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Powell: Let's Not Fight the Arguments of the Past

Powell: Let's Not Fight the Arguments of the Past

The United States hopes all of Europe will participate in the reconstruction, rebuilding and stability efforts in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell said April 10 in an interview with NOS Dutch Television. Source: Washington File (EUR403), U.S. Department of State. April 10, 2003.

Citing the need for peacekeeping forces, humanitarian aid, and the reconstruction of hospitals and schools, Powell said: "There will be a great deal to do, and I hope that Europe will play an active role."

While acknowledging the strong differences of opinion in the debate preceding the war in Iraq, Powell urged Europeans to "look to the future."

"Now is the time for all of us to think what is best for the Iraqi people and how can we, as an international community, but especially every member of the European community, what can we do to help the Iraqi people," he said.

Powell also thanked the government and people of the Netherlands for their support in Afghanistan as well as in the coalition. "The Dutch forces are playing an incredible role," he said. "They're playing a leadership role in Afghanistan. And I think there will be a role for them to play here [in Iraq] as well, to whatever extent the Dutch people wish to play."

  • Following is the State Department transcript of the interview: (begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman: Interview of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on NOS Dutch Television, April 10, 2003.

Question: First of all, thank you very much for having us, Mr. Secretary.

Secretary Powell: My pleasure.

Question: We really appreciate it.

Secretary Powell: Thank you.

Question: Where were you when Saddam Hussein came tumbling down yesterday?

Secretary Powell: I was in the White House. I left my office in the State Department and went over to the White House to see the President when we saw that remarkable scene when they started to put ropes around the statue. And I was with the President when finally it came over, and the President and I came out and looked at it. It was a rather remarkable moment.

Question: Can you describe it for us?

Secretary Powell: Well, we were in the reception room outside of the President's office watching on the television screen. We had four stations so we saw it four times, and I said, "Quick, switch to one, it's all the same scene." And then they brought it up just about the time it was ready to topple over, and it was a remarkable moment. It reminded us of some of the moments we saw in Eastern Europe 10, 12, 13 years ago.

But we also knew that this was not yet the end. We were proud of our young men and women for the job that they had done. We were pleased to see the Iraqi people greeting them. We were pleased to see the celebrations that were taking place, now that they realized they had been liberated. And we also realized that there was more fighting to be done, there are more cities that have to be secured, and the real task of rebuilding now begins. And it's not rebuilding from this three-week war, or however long the war lasts; it's rebuilding from over two decades of destructive behavior on the part of this dictator. The man was a dictator. He terrorized his people. He murdered people. He killed people. He developed weapons of mass destruction. He invaded his neighbors. And now that is all over, gone.

Question: So it's not a time for cheers and high-fives right now?

Secretary Powell: No. Later that same day, we had Americans killed and wounded in battle. So there is still more work to be done.

What was interesting, what struck me about the scene yesterday, is that the two soldiers who came along with the tracked vehicle with the crane on it, they weren't surrounded by a lot of other soldiers guarding them. The Iraqi people were protecting them. The Iraqi people were working with them, were climbing on that tracked vehicle to help them with the job of pulling over the statue. And they felt perfectly safe in that crowd.

Question: What did you make of --

Secretary Powell: It was -- they were waiting. They were waiting to be liberated from this dictator. Now, does that mean that there are no problems anywhere in the country and that everybody will, you know, be cheering? No. But it certainly is an indication that there was a degree of repression in that country that perhaps wasn't well enough understood outside of Iraq and in some countries that have been very critical of our actions.

But I think those who have been supportive of our actions understood that not only was it a case of weapons of mass destruction, but we were dealing with a regime that can only be described as a terrorist regime led by one of the most ruthless men we have seen on the world stage in years.

Question: Can you describe for us what kind of role you see for European countries in the post-Saddam era? Are we getting close to that? I mean, there is some time pressure here, to say the least.

Secretary Powell: Well, as you know, a number of European countries are already involved in coalition efforts -- Spain, the United Kingdom of course, a number of countries are now providing humanitarian support. A number of countries have stepped forward. Fifty-eight countries in the last -- my last total as of last night, 58 countries have stepped forward to say they want to participate in some way in the reconstruction, rebuilding, stability efforts.

We're going to need armed forces to do some peacekeeping for a while. We don't know how many yet or where they will be located. We're going to need a lot of humanitarian aid and we're going to need reconstruction of hospitals and schools. There will be a great deal to do, and I hope that Europe will play an active role. I've been in touch with my European Union colleagues. I've been in touch with my NATO colleagues. They all understand the nature of the role that has to be performed by all of us.

We had a very significant debate about this issue all through the fall and into the winter -- strong differences of opinion, especially within Europe, as we all know. We don't underestimate those differences. But now is the time not to fight about the past, but to look to the future. Now is the time for all of us to think what is best for the Iraqi people and how can we, as an international community, but especially every member of the European community, what can we do to help the Iraqi people.

Question: Are you going to solicit support from Europeans, like the Netherlands? I mean, the Netherlands, after all, is also a member of the coalition.

Secretary Powell: Yes.

Question: Can they put in applications, we can do this or we can do that for -- I mean, commercially?

Secretary Powell: Yes.

Question: I think about, for example, the Dutch role in Afghanistan right now, being a member of ISAF, the security forces there.

Secretary Powell: The Dutch forces are playing an incredible role. When you consider the size of the Dutch forces there, they're in Afghanistan and doing a terrific job. They're playing a leadership role in Afghanistan. And I think there will be a role for them to play here as well, to whatever extent the Dutch people wish to play.

And I cannot tell you how pleased we are at the support we have received from the government and from the people of the Netherlands. And we know it's controversial. We know not everybody is supportive. And we have sent requests throughout the world, to our ambassadors throughout the world, to contact the governments in the countries they're accredited to and see what role they would like to play and what support they would provide, and let them --

Question: Any special requests for the Netherlands?

Secretary Powell: I don't know. Anything the Netherlands wishes to offer would be welcome and I am sure will be useful. And as we go forward, there will be commercial needs as well. There will be a great deal of money that will have to be spent on the rebuilding process, and we hope that Netherlands firms will see fit to participate in competing for those contracts, not just from U.S. sources.

But this is an interesting situation in that the Iraqi people have a source of revenue, oil, unlike some of the other countries that we've had to work with. And so that oil wealth will now be used not for weapons of mass destruction or threatening neighbors or terrorizing its citizens, but to rebuild the country and make Iraq, once again, a thriving member of the international community. It once had a GDP equal to Portugal.

But we need all of us to participate. Let's not fight the arguments of the past. Let's look to the opportunities of the future. That's what the Dutch Government has been doing all along, and I know the Dutch Government will be playing an important role as we move forward.

Question: Terrific. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. We really appreciate it.

Secretary Powell: Thank you very much.

(end transcript)


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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).