far, the casualties have been quite light. I mean we lost 300,000 men in Europe alone in the liberation efforts of World War II. And those crosses are still in graveyards all across Europe. And so we understand what casualties are all about. America has faced this before and we will prevail. We understand what we have undertaken and we will not let casualties stop us.

We also believe firmly that everything has to be done to get the Middle East peace process moving again. That's why the President announced that upon confirmation of a new Palestinian Prime Minister, we would put down the roadmap for both sides to begin work -- the Quartet would put down the roadmap. And I think that is going to be a positive step forward. So we need to deal with the crisis in Iraq at the moment, the war in Iraq. We will succeed. We will prevail. The Iraqi people are in for a better life as the international community comes together and everybody will recognize that the coalition forces are doing this as efficiently as they can and doing everything we can to minimize loss of life and damage. And I think once that's behind us and people see that a better life is ahead for the Iraqi people, they will also understand that we have a similar commitment to moving the Middle East peace process along in order to put together a set of circumstances in the Middle East where we can see a Palestinian state created that will live in peace, side-by-side with the state of Israel.

Christian Malar: But you will still have a lot of work to do, because when you look at the area, Iran is considered as far more dangerous than Iraq. They have the nuclear power, also without talking about in another area North Korea. So how long is it going to take?

Secretary Powell: But there's this assumption which is simply unfounded that the United States is just looking around for the next war. We had a unique situation in Iraq. Iraq for 12 years denied its obligations to the UN. The UN acted forcefully under Resolution 1441, 15-0 vote. That was a major diplomatic achievement. And France voted along with the United States for that resolution although we have subsequently interpreted it differently. And so Iran -- there are other ways to deal with the proliferation problem in Iran. And in North Korea we are in contact with our friends in the region and there are other ways to solve the problem with North Korea based on diplomacy and we're hard at work at that. Not every problem requires a military solution.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, last question. I don't want to speculate or put you as a friend on false track, but how long, reasonably, can we think that the United States will have prevailed and this war with Iraq will be over? It's not a matter of days or weeks, but months?

Secretary Powell: No, I would never speculate --

Christian Malar: We have heard so much about it.

Secretary Powell: I would never speculate. You're hearing from people who don't know because they don't know. We don't know how long it will take to finally finish off the regime in Baghdad. I don't think it's going to be months and months and months, but there will be a requirement after the regime is gone for us to stay long enough to make sure that the country remains intact, that the people are being taken care of, that we put in place a new, civil administration that will take care of the people and that we get rid of the weapons of mass destruction and that we start to put in place an interim Iraqi authority representing the people of Iraq, and ultimately create a situation where the people of Iraq can vote to determine who their new leaders are going to be.

So it will take some time for t his crisis, this problem to finally be behind us, and that will be when we have the country of Iraq back into Iraqi hands and living in peace with its neighbors.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very much and I wish you --

Secretary Powell: Thank you very much.

Christian Malar: -- your administration and America all the best.

Secretary Powell: Thank you very much.

Christian Malar: God bless you.

Secretary Powell: Merci.

Christian Malar: Thank you. Merci.


Released on March 25, 2003


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).