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JIM LEHRER: And now a Newsmaker interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He joins from the State Department. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
COLIN POWELL: Good evening, Jim how are you?
JIM LEHRER: Just fine. Exactly what is it you and the President are asking these international leaders to do?
COLIN POWELL: We’re creating a coalition to go after terrorism. We are asking the United Nations and the united — 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’re asking all of 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 in it in those terms and respond in a unified way.
JIM LEHRER: And thus far everybody’s signed up?
COLIN POWELL: I’m very pleased over what’s been accomplished over the last 48 hours. Article 5 Declaration for the first time in its history from NATO, solid support from the European Union, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution as the 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. 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.
JIM LEHRER: Almost everyone. Who have been the dissenters?
COLIN POWELL: As has been noted early in the day, Saddam Hussein — not to my surprise — is not somebody you would expect to share our sentiment.
JIM LEHRER: What about the President of Pakistan? You talked to him today –
COLIN POWELL: I have 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’m very pleased with the response we have gotten from Pakistan.
JIM LEHRER: And that includes intelligence information about Osama bin Laden and possible military staging areas, that sort of specifics?
COLIN POWELL: Well, it includes a variety of things, and when you look at all of those things, it’s very, very inclusive, all-inclusive but I would not like at this time to go into the specifics.
JIM LEHRER: But there is no question that Osama bin Laden is a prime suspect, is that right?
COLIN POWELL: I think when you look at that region and when you examine the kinds of terrorist organizations that around that have the sophistication to conduct such a series of attacks, you would certainly have to identify Osama bin Laden and his organization as being one of those suspects.
JIM 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?
COLIN POWELL: If that was the organization we finally determined was responsible, then, of course, it would be a lot easier with the cooperation of Pakistan.
JIM LEHRER: Now you have talked to – you and the President have talked to people in the Arab world as well, is that correct?
COLIN POWELL: Yes, we have, and I’m very pleased with that response. The President has spoken to President Barak and King Abdullah in Jordan, been in touch with Saudi officials, Bitari officials, and I’ll be making more calls tonight and tomorrow.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the Saudis are very important in this, are they not, because bin Laden is a native of Saudi Arabia and his money comes from Saudi Arabia, does it not?
COLIN POWELL: Well, he’s 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.
JIM LEHRER: Why have we been unable to dry up those sources? If we know he has got $300 million – and they’re all over the world — why haven’t we been able to stop the flow of that money?
COLIN POWELL: I don’t know that we really do know what all of his sources of money are and how much he has 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.
JIM LEHRER: In general, Mr. Secretary, how close are we to knowing who was responsible and how they did it?
COLIN 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 who we believe is responsible.
JIM LEHRER: I know specifics are off limit this moment. The President spoke of what it is 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.
COLIN POWELL: What lays before them is a long, tough campaign. We should have no illusions that few missile strikes will take care of this problem. They are well entrenched; they are well dispersed; there 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’re always trying to think what we might to do them. So we have to see this as a long campaign plan using all of the weapons and tools at our disposal – political, economic — 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 a watch list; 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 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’re familiar with, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: But if somebody is thinking there is going to be Desert Storm II, 500,000 U.S. troops and it is going to be over in a few days, forget it?
COLIN POWELL: Forget it. This will take time and we’ll have to use all the weapons and tools I described. And the other thing you have to remember is that Osama bin Laden and his organization is not the only terrorist organization out there.
And we have to see this not just in terms of Osama bin Laden, if that’s the one we determine we have to go after, because he is responsible for this. And we should go after him any way and have been trying to get to him because it is a terrorist organization. But there are many others out there responsible for crimes against American citizens and citizens of other nations. So it will be a long campaign against many terrorist organizations and the whole world has to be united in that campaign.
JIM LEHRER: But for Americans listening to you now should they know this may not be free of casualties; this may not be a war that can be fought in such a way that either U.S. military or even more civilians and counter retaliation from other terrorists, et cetera. Does this mean this is not risk free?
COLIN POWELL: Nothing is risk free in life — especially battle. 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’m 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 option. They really don’t exist.
JIM 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 as a military man for years — now a Secretary of State — we think ourselves as the good people of the world, we Americans. Why do these people hate us so they would fly and airplane into targets and kill themselves in order to kill Americans?
COLIN POWELL: The reasons are very, very complex and 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 as a society.
But rather than debating us on our values and rather than listening as we listen to them, they choose another form of debate with us and debate on the battlefield. They choose terrorism, a weapon that is available to them, because they can’t defeat us on a conventional battlefield; and I wish that wasn’t the case. But 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 of people cheering what had happened and that sort of was seared in our mind. But I got a message in from our Counselor General in Jerusalem saying that his switchboard is swamped with calls from Palestinians 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’s the civilized reaction.
JIM LEHRER: All right, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
COLIN POWELL: Thank you, Jim.